Calculating Payroll Taxes
Strategies to make sure your payroll tax numbers add upIf you hire employees in your business, you'll also need to collect payroll taxes and remit them to the correct government agencies. It's not an option. Failure to correctly collect and file the full range of required payroll taxes has tripped up many small business owners, subjecting them to government audits and fines.
Before you hire your first employee, make sure you know what payroll taxes you need to withhold and how much. There are several types of payroll taxes:
- Social Security and Medicare taxes, or FICA
- Federal and state unemployment taxes.
- Federal, state and local income taxes.
- State disability taxes.
Know your requirements
Payroll Taxes page with and overview or each type of payroll tax and useful links to federal and state taxing agencies. The IRS has a complete rundown of your tax obligations as a small business employer. Also see Your Payroll Tax Obligations at Business Owner's Toolkit.
Determine what amounts are subject to withholdingNot all compensation is subject to withholding. FICA, for example, only applies up to a certain amount of wages. Business expense reimbursements are not taxable. If you have a restaurant with waiters, be aware of the rules for reporting and withholding on tips
Calculate employee payroll taxesFor each employee who gets wages, you'll need to calculate and withhold taxes for each pay period. You can do this manually if you're willing to spend the time and effort. But there are software programs and payroll services available to do it for you.
Properly handle payroll tax collectionsYou not only have to collect payroll taxes, you also have to report your collections both to your employees and to the agencies, and you have to forward the amounts collected. You must register with each agency and hand off taxes according to the rules.
Retain recordsYour obligations aren't done yet. You have to keep records of your payroll taxes (for as long as eight years in the case of Minnesota) and be ready to share them with the IRS or other agencies.
Payroll & Tax Records.
- Never shirk your payroll tax duties, and never "borrow" from your payroll taxes account. The penalties if you're caught can be severe.
- If you don't have an accountant familiar with payroll taxes, you might want to consider hiring one. Good advice on payroll taxes in advance can save you time and trouble in the future.
- Be sure to check reporting requirements. Very small businesses that collect $1,000 or less in payroll taxes in a year may be required to file federal reports annually instead of quarterly.
- Use electronic transfers for handing over your payroll taxes. It's a handy and convenient time saver.
- Some states have disability insurance programs that require payroll deductions. Be sure to check if you need to add disability to your withholding.
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