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Publication 15-A - Introductory Material


Future Developments

For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 15-A, such as legislation enacted after it was published, go to IRS.gov/pub15a.

What's New

Social security and Medicare tax for 2017. The social security tax rate is 6.2% each for the employee and employer, unchanged from 2016. The social security wage base limit is $127,200.The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer, unchanged from 2016. There is no wage base limit for Medicare tax.Social security and Medicare taxes apply to the wages of household workers you pay $2,000 or more in cash wages in 2017. Social security and Medicare taxes apply to election workers who are paid $1,800 or more in cash or an equivalent form of compensation.

2017 withholding tables. This publication includes the 2017 Formula Tables for Percentage Method Withholding; Wage Bracket Percentage Method Tables; Combined Federal Income Tax, Employee Social Security Tax, and Employee Medicare Tax Withholding Tables; and Tables for Withholding on Distributions of Indian Gaming Profits to Tribal Members.

Withholding allowance. The 2017 amount for one withholding allowance on an annual basis is $4,050.

Qualified small business payroll tax credit for increasing research activities. For tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, a qualified small business may elect to claim up to $250,000 of its credit for increasing research activities as a payroll tax credit against the employer’s share of social security tax. The portion of the credit used against the employer’s share of social security tax is allowed in the first calendar quarter beginning after the date that the qualified small business filed its income tax return. The election and determination of the credit amount that will be used against the employer's share of social security tax is made on Form 6765, Credit for Increasing Research Activities. The amount from Form 6765, line 44, must then be reported on Form 8974, Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities. Form 8974 is used to determine the amount of the credit that can be used in the current quarter. The amount from Form 8974, line 12, is reported on Form 941 or 941-SS, line 11.

New certification program for professional employer organizations. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 required the IRS to establish a voluntary certification program for professional employer organizations (PEOs). PEOs handle various payroll administration and tax reporting responsibilities for their business clients and are typically paid a fee based on payroll costs. To become and remain certified under the certification program, certified professional employer organizations (CPEOs) must meet tax status, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding, and other requirements described in sections 3511 and 7705 and related published guidance. The IRS began accepting applications for PEO certification in July 2016. Certification as a CPEO affects the employment tax liabilities of both the CPEO and its customers. A CPEO is generally treated as the employer of any individual performing services for a customer of the CPEO and covered by a contract described in section 7705(e)(2) between the CPEO and the customer (CPEO contract), but only for wages and other compensation paid to the individual by the CPEO. For more information, visit IRS.gov and enter “CPEO” in the search box.

Leave-based donation programs to aid victims of the severe storms and flooding in Louisiana. Under these programs, employees may donate their vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for employer cash payments made before January 1, 2018, to qualified tax-exempt organizations providing relief for the victims of the severe storms and flooding in Louisiana that began on August 11, 2016. The donated leave won't be included in the income or wages of the employee. The employer may deduct the cash payments as business expenses or charitable contributions. For more information, see Notice 2016-55, 2016-40 I.R.B. 432, available at IRS.gov/irb/2016-40_IRB/ar08.html.

Leave-based donation programs to aid victims of Hurricane Matthew. Under these programs, employees may donate their vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for employer cash payments made before January 1, 2018, to qualified tax-exempt organizations providing relief for the victims of Hurricane Matthew. The donated leave won't be included in the income or wages of the employee. The employer may deduct the cash payments as business expenses or charitable contributions. For more information, see Notice 2016-69, 2016-51 I.R.B. 832, available at IRS.gov/irb/2016-51_IRB/ar11.html.

Reminders

Work opportunity tax credit for qualified tax-exempt organizations hiring qualified veterans. The work opportunity tax credit is available for eligible unemployed veterans who begin work on or after November 22, 2011, and before January 1, 2020. Qualified tax-exempt organizations that hire eligible unemployed veterans can claim the work opportunity tax credit against their payroll tax liability using Form 5884-C. For more information, visit IRS.gov and enter “work opportunity tax credit” in the search box.

Form 8922 replaced the “Third-Party Sick Pay Recap” Form W-2. Form 8922 replaces the “Third-Party Sick Pay Recap” previously done on Form W-2. For more information, see Form 8922, Third-Party Sick Pay Recap in section 6.

COBRA premium assistance credit. Effective for tax periods beginning after December 31, 2013, the credit for COBRA premium assistance payments can't be claimed on Form 941, Employer's QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return (or Form 944, Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return). Instead, after filing your Form 941 (or Form 944), file Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer's QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund (or Form 944-X, Adjusted Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund) to claim the COBRA premium assistance credit. Filing a Form 941-X (or Form 944-X) before filing a Form 941 (or Form 944) for the return period may result in errors or delays in processing your Form 941-X (or Form 944-X). For more information, see the Instructions for Form 941 (or the Instructions for Form 944) or visit IRS.gov and enter “COBRA” in the search box.

No federal income tax withholding on disability payments for injuries incurred as a direct result of a terrorist attack directed against the United States. Disability payments (including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments) for injuries incurred as a direct result of a terrorist attack directed against the United States (or its allies) aren't included in income. Because federal income tax withholding is only required when a payment is includable in income, no federal income tax should be withheld from these payments.

Same-sex marriage. A marriage of two individuals is recognized for federal tax purposes if the marriage is recognized by the state, possession, or territory of the United States in which the marriage is entered into, regardless of legal residence. Two individuals who enter into a relationship that is denominated as marriage under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction are recognized as married for federal tax purposes if the relationship would be recognized as marriage under the laws of at least one state, possession, or territory of the United States, regardless of legal residence. Individuals who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or other similar relationship that isn't denominated as a marriage under the law of the state, possession, or territory of the United States where such relationship was entered into aren't recognized as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of legal residence.Notice 2013-61 provides special administrative procedures for employers to make claims for refunds or adjustments of overpayments of social security and Medicare taxes with respect to certain same-sex spouse benefits before expiration of the period of limitations. Notice 2013-61, 2013-44 I.R.B. 432, is available at IRS.gov/irb/2013-44_IRB/ar10.html. You may correct errors to federal income tax withholding and Additional Medicare Tax withheld for prior years if the amount reported on your employment tax return, doesn't agree with the amount you actually withheld. This type of error is an administrative error. You may also correct errors to federal income tax withholding and Additional Medicare Tax withheld for prior years if section 3509 rates apply.

Outsourcing payroll tax duties. Unless the wages and other compensation paid to the individual performing services for you are paid by a CPEO and are covered by a contract described in section 7705(e)(2) between you and a CPEO (CPEO contract), you’re responsible to ensure that tax returns are filed and deposits and payments are made, even if you contract with a third party to perform these acts. You remain responsible if the third party fails to perform any required action. If you choose to outsource any of your payroll and related tax duties (that is, withholding, reporting, and paying over social security, Medicare, FUTA, and income taxes) to a third-party payer, such as a payroll service provider (PSP) or reporting agent, visit IRS.gov and enter “outsourcing payroll duties” in the search box for helpful information on this topic. For more information see Agent With an Approved Form 2678 and Reporting Agents in section 7.

Federal tax deposits must be made by electronic funds transfer (EFT). You must use EFT to make all federal tax deposits. Generally, an EFT is made using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). If you don't want to use EFTPS, you can arrange for your tax professional, financial institution, payroll service, or other trusted third party to make electronic deposits on your behalf. Also, you may arrange for your financial institution to initiate a same-day wire payment on your behalf. EFTPS is a free service provided by the Department of Treasury. Services provided by your tax professional, financial institution, payroll service, or other third party may have a fee.For more information on making federal tax deposits, see How To Deposit in Pub. 15. To get more information about EFTPS or to enroll in EFTPS, visit eftps.gov or call 1-800-555-4477 or 1-800-733-4829 (TDD). Additional information about EFTPS is also available in Pub. 966.

You must receive written notice from the IRS to file Form 944. If you’ve been filing Forms 941 (or Forms 941-SS, Employer's QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return—American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Formularios 941-PR, Planilla para la Declaración Federal TRIMESTRAL del Patrono), and believe your employment taxes for the calendar year will be $1,000 or less, and you would like to file Form 944 instead of Forms 941, you must contact the IRS during the first calendar quarter of the tax year to request to file Form 944. You must receive written notice from the IRS to file Form 944 instead of Forms 941 before you may file this form. For more information on requesting to file Form 944, including the methods and deadlines for making a request, see the Instructions for Form 944.

Employers can request to file Forms 941 instead of Form 944. If you received notice from the IRS to file Form 944 but would like to file Forms 941 instead, you must contact the IRS during the first calendar quarter of the tax year to request to file Forms 941. You must receive written notice from the IRS to file Forms 941 instead of Form 944 before you may file these forms. For more information on requesting to file Forms 941, including the methods and deadlines for making a request, see the Instructions for Form 944.

Aggregate Form 941 filers. Agents and CPEOs must complete Schedule R (Form 941), Allocation Schedule for Aggregate Form 941 Filers, when filing an aggregate Form 941. Aggregate Forms 941 are filed by agents approved by the IRS under section 3504 of the Internal Revenue Code. To request approval to act as an agent for an employer, the agent files Form 2678 with the IRS. Aggregate Forms 941 are also filed by CPEOs approved by the IRS under section 7705. CPEOs file Form 8973, Certified Professional Employer Organization/Customer Reporting Agreement, to notify the IRS that they’ve started or ended a service contract with a client or customer.

Aggregate Form 940 filers. Agents must complete Schedule R (Form 940), Allocation Schedule for Aggregate Form 940 Filers, when filing an aggregate Form 940, Employer's Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return. Aggregate Forms 940 may only be filed by agents acting on behalf of home care service recipients who receive home care services through a program administered by a federal, state, or local government. To request approval to act as an agent on behalf of home care service recipients, the agent files Form 2678 with the IRS. Aggregate Forms 940 for tax year 2017 will also be filed by CPEOs approved by the IRS under section 7705.

Electronic filing and payment. Now, more than ever before, businesses can enjoy the benefits of filing and paying their federal taxes electronically. Whether you rely on a tax professional or handle your own taxes, the IRS offers you convenient programs to make filing and payment easier.Spend less time and worry on taxes and more time running your business. Use e-file and EFTPS to your benefit.

  • For e-file, visit IRS.gov/employmentefile for additional information.

  • For EFTPS, visit eftps.gov or call EFTPS Customer Service at 1-800-555-4477 or 1-800-733-4829 (TDD).

Electronic submission of Forms W-4, W-4P, W-4S and W-4V. You may set up a system to electronically receive any or all of the following forms (and their Spanish versions, if available) from an employee or payee.

  • Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate.

  • Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments.

  • Form W-4S, Request for Federal Income Tax Withholding From Sick Pay.

  • Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request.

For each form that you establish an electronic submission system for, you must meet each of the following five requirements.

  1. The electronic system must ensure that the information received by the payer is the information sent by the payee. The system must document all occasions of user access that result in a submission. In addition, the design and operation of the electronic system, including access procedures, must make it reasonably certain that the person accessing the system and submitting the form is the person identified on the form.

  2. The electronic system must provide exactly the same information as the paper form.

  3. The electronic submission must be signed with an electronic signature by the payee whose name is on the form. The electronic signature must be the final entry in the submission.

  4. Upon request, you must furnish a hard copy of any completed electronic form to the IRS and a statement that, to the best of the payer's knowledge, the electronic form was submitted by the named payee. The hard copy of the electronic form must provide exactly the same information as, but need not be a facsimile of, the paper form. For Form W-4, the signature must be under penalty of perjury, and must contain the same language that appears on the paper version of the form. The electronic system must inform the employee that he or she must make a declaration contained in the perjury statement and that the declaration is made by signing the Form W-4.

  5. You must also meet all recordkeeping requirements that apply to the paper forms.

For more information, see:

  • Regulations sections 31.3402(f)(5)-1(c) (for Form W-4), and

  • Announcement 99-6 (for Forms W-4P, W-4S, and W-4V). You can find Announcement 99-6 on page 24 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 1999-4 at IRS.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb99-04.pdf.

Additional employment tax information. Visit IRS.gov and enter “employment taxes” in the search box.

Telephone help. You can call the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line with your employment tax questions at 1-800-829-4933.

Help for people with disabilities. You may call 1-800-829-4059 (TDD/TTY for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability) with any employment tax questions. You may also use this number for assistance with unresolved tax problems.

Furnishing Form W-2 to employees electronically. You may set up a system to furnish Form W-2 electronically. Each employee participating must consent (either electronically or by paper document) to receive his or her Form W-2 electronically, and you must notify the employee of all hardware and software requirements to receive the form. You may not send a Form W-2 electronically to any employee who doesn't consent or who has revoked consent previously provided.To furnish Forms W-2 electronically, you must meet the following disclosure requirements and provide a clear and conspicuous statement of each requirement to your employees.

  • The employee must be informed that he or she will receive a paper Form W-2 if consent isn't given to receive it electronically.

  • The employee must be informed of the scope and duration of the consent.

  • The employee must be informed of any procedure for obtaining a paper copy of his or her Form W-2 and whether or not the request for a paper statement is treated as a withdrawal of his or her consent to receiving his or her Form W-2 electronically.

  • The employee must be notified about how to withdraw a consent and the effective date and manner by which the employer will confirm the withdrawn consent. The employee must also be notified that the withdrawn consent doesn't apply to the previously issued Forms W-2.

  • The employee must be informed about any conditions under which electronic Forms W-2 will no longer be furnished (for example, termination of employment).

  • The employee must be informed of any procedures for updating his or her contact information that enables the employer to provide electronic Forms W-2.

  • The employer must notify the employee of any changes to the employer's contact information.

You must furnish electronic Forms W-2 by the same due date as the paper Forms W-2. For more information on furnishing Form W-2 to employees electronically, see Regulations section 31.6051-1(j).

Pub. 5146 explains employment tax examinations and appeal rights. Pub. 5146 provides employers with information on how the IRS selects employment tax returns to be examined, what happens during an exam, and what options an employer has in responding to the results of an exam, including how to appeal the results. Pub. 5146 also includes information on worker classification issues and tip exams.

Photographs of missing children. The IRS is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC). Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.

Introduction

This publication supplements Pub. 15. It contains specialized and detailed employment tax information supplementing the basic information provided in Pub. 15. This publication also contains tables for withholding on distributions of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Pub. 15-B contains information about the employment tax treatment of various types of noncash compensation.

Ordering forms and publications.   Visit IRS.gov/forms to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to IRS.gov/orderforms to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publication

  • 15-B Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits

  • 505 Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

  • 515 Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities

  • 583 Starting a Business and Keeping Records

  • 1635 Employer Identification Number: Understanding Your EIN

Comments and suggestions.   We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

  You can send us comments from IRS.gov/formcomment.

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  Although we can’t respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax forms, instructions, and publications. We can't answer tax questions sent to the above address.


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