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On a Roll with Payroll Taxes


Whether it is a large corporation or the small business owner, one of the obligations that come with having employees presents itself in the form of payroll taxes. Nearly every country in the world has some form of payroll tax system in place. Often referred to as withholdings, employers are legally required to keep a certain amount of federal tax out of every employee's earnings. This can also include state taxes as well as FICA taxes. FICA taxes, or Federal Insurance Contributions Act, are what finances the federal programs Medicare and Social Security. A withholding of federal unemployment and sometimes even city taxes can make up part of payroll taxes on an employee's check.

When it comes to payroll taxes, the withheld amounts of Social Security and Medicare are matched by the employer. When an individual is hired on to a position, they will be required to fill out a piece of paperwork referred to as the W4 form. Using this form, an employer will be able to determine the correct amounts that must be withheld from the employee's paycheck in every pay period. To have the highest amount of payroll taxes withheld, an employee should claim zero allowances. Individuals can also claim exemption from withholdings if the total annual income expected for the year totals $800 or less.

Wage bases also play a part in payroll taxes. Social Security as well as state and federal unemployment taxes each has a wage base. The wage base for Social Security is approximately $98,000. Once an employee's earnings total this amount, the employee and the employer are no longer required to contribute again until the following year. The wage base for federal unemployment is approximately $7000. Wage bases vary from state to state; however, it is generally determined by the amount of unemployment claims that are drawn against the company. The only one of the payroll taxes that has no wage base is that of Medicare.

To stay in compliance, many employers use professionals or software programs that help them determine the correct amount of payroll taxes owed. This is because mistakes that lead to underpayment can be costly, resulting in penalties and fines with accrual. These payroll tax programs not only calculate the right amount to be collected, they also remind employers when to pay. Depending on the amount withheld, employers must remit tax payments on either a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. The failure to pay taxes in a timely manner can result in a number of consequences that, in the most egregious of situations, can lead to incarceration.

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The Missoulian

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