What Is Payroll Tax?

Have you ever wondered what payroll tax is, and how can it benefit you? You have come to the right place. Keep on reading to find out.

What is payroll tax? Payroll taxes are taxes imposed on employees or employers, and are normally determined as a level of the compensations that businesses pay their staff. Payroll taxes by and large fall into two classes: deductions from an employee’s wages, and taxes paid by the employer on the worker’s wages.

It is once in a while guaranteed that the economic weight of the payroll tax falls predominantly on the laborer, whether the expense is dispatched by the business or the employee, as the employer’s part of payroll taxes is given to workers as lower compensation that would somehow be paid. Since payroll taxes fall solely on wages and not on returns to monetary or actual speculations, payroll taxes may add to underinvestment in human resources like advanced education. Let’s get straight into the article and learn more.

What Is Payroll Tax?

A payroll tax is a percentage retained from a representative’s compensation by an employer who pays it to the government for the worker’s benefit. The expense depends on wages, compensations, and tips paid to workers. Government payroll taxes are deducted straightforwardly from the worker’s income and paid to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In the U.S., the term federal payroll taxes alludes to the taxes deducted to subsidize Medicare and Social Security programs. These are marked as MedFICA and FICA on pay nails. Federal income tax, which likewise is retained from employee’s checks, goes into the overall asset of the U.S. Depository.

Most states and a few urban areas and provinces force income taxes too, and these sums are paid straightforwardly to their coffers. Moreover, employers, however not employees, additionally, pay government unemployment taxes for each of their employees. Unlike the U.S.income tax, which is a progressive duty, a few components of payroll taxes are collected simply up to a specific yearly deadline. For instance, any pay that surpasses the Social Security wage base, set at $137,700 in 2020, is not dependent upon the Social Security tax, making the U.S. payroll tax a regressive tax.

Set forth plainly, payroll taxes will be taxes paid on the wages and pay rates of employees. These taxes are utilized to back social insurance programs, like Social Security and Medicare. As indicated by late Tax Foundation research, these social insurance taxes make up 23.05 percent of consolidated administrative, state, and local government income – the second biggest wellspring of government income in the United States. The biggest of these social insurance taxes are the two government payroll taxes, which appear as FICA and MEDFICA on your compensation stub. The first is a 12.4 percent expense to finance Social Security, and the second is a 2.9 percent tax to subsidize Medicare, for a consolidated pace of 15.3 percent. A big part of payroll taxes (7.65 percent) are transmitted straightforwardly by employers, while the other half (7.65 percent) are removed from laborers’ checks.

Payroll Tax Example

You can perceive the amount you pay in payroll taxes by taking a gander at your compensation stub. Discover the detail for FICA taxes, which may have one of the accompanying designations: Social Security, Medicare, SS, SSWT, MWT, Med, FICA SS or FICA Med. The sum recorded on those lines should approach 7.65 percent of the gross income for the payroll interval.

For instance, on the off chance that you procured $1,000 during the payroll interval, your employer deducted $76.50 for payroll taxes, leaving $923.50. Your employer probably likewise deducts a level of your wages for income taxes along with worker commitments to advantages, for example, health and dental plans and retirement accounts. The measure of cash left over is your net income.

What is Included in the Payroll Tax?

There are four fundamental kinds of payroll taxes: federal income, Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment. Representatives should pay Social Security and Medicare taxes through payroll deductions, and most employers likewise deduct federal income tax installments. The income tax deduction changes, contingent upon the worker’s retention status, yet all representatives pay 15.3 percent of their profit as FICA tax. Employers make good on federal unemployment tax, and the IRS clearly expresses that employers may not deduct this cost from their workers.

Dissimilar to federal income tax that goes to the government’s overall asset, FICA taxes reserve just Social Security and Medicare program. The worker pays a 6.2 percent tax for Social Security costs and 1.45 percent for Medicare. The employer should coordinate with the deduction and send the aggregate sum to the IRS. Independently employed people pay 15.3 percent of their wages, which incorporates both the employer and employee part of the tax.

Who Really Pays Payroll Taxes?

Maybe a standout amongst other best kept secrets of payroll taxes is that employees successfully pay practically the whole payroll tax, rather than parting the weight with their employers. This is on the grounds that tax frequency is not controlled by law, however by business sectors. Indeed, the individual who is needed to pay a tax to the federal government is regularly different in relation to the individual who bears the tax trouble. Typically, the commercial marketplace chooses how the tax trouble is split amongst purchasers and sellers, in view of which gathering is more susceptible to changes in costs (financial experts call this “relative price elasticity”). Incidentally, the stock of work – that is, laborers’ ability and willingness to work – is considerably less susceptible to taxes than the interest for work – or employers’ eagerness to recruit. This is on the grounds that laborers who need a task are not as receptive to changes in compensation, but rather organizations can “search around” for the best specialists or move production to various areas.  

What does Payroll Tax Cut mean?

A payroll tax cut stops the assortment of certain compensation based taxes, commonly those gathered for Social Security and Medicare. Laborers who benefit will get a heavier check on payday. Here’s the means by which those taxes separate: The federal government imposes a 12.4% Social Security tax on workers’ checks. The expense is split between employers and workers, with each taking on 6.2% of the tax bill. Wages above $137,700 in 2020 are not dependent upon Social Security tax. Federal medical care retains an extra 2.9%, or 1.45% each, split amongst representatives and employers. An extra 0.9% is imposed on pay rates above $200,000. Cash got through a payroll tax cut does not hit your bank account in a major bonus like a stimulus check does. All things considered, it is even a more lethargic stream, with checks helped by two or three hundred dollars each month, contingent upon the laborer’s compensation.

Trump’s executive order concedes Social Security taxes on wages or remuneration of under $4,000 on a pretax fortnightly premise. That implies that this will apply to laborers acquiring less than $104,000 in 2020. Medicare health care taxes are not conceded in Trump’s reminder. It is essential to take note of that, the way things are, payroll taxes collected between Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 will be conceded, not excused. In principle, they may be reimbursed come January 2021 if no lasting cut is instituted. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tended to this possibility in a meeting with Chris Wallace, saying that Trump was “going to go to the American people and tell them that when he’s reelected, he will push through legislation to forgive that so, in essence, it will turn into a payroll tax cut.” Until additional direction is delivered, specialists are holding back to perceive how this will work out. As per Lawrence Pon, a tax expert who possesses a bookkeeping firm in San Francisco, “There’s a lot of head-scratching going on right now.”

Who Benefits from the Payroll Tax Cut?

On the off chance that you acquire a check of under $4,000 each and every other week, your salary is expanded by a payroll tax cut. So, Trump’s payroll tax cut gives you a four-month 6.2% raise. Since the cut depends on compensation, a specialist procuring a moderately significant pay (up to $104,000 on account of this chief request) brings home a greater advantage than a laborer acquiring $25,000. For instance, a representative acquiring $104,000 would bring home an extra $2,149 over the four-month deferral period while the specialist procuring $25,000 would take an extra $517 more than four months. For a bigger scope, defenders of a payroll tax cut contend that it helps the economy, in this manner profiting a wide area of Americans, even the individuals who aren’t in the labor force. Employers as of now can concede their bit of Social Security taxes under the CARES Act for the rest of the year.

What is the Difference between Income Tax and Payroll Tax?

Income tax alludes to government, state, and nearby personal duties. Not at all like payroll tax, federal income tax is not one level rate. All things being equal, it utilizes a reformist expense rate. Government personal duty relies upon your worker’s Form W-4 data (e.g., recording status, wards, and extra retention demands). At the point when you enlist a representative, they need to round out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate. A representative’s wages and pay recurrence likewise sway their government annual duty sum.

Payroll tax and income tax are in fact separate gatherings, however you need to realize both to retain business taxes. There are various reasons why it’s critical to comprehend the contrast between the two gatherings. You may have to know the distinction to:

  • Comprehend what a payroll deferral implies
  • Understand what tax to retain from fringe benefits (e.g., instructive help)
  • Round out IRS payroll structures
  • Figure out how the government utilizes the assets

So, how are payroll taxes different from personal income taxes?

Payroll tax consists of Social Security and Medicare taxes, also called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. FICA tax is an employer-employee tax, which means both you and your workers add to it. Payroll tax is a level of a worker’s compensation.

Income tax consists of government, state, and local income taxes. Except if excluded, each worker covers federal income tax. Most states have an extra state annual duty. A few territories additionally have a local income tax. Income tax sums depend on various components, for example, a worker’s Form W-4 and recording status.

The contrast between payroll tax and income tax likewise comes down to what the duties store. While personal duties go to an overall government reserve, payroll taxes explicitly go to Social Security and Medicare reserves.

Presently, we should investigate where payroll and income taxes are comparable. To begin, you need to retain both from an employee’s wages before you can give them their salary. Also, after retaining both taxes, you should store and report them to the IRS. Your saving timetable is something very similar for both payroll and income taxes. You additionally report both taxes on a similar structure (Form 941 or Form 944). However, government annual taxes and finance taxes have separate lines on the revealing structure.

How Much is the Federal Payroll Tax?

There are some significant federal payroll taxes that are collected to back Social Security, the clinic protection partition (Part A) of Medicare, and the administrative unemployment insurance program. Income in 2019 added up to simply more than $1.2 trillion.

Social Security

Assets paid to Social Security taxes go into two trust reserves: the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), which pays retirement and survivor benefits, and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, for disability benefits. It is probably the biggest thing in the federal spending plan, with benefits installments of $989 billion of every 2018. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Commissioner of Social Security, and two public trustees deal with these trust funds.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt marked the Social Security Act into law on Aug. 14, 1935, to give a wellbeing net to the incapacitated and retirees. When the program was considered, high-wage earners were absolved from paying into the asset and from accepting Social Security benefits. In any case, that exclusion was disposed of and supplanted with a cap by Congress which has kept on increasing generally at a similar rate as wages.

Advantages are essentially financed by a payroll tax on money compensation, up to a yearly greatest recorded to average pay development. For 2020, the greatest taxable income are $137,700. Employers and employees each contribute 6.2 percent of the specialists’ wages for a joined 12.4 percent — 10.6 percent for the OASI trust reserve (retirement and survivors) and 1.8 percent for the DI trust store (handicap).

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 briefly redistributed a bit of the OASI tax to the DI trust reserve for 2016 to 2018 to support the DI trust store, which faced insolvency. For those years, the joined employer and employee rates were 10.03 percent for OASI and 2.37 percent for DI. Most financial experts accept that the employer segment of the tax, actually like the employee partition, is borne by employees as lower remuneration.

Over the long run, Social Security taxes have become a significant portion of federal incomes. At the point when the tax was first gathered in 1937, the consolidated payroll tax rate was 2.0 percent; it raised $580 million (about $10.3 billion of every 2019 dollars). In 2019, OASDI taxes added up to about $914 billion and addressed 26.4 percent of all federal receipts.

Hospital Insurance

As verified above, payroll taxes likewise go toward Medicare. These payroll allowances go into two separate trust reserves: the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and the Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

  • The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund pays for Medicare Part A and the related organization expenses. Section A helps with covering clinic care, skilled nursing inpatient care, and, sometimes, home care.
  • The Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund helps with paying for Medicare Parts B and D and other Medicare program organization costs. Part B covers laboratory tests and screenings, outpatient care, x-rays, ambulance services, and numerous expenses. Part D assists with doctor prescribed medications.

People enrolled in Medicare pay a month to month income-based fee for essential Medicare inclusion and are liable for a bit of their clinical costs.

The HI program is financed for the most part through payroll taxes on workers. Employers and employees each contribute 1.45 percent of the worker’s wages toward the HI trust reserve for a joined pace of 2.9 percent. The cap on compensation subject to the HI tax was eliminated in 1994. Likewise, starting in 2013, single families procuring more than $200,000 and married households acquiring more than $250,000 contributed an extra 0.9 percent of profit over those edges (there is no employer divide for this “surtax”).

In 1966, the principal year of HI tax collections, the joined tax rate was 0.7 percent, and collections added up to $1.9 billion (about $15.0 billion out of 2019 dollars). In 2019, HI taxes added up to $277.6 billion.

Unemployment Insurance

Employers bear the essential obligation regarding subsidizing unemployment insurance. If they lay off employees, those employees are qualified for unemployment benefits. The pace of unemployment insurance the employer will pay, differs by industry, state, and federal expenses. A few states expect employees to add to joblessness and handicap protection.

Federal payroll taxes cover Social Security and Medicare commitments, which establish the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. An employee pays 7.65%. This rate is split between a 6.2% deduction for Social Security on the greatest compensation of $137,700 and a 1.45% offer for Medicare. There is no compensation limit on Medicare, however any individual who acquires more than $200,000 — or $250,000 for wedded couples filing together — pays another 0.9% for Medicare.

Unemployment insurance (UI) furnishes insured laborers with benefits on the off chance that they are automatically jobless and meet qualification necessities. UI programs are controlled by the states in organization with the federal government. To finance benefits and program costs, both the states and the federal government deposit payroll taxes into a federal trust reserve.

The federal payroll tax rate is 6.0 percent on the first $7,000 of covered wages, however tax credits lessen the compelling federal tax rate to 0.6 percent. State unemployment tax rates and compensation bases change however are generally underneath 4.0 percent and are on low pay bases. In 2019, federal UI taxes added up to about $41.2 billion.


Self-employed people including workers for hire, freelance authors, artists, and entrepreneurs are likewise needed to transmit payroll taxes. These are alluded to as independent work taxes. In contrast to most salaried laborers, individuals who are independently employed don’t have employers to dispatch payroll taxes for their benefit. This implies they should cover both the employer and employee parts of the tax all alone.

The independent work tax rate is 15.3%. There are two sections to this rate including a 12.4% commitment to Social Security — old age, survivors, and disability insurance — and a 2.9% installment to Medicare. Another 0.9% surtax for Medicare applies to independent work profit that surpass $200,000.

Other Retirement Programs

Payroll taxes store a small bunch of other retirement programs. The Social Security Administration works one of the biggest of these, a retirement program for the railroad business that capacities comparably to Social Security. Retirement programs for federal employees assimilate the greater part of the remainder of payroll tax receipts.

Employer Payroll Taxes Calculator

Payroll tax is determined dependent on the aggregate sum you spend on payroll. This figure incorporates the cash you spend on employee wages and pay rates, chiefs’ compensation, rewards, bonus, superannuation, stipends, incidental advantages, and end installments. Your payroll bill depends on the aggregate sum you spend all through Australia, as opposed to the sum you spend in explicit states.

Whenever you’ve determined your all out payroll charge, you need to work out where you may have to make good on tax and check whether you pass the payroll tax boundary. You at that point need to apply the payroll tax rate to the sum you spent on compensation, pay rates, and so forth In certain states, you may get a tax derivation, which implies that you just compensation tax on a specific level of your payroll bill.

Ascertaining your payroll taxes is the crucial step. As a matter of fact making the installments is simple. You simply try out the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), at that point make your installment on the web. It’s the best way to make a payroll tax installment (mailing checks isn’t permitted).

The day you recruit your first employee, you become answerable for payroll tax. In spite of the name, payroll tax is anything but a solitary tax, yet a sweeping term used to allude to all taxes paid on the wages of employees.

In the event that you have employees, you will be liable for both:

  • Deducting a segment of employee wages to pay certain taxes for their benefit
  • Paying payroll taxes on every one of your employees out of your own income

Social Security withholding

To figure Social Security retaining, increase your employee’s gross compensation for the current payroll interval by the current Social Security tax rate (6.2%). This is the sum you will deduct from your employee’s check and dispatch alongside your payroll taxes. (You can gain proficiency with all you need to think about government backed retirement in our CPA checked on blog entry)

Example Social Security withholding calculation:

$5,000 (employee’s gross pay for the current pay period) x .062 (current Social Security tax rate) = $310 (Social Security tax to be deducted from employee’s paycheck)

Medicare withholding

To figure out Medicare withholding, multiply your employee’s gross pay by the current Medicare tax rate (1.45%).

Example Medicare withholding calculation:

$5,000 (employee’s gross pay for the current pay period) x .0145 (current Medicare tax rate) = $72.50 (Medicare tax to be deducted from employee’s paycheck

Employer matching

As an employer, you are liable for coordinating with what your employees cover in FICA taxes. So for this situation, you would likewise dispatch $310 for Social Security tax and $72.50 for Medicare tax.


Other than the way that the federal government’s inconvenience of “employer-side” payroll taxes is deluding, it additionally prompts a potential issue: it veils the expenses of the projects that payroll taxes pay for. That is, as opposed to straightforwardly posting the conventional a lot of installments for Social Security and Medicare, half of the taxes that store the projects are stowed away from laborers, as lower compensation.

This is an issue since it abuses the rule of tax straightforwardness: a principle that expresses that tax weights ought not be stowed away from taxpayers in complex designs. Since generally 50% of the payroll taxes that reserve Social Security and Medicare are covered up as lower compensation, as opposed to being altogether explained on our compensation nails, electors may think little of the genuine budgetary effect of these social projects.

In rundown, payroll taxes are a critical wellspring of government income, however the weight of the payroll tax and the public authority programs they pay for may not be completely evident to taxpayers, because of how the taxes are collected. In the following blog entry on this subject, we will cover how powerful these taxes are, just as other potential issues they may have.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Tony Benett makes his living in the insurance industry by teaching and consulting. He is also recognized by the legal profession as an expert on insurance coverages. His insurance experience includes having worked at the company level, owned an independent general agency and having worked for an insurance association. He has received various certificates over the past few years and helps his clients and readers by giving them a realistic outlook on what they can expect to achieve within their set targets. At Insurance Noon, he is known for his in-depth analysis and attention to details with accuracy. He has been published as one of the most referred agents by his peers in the insurance community. Tony loves the outdoors and most sport events. His passion other than providing excellent advice is playing golf.