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IRS.gov Website
Publication 15
taxmap/pubs/p15-011.htm#en_us_publink1000202367

9. Withholding From Employees' Wages(p16)

rule
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Income Tax Withholding(p16)

rule
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Using Form W-4 to figure withholding.(p16)

rule
To know how much federal income tax to withhold from employees' wages, you should have a Form W-4 on file for each employee. Encourage your employees to file an updated Form W-4 for 2012, especially if they owed taxes or received a large refund when filing their 2011 tax return. Advise your employees to use the Withholding Calculator on the IRS website at www.irs.gov/individuals for help in determining how many withholding allowances to claim on their Forms W-4.
Ask all new employees to give you a signed Form W-4 when they start work. Make the form effective with the first wage payment. If a new employee does not give you a completed Form W-4, withhold income tax as if he or she is single, with no withholding allowances.
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Form in Spanish.(p16)
You can provide Formulario W-4(SP), Certificado de Exención de Retenciones del Empleado, in place of Form W-4, to your Spanish-speaking employees. For more information, see Publicación 17(SP), El Impuesto Federal sobre los Ingresos (Para Personas Físicas). The rules discussed in this section that apply to Form W-4 also apply to Formulario W-4(SP).
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Electronic system to receive Form W-4.(p16)
You may establish a system to electronically receive Forms W-4 from your employees. See Regulations section 31.3402(f)(5)-1(c) for more information.
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Effective date of Form W-4.(p16)
A Form W-4 remains in effect until the employee gives you a new one. When you receive a new Form W-4 from an employee, do not adjust withholding for pay periods before the effective date of the new form. If an employee gives you a Form W-4 that replaces an existing Form W-4, begin withholding no later than the start of the first payroll period ending on or after the 30th day from the date when you received the replacement Form W-4. For exceptions, see Exemption from federal income tax withholding, IRS review of requested Forms W-4, and Invalid Forms W-4, later in this section.
EIC
A Form W-4 that makes a change for the next calendar year will not take effect in the current calendar year.
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Successor employer.(p17)
If you are a successor employer (see Successor employer, later in this section), secure new Forms W-4 from the transferred employees unless the "Alternative Procedure" in section 5 of Revenue Procedure 2004-53 applies. See Revenue Procedure 2004-53, 2004-34 I.R.B. 320, available at
www.irs.gov/irb/2004-34_IRB/ar13.html.
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Completing Form W-4.(p17)
The amount of any federal income tax withholding must be based on marital status and withholding allowances. Your employees may not base their withholding amounts on a fixed dollar amount or percentage. However, an employee may specify a dollar amount to be withheld in addition to the amount of withholding based on filing status and withholding allowances claimed on Form W-4.
Employees may claim fewer withholding allowances than they are entitled to claim. They may wish to claim fewer allowances to ensure they have enough withholding or to offset the tax on other sources of taxable income not subject to withholding.
See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information about completing Form W-4. Along with Form W-4, you may wish to order Publication 505 and Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding, for use by your employees.
Do not accept any withholding or estimated tax payments from your employees in addition to withholding based on their Form W-4. If they require additional withholding, they should submit a new Form W-4 and, if necessary, pay estimated tax by filing Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals.
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Exemption from federal income tax withholding.(p17)

rule
Generally, an employee may claim exemption from federal income tax withholding because he or she had no income tax liability last year and expects none this year. See the Form W-4 instructions for more information. However, the wages are still subject to social security and Medicare taxes. See also Invalid Forms W-4, later in this section.
A Form W-4 claiming exemption from withholding is effective when it is filed with the employer and only for that calendar year. To continue to be exempt from withholding in the next calendar year, an employee must give you a new Form W-4 by February 15. If the employee does not give you a new Form W-4 by February 15, begin withholding based on the last Form W-4 for the employee that did not claim an exemption from withholding or, if one was not filed, then withhold tax as if he or she is single with zero withholding allowances. If the employee provides a new Form W-4 claiming exemption from withholding on February 16 or later, you may apply it to future wages but do not refund any taxes already withheld.
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Withholding income taxes on the wages of nonresident alien employees.(p17)

rule
In general, you must withhold federal income taxes on the wages of nonresident alien employees. However, see Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities, for exceptions to this general rule. Also see section 3 of Publication 51 (Circular A), Agricultural Employer's Tax Guide, for guidance on H-2A visa workers.
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Withholding Adjustment for Nonresident Aliens.(p17)

rule
For 2012, apply the procedure discussed below to figure the amount of income tax to withhold from the wages of nonresident alien employees performing services within the United States.
Deposit
Nonresident alien students from India and business apprentices from India are not subject to this procedure.
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Instructions.(p17)
To figure how much income tax to withhold from the wages paid to a nonresident alien employee performing services in the United States, use the following steps.
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Step 1.(p17)
Add to the wages paid to the nonresident alien employee for the payroll period the amount shown in the chart below for the applicable payroll period.

Amount to Add to Nonresident Alien Employee's Wages for Calculating Income Tax Withholding Only

Payroll PeriodAdd Additional 
Weekly$  41.35 
Biweekly82.69 
Semimonthly89.58 
Monthly179.17 
Quarterly537.50 
Semiannually1,075.00 
Annually2,150.00 
Daily or Miscellaneous
(each day of the payroll period)
8.27 
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Step 2.(p17)
Use the amount figured in Step 1 and the number of withholding allowances claimed (generally limited to one allowance) to figure income tax withholding. Determine the value of withholding allowances by multiplying the number of withholding allowances claimed by the appropriate amount from Table 5. Percentage Method—2012 Amount for One Withholding Allowance shown on page 35. If you are using the Percentage Method Tables for Income Tax Withholding, provided on pages 36–37, reduce the amount figured in Step 1 by the value of withholding allowances and use that reduced amount to figure the income tax withholding. If you are using the Wage Bracket Method for Income Tax Withholding, provided on pages 38–57, use the amount figured in Step 1 and the number of withholding allowances to figure income tax withholding.
The amounts added under the chart above are added to wages solely for calculating income tax withholding on the wages of the nonresident alien employee. The amounts from the chart above should not be included in any box on the employee's Form W-2 and do not increase the income tax liability of the employee. Also, these chart amounts do not increase the social security, Medicare, or FUTA tax liability of the employer or the employee.
This procedure only applies to nonresident alien employees who have wages subject to income tax withholding.
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Example.(p17)

An employer using the percentage method of withholding pays wages of $500 for a biweekly payroll period to a married nonresident alien employee. The nonresident alien has properly completed Form W-4, entering marital status as "single" with one withholding allowance and indicating status as a nonresident alien on Form W-4, line 6 (see Nonresident alien employee's Form W-4, later in this section). The employer determines the wages to be used in the withholding tables by adding to the $500 amount of wages paid the amount of $82.69 from the chart above ($582.69 total). The employer then applies the applicable tables to determine the income tax withholding for nonresident aliens (see Step 2 above). Reminder: If you use the Percentage Method Tables for Income Tax Withholding, reduce the amount figured in Step 1 by the value of withholding allowances and use that reduced amount to figure income tax withholding.
The $82.69 added to wages for calculating income tax withholding is not reported on Form W-2, and does not increase the income tax liability of the employee. The $82.69 added amount also does not affect the social security tax, Medicare tax, or FUTA tax liability of the employer or the employee.
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Supplemental wage payment.(p18)
This procedure for determining the amount of income tax withholding does not apply to a supplemental wage payment (see section 7) if the 35% mandatory flat rate withholding applies or if the 25% optional flat rate withholding is being used to calculate income tax withholding on the supplemental wage payment.
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Nonresident alien employee's Form W-4.(p18)

rule
When completing Forms W-4, nonresident aliens are required to:
If you maintain an electronic Form W-4 system, you should provide a field for nonresident aliens to enter nonresident alien status in lieu of writing "Nonresident Alien" or "NRA" above the dotted line on line 6.
Deposit
A nonresident alien employee may request additional withholding at his or her option for other purposes, although such additions should not be necessary for withholding to cover federal income tax liability related to employment.
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Form 8233.(p18)
If a nonresident alien employee claims a tax treaty exemption from withholding, the employee must submit Form 8233, Exemption from Withholding on Compensation for Independent (and Certain Dependent) Personal Services of a Nonresident Alien Individual, with respect to the income exempt under the treaty, instead of Form W-4. See Publication 515 for details.
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IRS review of requested Forms W-4.(p18)

rule
When requested by the IRS, you must make original Forms W-4 available for inspection by an IRS employee. You may also be directed to send certain Forms W-4 to the IRS. You may receive a notice from the IRS requiring you to submit a copy of Form W-4 for one or more of your named employees. Send the requested copy or copies of Form W-4 to the IRS at the address provided and in the manner directed by the notice. The IRS may also require you to submit copies of Form W-4 to the IRS as directed by a revenue procedure or notice published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. When we refer to Form W-4, the same rules apply to Formulario W-4(SP), its Spanish translation.
After submitting a copy of a requested Form W-4 to the IRS, continue to withhold federal income tax based on that Form W-4 if it is valid (see Invalid Forms W-4, later in this section). However, if the IRS later notifies you in writing the employee is not entitled to claim exemption from withholding or a claimed number of withholding allowances, withhold federal income tax based on the effective date, marital status, and maximum number of withholding allowances specified in the notice (commonly referred to as a "lock-in letter").
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Initial lock-in letter.(p18)
The IRS also uses information reported on Form W-2 to identify employees with withholding compliance problems. In some cases, if a serious under-withholding problem is found to exist for a particular employee, the IRS may issue a lock-in letter to the employer specifying the maximum number of withholding allowances and marital status permitted for a specific employee. You must furnish this notice to the employee within 10 business days of receipt if the employee is employed by you as of the date of the notice. Begin withholding based on the notice on the date specified in the notice.
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Employee not performing services.(p18)
If you receive a notice for an employee who is not performing services for you, you must still furnish the notice to the employee and withhold based on the notice if any of the following apply.
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Termination and re-hire of employees.(p18)
If you must furnish and withhold based on the notice and the employment relationship is terminated after the date of the notice, you must continue to withhold based on the notice if you continue to pay any wages subject to income tax withholding. You must also withhold based on the notice or modification notice if the employee resumes the employment relationship with you within 12 months after the termination of the employment relationship.
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Modification notice.(p18)
After issuing the notice specifying the maximum number of withholding allowances and marital status permitted, the IRS may issue a subsequent notice (modification notice) that modifies the original notice. The modification notice may change the marital status and/or the number of withholding allowances permitted. You must withhold federal income tax based on the effective date specified in the modification notice.
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New Form W-4 after notice.(p18)
After the IRS issues a notice or modification notice, if the employee provides you with a new Form W-4 claiming complete exemption from withholding or claims a marital status, a number of withholding allowances, and any additional withholding that results in less withholding than would result under the IRS notice or modification notice, disregard the new Form W-4. You must withhold based on the notice or modification notice unless the IRS notifies you to withhold based on the new Form W-4. If the employee wants to put a new Form W-4 into effect that results in less withholding than required, the employee must contact the IRS.
If, after you receive an IRS notice or modification notice, your employee gives you a new Form W-4 that does not claim exemption from federal income tax withholding and claims a marital status, a number of withholding allowances, and any additional withholding that results in more withholding than would result under the notice or modification notice, you must withhold tax based on the new Form W-4. Otherwise, disregard any subsequent Forms W-4 provided by the employee and withhold based on the IRS notice or modification notice.
For additional information about these rules, see Treasury Decision 9337, 2007-35 I.R.B. 455, available at
www.irs.gov/irb/2007-35_IRB/ar10.html.
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Substitute Forms W-4.(p19)

rule
You are encouraged to have your employees use the official version of Form W-4 to claim withholding allowances or exemption from withholding. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 or visit IRS.gov to obtain copies of Form W-4.
You may use a substitute version of Form W-4 to meet your business needs. However, your substitute Form W-4 must contain language that is identical to the official Form W-4 and your form must meet all current IRS rules for substitute forms. At the time you provide your substitute form to the employee, you must provide him or her with all tables, instructions, and worksheets from the current
Form W-4.
You cannot accept substitute Forms W-4 developed by employees. An employee who submits an employee-developed substitute Form W-4 after October 10, 2007, will be treated as failing to furnish a Form W-4. However, continue to honor any valid employee-developed Forms W-4 you accepted before October 11, 2007.
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Invalid Forms W-4.(p19)

rule
Any unauthorized change or addition to Form W-4 makes it invalid. This includes taking out any language by which the employee certifies the form is correct. A Form W-4 is also invalid if, by the date an employee gives it to you, he or she indicates in any way it is false. An employee who submits a false Form W-4 may be subject to a $500 penalty. You may treat a Form W-4 as invalid if the employee wrote "exempt" on line 7 and also entered a number on line 5 or an amount on line 6.
When you get an invalid Form W-4, do not use it to figure federal income tax withholding. Tell the employee it is invalid and ask for another one. If the employee does not give you a valid one, withhold taxes as if the employee was single and claiming no withholding allowances. However, if you have an earlier Form W-4 for this worker that is valid, withhold as you did before.
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Amounts exempt from levy on wages, salary, and other income.(p19)

rule
If you receive a Notice of Levy on Wages, Salary, and Other Income (Forms 668-W(ACS), 668-W(c)(DO), or 668-W(ICS)), you must withhold amounts as described in the instructions for these forms. Publication 1494, Tables for Figuring Amount Exempt From Levy on Wages, Salary, and Other Income–Forms 668-W(ACS), 668-W(c)(DO), and 668-W(ICS), shows the exempt amount. If a levy issued in a prior year is still in effect and the taxpayer submits a new Statement of Exemptions and Filing Status, use the current year Publication 1494 to compute the exempt amount.
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Social Security and Medicare Taxes(p19)

rule
The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) provides for a federal system of old-age, survivors, disability, and hospital insurance. The old-age, survivors, and disability insurance part is financed by the social security tax. The hospital insurance part is financed by the Medicare tax. Each of these taxes is reported separately.
Generally, you are required to withhold social security and Medicare taxes from your employees' wages and pay the employer's share of these taxes. Certain types of wages and compensation are not subject to social security and Medicare taxes. See section 5 and section 15 for details. Generally, employee wages are subject to social security and Medicare taxes regardless of the employee's age or whether he or she is receiving social security benefits. If the employee reported tips, see section 6.
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Tax rates and the social security wage base limit.(p19)

rule
Social security and Medicare taxes have different rates and only the social security tax has a wage base limit. The wage base limit is the maximum wage subject to the tax for the year. Determine the amount of withholding for social security and Medicare taxes by multiplying each payment by the employee tax rate. There are no withholding allowances for social security and Medicare taxes.
The employee tax rate for social security is 4.2% on wages paid and tips received before March 1, 2012. The employee tax rate for social security increases to 6.2% on wages paid and tips received after February 29, 2012. The employer tax rate for social security remains unchanged at 6.2%. The social security wage base limit is $110,100. The 2012 employee tax rate for Medicare is 1.45% (amount withheld) each for the employee and employer (2.9% total). There is no wage base limit for Medicare tax; all covered wages are subject to Medicare tax.
EIC
At the time this publication was prepared for release, the rate for the employee's share of social security tax was 4.2% and scheduled to increase to 6.2% for wages paid after February 29, 2012. However, Congress was discussing an extension of the 4.2% employee tax rate for social security beyond February 29, 2012. Check for updates at www.irs.gov/pub15.
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Successor employer.(p19)

rule
If you received all or most of the property used in the trade or business of another employer, or a unit of that employer's trade or business, you may include the wages the other employer paid to your acquired employees before the transfer of property when you figure the annual wage base limit for social security. You should determine whether or not you should file Schedule D (Form 941), Report of Discrepancies Caused by Acquisitions, Statutory Mergers, or Consolidations, by reviewing the Instructions for Schedule D (Form 941). See Regulations section 31.3121(a)(1)-1(b) for more information. Also see Revenue Procedure 2004-53, 2004-34 I.R.B. 320, available at
www.irs.gov/irb/2004-34_IRB/ar13.html.
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Example.(p19)

Early in 2012, you bought all of the assets of a plumbing business from Mr. Martin. Mr. Brown, who had been employed by Mr. Martin and received $2,000 in wages before the date of purchase, continued to work for you. The wages you paid to Mr. Brown are subject to social security taxes on the first $108,100 ($110,100 minus $2,000). Medicare tax is due on all of the wages you pay him during the calendar year.
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Withholding of social security and Medicare taxes on nonresident aliens.(p19)

rule
In general, if you pay wages to nonresident alien employees, you must withhold federal social security and Medicare taxes as you would for a U.S. citizen. However, see Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities, for exceptions to this general rule.
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International social security agreements.(p19)

rule
The United States has social security agreements, also known as totalization agreements, with many countries that eliminate dual taxation and dual coverage. Compensation subject to social security and Medicare taxes may be exempt under one of these agreements. You can get more information and a list of agreement countries from the SSA at
www.socialsecurity.gov/international or see section 7 of Publication 15-A.
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Religious exemption.(p19)

rule
An exemption from social security and Medicare taxes is available to members of a recognized religious sect opposed to insurance. This exemption is available only if both the employee and the employer are members of the sect.
For more information, see Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers.
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Foreign persons treated as American employers.(p20)

rule
Under IRC section 3121(z), for services performed after July 31, 2008, a foreign person who meets both of the following conditions is generally treated as an American employer for purposes of paying FICA taxes on wages paid to an employee who is a United States citizen or resident.
  1. The foreign person is a member of a domestically controlled group of entities.
  2. The employee of the foreign person performs services in connection with a contract between the U.S. Government (or an instrumentality of the U.S. Government) and any member of the domestically controlled group of entities. Ownership of more than 50% constitutes control.
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Part-Time Workers(p20)

rule
For federal income tax withholding and social security, Medicare, and federal unemployment (FUTA) tax purposes, there are no differences among full-time employees, part-time employees, and employees hired for short periods. It does not matter whether the worker has another job or has the maximum amount of social security tax withheld by another employer. Income tax withholding may be figured the same way as for full-time workers. Or it may be figured by the part-year employment method explained in section 9 of Publication 15-A.