In the United States, employers are required to withhold federal income tax, plus one-half of the Social Security tax, and one-half of the Medicare tax. Together, the employer's and employee's shares of the Social Security and Medicare taxes are known as the FICA tax. In some places, employers may be required to withhold state income tax, or even county or city income tax. In addition the employer is required to pay State and Federal unemployment tax.

Social Security Tax: The employer must withhold 6.2% of an employee's wages and pay a matching amount in social security taxes until the employee reaches the wage base for the year. The combined total for the employee and the employer is equal to 12.4% of gross compensation. Once the wage base amount is earned for a given year, neither the employee nor the employer owe any additional social security tax for that year.

Medicare Tax: For the year 2008, the employer must withhold 1.45% of an employee's wages and must pay a matching amount for Medicare tax. The combined total for the employee and the employer is equal to 2.9% of gross compensation. Unlike the Social security tax, there is no maximum wage base for the Medicare portion of the FICA tax. Both the employer and the employee continue to incur and pay Medicare tax on each additional amount of gross compensation, with no limit on the amount of gross compensation on which the tax is imposed.

Unemployment taxes

Each employer also must pay State and Federal Unemployment Taxes (SUTA and FUTA). The FUTA rate is equal to 6.2% of gross compensation, but normally nets to 0.8% because the employer is allowed to take a credit of up to 5.4% of compensation for SUTA taxes paid by the employer. This will be the case if the employer is eligible for the maximum credit. The wage base for FUTA is $7,000 (i.e., the employer is liable for FUTA only on the first $7,000 of compensation paid to each employee per calendar year). Each state has a different rate, so that employers must consult the state requirements for each applicable state regarding tax rates and maximum wage base. Many states require new business to have an average starting rate until an employment history is created. For example, Indiana requires new employers to pay 2.7% for the first 3 years. Afterwards the rate is adjusted depending on various factors, such as whether an ex-employee files a request for unemployment benefits.

State Unemployment Tax rates varry by state and by employer.

Collectively, an employer is responsible for collection of appropriate employment taxes from their employees, adding the mathcing portion, then forwarding that to the IRS and the local state governments on a timely manner. Failure to file and/or pay payroll taxes may result in penalties and interest charges being assessed against the employer.

Employers who do not pay withheld payroll taxes to the U.S. government for employees are assessed a Trust Fund Recovery Penalty by the IRS. The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty is assessed to individuals determined to be responsible by a 4180 Interview for the missing taxes and can be those who willfully do not collect, account for, or pay the taxes. These individuals can be business owners, officers, or employees. The penalty is for 100% of taxes owed plus interest.

There are specific and techincal rules surrounding payroll taxes. Each case is different and is highly dependent upon the legal strucutre of the company and other factors. If you have payroll tax problems either with the IRS or a state or local government, we recommend a basic consultation meeting. This basic soncultative meeting will enable us determine the best solution for your payroll tax problems.
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