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Updated Oct 23, 2023

What Is SUTA Tax? How Do You Calculate It?

Understand your state's unemployment tax and how it is calculated.

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David Gargaro, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Managing employees incurs significant responsibilities, and that includes running payroll. A crucial aspect of managing your team’s payroll is ensuring you withhold the appropriate federal and state taxes, especially state unemployment tax. Whether you handle payroll on your own or use an outsourced payroll provider, you need to understand your state’s unemployment tax and how it’s calculated. 

What is SUTA tax?

The State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) tax, also known as state unemployment insurance (SUI) or reemployment tax, is a portion of a business’s payroll taxes. Each state determines which employers are required to pay this tax. The purpose of the SUTA tax is to fund the state’s unemployment insurance to cover the benefits paid to displaced and unemployed workers.

Who pays SUTA tax?

In most states, SUTA applies only to employers, not employees. Unlike, for example, Social Security, which is withheld from all employees’ paychecks, employers usually pay all SUTA taxes.

The only states that require employees to pay unemployment taxes are Alaska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Businesses with employees in these three states must withhold SUTA tax from their employees’ wages and pay those collected taxes to the state.

Most employers, including those with at least one employee, are subject to SUTA taxes. However, some exemptions — which vary from state to state — exist based on how many weeks a team member has been employed.

Did You Know?Did you know
Some organizations are exempt from paying SUTA in certain states. For example, certain nonprofits, government entities, religious institutions and educational organizations do not have to pay SUTA taxes and other payroll liabilities.

What is the difference between SUTA and FUTA tax?

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a federal payroll tax employers pay on employee wages. Employees are exempt from FUTA, so they do not pay this tax. The FUTA tax rate is 6 percent on the first $7,000 of an employee’s earnings. The tax does not apply to earnings over $7,000. The maximum FUTA tax an employer is required to pay is $420 per year per employee. 

FUTA taxes are paid quarterly (four times per year). Insurance premiums and certain fringe benefits are exempt from FUTA.

The SUTA tax is a state tax and is separate from the FUTA tax. However, businesses that pay their SUTA tax on time are eligible to receive a FUTA tax credit of up to 5.4 percent. This can reduce the employer’s total FUTA liability to 0.6 percent.

What is the SUTA wage base?

Each state determines its SUTA tax wage base each year. The wage base is the maximum amount (or threshold) of an employee’s income that the state can tax within a calendar year. Employers pay taxes from an employee’s wages until they meet this wage base.

All employers in the same state have the same SUTA wage base. For example, in 2023, employers in Washington have a SUTA wage base of $67,600. All nonexempt employers in Washington must pay SUTA tax on all of their employees’ wages until each employee earns this amount.

SUTA wage base by state

Below is each state’s wage base for 2023.

  • Alabama: $8,000
  • Alaska: $47,100
  • Arizona: $8,000
  • Arkansas: $7,000
  • California: $7,000
  • Colorado: $20,400
  • Connecticut: $15,000
  • Delaware: $16,500
  • District of Columbia: $9,000
  • Florida: $7,000
  • Georgia: $9,500
  • Hawaii: $56,700
  • Idaho: $49,900
  • Illinois: $13,271
  • Indiana: $9,500
  • Iowa: $36,100
  • Kansas: $14,000
  • Kentucky: $11,100
  • Louisiana: $7,700
  • Maine: $12,000
  • Maryland: $8,500
  • Massachusetts: $15,000
  • Michigan: $9,500
  • Minnesota: $40,000
  • Mississippi: $14,000
  • Missouri: $10,500
  • Montana: $40,500
  • Nebraska: $9,000; $24,000*
  • Nevada: $40,100
  • New Hampshire: $14,000
  • New Jersey: $41,100
  • New Mexico: $30,100
  • New York: $12,300
  • North Carolina: $29,600
  • North Dakota: $40,800
  • Ohio: $9,000
  • Oklahoma: $25,700
  • Oregon: $50,900
  • Pennsylvania: $10,000
  • Puerto Rico: $7,000 
  • Rhode Island: $28,200; $29,700**
  • South Carolina: $14,000
  • South Dakota: $15,000
  • Tennessee: $7,000
  • Texas: $9,000
  • Utah: $44,800
  • Vermont: $13,500
  • Virgin Islands: $30,200
  • Virginia: $8,000
  • Washington: $67,600
  • West Virginia: $9,000
  • Wisconsin: $14,000
  • Wyoming: $29,100

* Nebraska’s standard wage base is $9,000, while the wage base for experienced employers is assessed at $24,000.

**Rhode Island has a two-tier wage-based system. The first number indicates the wage base for the majority of employers in Rhode Island, while $29,700 is the highest assessed rate.

FYIDid you know
Like Form 941 for quarterly payroll taxes, SUTA tax payments are due quarterly, usually within a month of each quarter's end.

What are SUTA tax rates?

The other key component in calculating your SUTA tax is the tax rate. Like the wage base, the tax rate varies from state to state. Further, the tax rate may vary for each business. When starting a new business, employers are subject to the new employer SUTA tax rate. Once a business becomes more established, the state assigns it a new tax rate within its employer tax rate range.

Some states also base SUTA tax rates on the industry. Companies in the construction industry tend to pay higher SUTA tax rates than companies in the nonconstruction industry. For example, in Ohio, new construction employers pay a SUTA tax rate of 5.6 percent (as of 2023), while the new employer SUTA tax rate is 2.7 percent.

Here are the new employer tax rate and the standard employer tax rate ranges for each state. 

State

SUTA new employer tax rate

Tax rate range for positive to negative balance employers

Alabama

2.70%

0.14%-5.4%

Alaska

2.7% (2.19% comprises employer share; 0.51% comprises employee share)

1.0%-5.4%

Arizona

2.00%

0.07%-18.78%

Arkansas

3.10%

0.30%-14.2%

California

3.40%

1.5%-6.2%

Colorado

1.70%

0.75%-10.39%

Connecticut

3.00%

1.9%-6.8%

Delaware

1.80%

0.3%-8.2%

District of Columbia

2.7% or average rate of employer contributions in the preceding year, whichever is greater

N/A

Florida

2.70%

0.1%-5.4%

Georgia

2.64%

0.04%-8.1%

Hawaii

4.0%

0.01%-6.6%

Idaho

1.0%

0.1656%-5.4%

Illinois

3.525%

0.725%-7.625%

Indiana

2.5%

0.5%-9.4%

Iowa

1.00%

0.0%-7.0%

Kansas

2.70%

0.17%-6.4%

Kentucky

2.70%

.225%-8.925%

Louisiana

Varies 1.21%-6.2%

0.09%-6.2%

Maine

1.97%

0%-5.47%

Maryland

2.30%

1.0%-13.5%

Massachusetts

1.45%

0.56%-8.62%

Michigan

2.70%

0.06%-10.3%

Minnesota

Varies

0.1%-8.9%

Mississippi

1.0% 

0.0%-5.4%

Missouri

2.511%

0.0%-9.765%

Montana

Varies

0.0%-6.12%

Nebraska

1.25%

0%-5.4%

Nevada

2.95%

0.25% -5.4%

New Hampshire

2.70%

0.10%-8.0%

New Jersey

3.1% (0.3825% comprises employee share)

0.6%-6.4%

New Mexico

1.0% or industry average rate (whichever is greater)

0.33%-5.4%

New York

4.025%

2.025%-9.825%

North Carolina

1.00%

0.06%-5.76%

North Dakota

1.13% 

0.08%-9.97%

Ohio

2.70%

0.8%-10.3%

Oklahoma

1.50%

0.3%-9.2%

Oregon

1.98%

0.58%-5.4%

Pennsylvania

3.822%

1.419%-10.373%

Rhode Island

0.88%

0.89%-9.49%

South Carolina

0.39%

0%-5.4%

South Dakota

1.20%

0%-9.3%

Tennessee

2.70%

0.01% -10%

Texas

Varies

0.23%-6.23%

Utah

Varies

0.3%-7.3%

Vermont

1.0% (most employers)

0.4%-5.4%

Virginia

2.73%

0.1%-6.2%

Washington

Varies

0.2%-6.0%

West Virginia

2.7% (most employers)

1.50%-8.5%

Wisconsin

3.05% (payroll < $500,000), 3.25% (payroll > $500,000)

0%-12%

Wyoming

Varies

0.09%-8.62%

How do you calculate SUTA tax?

To calculate your SUTA tax as a new employer, multiply your state’s new employer tax rate by the wage base.

For example, if you own a nonconstruction business in California (as of 2023), the SUTA new employer tax rate is 3.4 percent, and the taxable wage base per worker is $7,000. Therefore, you must pay $238 (0.034 x $7,000) per employee.

The same calculations are done for businesses that are assigned an established business tax rate. Multiply the tax rate by the taxable wage base.

TipBottom line
Choose a payroll provider that can help you reduce tax calculation errors and stay on top of frequently changing wage base and tax rates.

How do you set up and pay SUTA tax?

While each state has its own process for registering as a new employer and setting up a state unemployment tax account, there are some crucial items nearly all states require, including the following:

  • An employer identification number (EIN): An EIN enables the IRS to identify your business on tax returns.
  • Enrollment in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS): The EFTPS allows employers to pay employment taxes online or over the phone.
  • A new-hire reporting account: This enables the government to gather information to collect child support, identify fraudulent recipients of unemployment insurance, and prevent unlawful welfare assistance.
  • Proof of workers’ compensation insurance: A workers’ compensation insurance policy helps employees who have been injured on the job with wage protection and medical benefits.

Each employer is responsible for reporting their SUTA tax liability to their respective state and making tax payments. 

Once you’ve gathered the above requirements, follow these steps to set up and pay your SUTA tax:

  1. Register with your state’s unemployment insurance department. Each state’s department has a different name. Do an internet search on “unemployment insurance department [state]” to find the one in your state. Some states have a paper form you must complete and return, while others have an online portal.
  2. Report wages monthly. Report all wages for both full-time and part-time workers. To avoid duplicating wages, each reference period must include the 12th of the month. This interval will depend on how frequently you run payroll. Every state has different payroll reporting procedures that may include reporting by mail or online.
  3. Calculate your quarterly SUTA tax due. Use your state’s wage base and tax rate to calculate the SUTA tax due for each employee for the quarter. Some states’ online tax portals may calculate this amount based on your reported wages.
  4. Pay SUTA tax quarterly. Submit your payment to your state’s unemployment insurance department by the deadline each quarter. This may be by mail or online, depending on your state. Check with your state to learn about specific payment instructions.

The best payroll software for calculating and paying SUTA tax

Although you can manually calculate your SUTA tax, using a payroll software solution is much easier. The best online payroll services have built-in tax rate and wage base updates. Consider the following payroll solutions that make it particularly easy to calculate and pay SUTA tax.

OnPay Payroll Software 

OnPay is an affordable, full-service payroll solution. It has one pricing tier that covers all services, including unlimited payroll runs and multiple pay schedules. Best of all, it calculates federal, state and local taxes and has an error-free guarantee, even if you have employees in multiple states. Our full OnPay review details how the solution handles tax withholding for federal and state unemployment and processes company contributions seamlessly. 

ADP Payroll

ADP Payroll automatically calculates your tax liability and submits your payments, guaranteeing that the amount of your SUTA tax is correct. If there are errors, the company pays any fines or penalties levied by the state on your behalf. The company can even talk to state taxing authorities for you to iron out payroll discrepancies and provide expert advice on regulations and compliance. Our in-depth ADP Payroll review highlights the solution’s impressive tools, including the Turnover Probability Explorer and the Pay Equity Explorer.

Paycor

Paycor provides a company representative to ensure you get everything you need from the solution’s vast feature set. It has four service tiers, depending on your needs, but tax calculation is included in all of them. After running payroll, you can preview your pay stubs. The company also offers tax compliance support to reduce errors in tax calculations. It automatically files your payroll taxes, so you don’t have to worry about penalties for late filing. Find out more in our comprehensive Paycor review.

Justworks

Justworks is an easy-to-use platform that can help companies handle their human resources functions even without an HR department. In addition to calculating and filing SUTA and federal taxes, it helps with state and federal tax compliance and has several other risk-reducing functions. Our detailed Justworks review explains how the platform can calculate and pay taxes in all 50 states.

Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article.

author image
David Gargaro, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
David Gargaro has over 25 years of hands-on experience in the business arena. In 2018, he penned "How to Run Your Company… into the Ground," drawing insights from his direct involvement in small business operations. His practical guide covers a spectrum of topics, including strategic partnerships, product development, hiring and expansion strategies. Gargaro has also developed toolkits for startup founders, assisting them in navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship. He is a professional speaker as well, addressing audiences on topics such as the customer experience. Additionally, Gargaro's expertise in sales, marketing and financial planning has been featured in publications like Advisors Magazine, Moody's Analytics and VentureBeat.
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