skip navigation

Search Help
Navigation Help

Topic Index
ABCDEFGHI
JKLMNOPQR
STUVWXYZ#

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

International
Tax Topic Index

FAQs
Forms
Publications
Tax Topics

Comments
About Tax Map

IRS.gov Website
Publication 15
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202367

9. Withholding From Employees' Wages(p20)

rule
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202368

Income Tax Withholding(p20)

rule
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202369

Using Form W-4 to figure withholding.(p20)

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 2014, especially if they owed taxes or received a large refund when filing their 2013 tax return. Advise your employees to use the IRS 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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202370
Form in Spanish.(p20)
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).
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202371
Electronic system to receive Form W-4.(p20)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202372
Effective date of Form W-4.(p20)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202377
Successor employer.(p20)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202379
Completing Form W-4.(p20)
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 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, or by using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) to make estimated tax payments.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202380

Exemption from federal income tax withholding.(p20)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202382

Withholding income taxes on the wages of nonresident alien employees.(p20)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000237122

Withholding adjustment for nonresident alien employees.(p20)

rule
For 2014, apply the procedure discussed next to figure the amount of income tax to withhold from the wages of nonresident alien employees performing services within the United States.
Tax Tip
Nonresident alien students from India and business apprentices from India are not subject to this procedure.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000237194
Instructions.(p21)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000237124
Step 1.(p21)
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$ 43.30 
 Biweekly86.50 
 Semimonthly93.80 
 Monthly187.50 
 Quarterly562.50 
 Semiannually1,125.00 
 Annually2,250.00 
 Daily or Miscellaneous
(each day of the payroll period)
8.70 
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000237125
Step 2.(p21)
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—2014 Amount for One Withholding Allowance shown on page 41. If you are using the Percentage Method Tables for Income Tax Withholding, provided on pages 43–44, 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 45–64, use the amount figured in Step 1 and the number of withholding allowances to figure income tax withholding.
The amounts from 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 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, the amounts from the chart do not increase the social security tax or Medicare tax liability of the employer or the employee, or the FUTA tax liability of the employer.
This procedure only applies to nonresident alien employees who have wages subject to income tax withholding.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000237096

Example.(p21)

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 $86.50 from the chart under Step 1 ($586.50 total). The employer then applies the applicable tables to determine the income tax withholding for nonresident aliens (see Step 2). 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 $86.50 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. Also, the $86.50 added to wages does not affect the social security tax or Medicare tax liability of the employer or the employee, or the FUTA tax liability of the employer.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202387
Supplemental wage payment.(p21)
This procedure for determining the amount of income tax withholding does not apply to a supplemental wage payment (see section 7) if the 39.6% 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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202389

Nonresident alien employee's Form W-4.(p21)

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.
Tax Tip
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202391
Form 8233.(p21)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202392

IRS review of requested Forms W-4.(p21)

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 Treasury Decision 9337, 2007-35 I.R.B. 455, which is available at www.irs.gov/irb/2007-35_IRB/ar10.html. 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 IRS notice (commonly referred to as a "lock-in letter").
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202394
Initial lock-in letter.(p22)
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 will also receive a copy for the employee that identifies the maximum number of withholding allowances permitted and the process by which the employee can provide additional information to the IRS for purposes of determining the appropriate number of withholding allowances. You must furnish the employee copy 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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202395
Employee not performing services.(p22)
If you receive a notice for an employee who is not performing services for you, you must still furnish the employee copy to the employee and withhold based on the notice if any of the following apply.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202396
Termination and re-hire of employees.(p22)
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 (explained next) if the employee resumes the employment relationship with you within 12 months after the termination of the employment relationship.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202397
Modification notice.(p22)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202398
New Form W-4 after notice.(p22)
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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202399

Substitute Forms W-4.(p22)

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-TAX-FORM (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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202400

Invalid Forms W-4.(p22)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202401

Amounts exempt from levy on wages, salary, and other income.(p23)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202402

Social Security and Medicare Taxes(p23)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202406

Tax rates and the social security wage base limit.(p23)

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 tax rate for social security is 6.2% (amount withheld) each for the employer and employee (12.4% total). The social security wage base limit is $117,000. The 2014 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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000286680

Additional Medicare Tax withholding.(p23)

rule
In addition to withholding Medicare tax at 1.45%, you must withhold a 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax from wages you pay to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. You are required to begin withholding Additional Medicare Tax in the pay period in which you pay wages in excess of $200,000 to an employee and continue to withhold it each pay period until the end of the calendar year. Additional Medicare Tax is only imposed on the employee. There is no employer share of Additional Medicare Tax. All wages that are subject to Medicare tax are subject to Additional Medicare Tax withholding if paid in excess of the $200,000 withholding threshold.
For more information on what wages are subject to Medicare tax, see the chart, Special Rules for Various Types of Services and Payments, in section 15. For more information on Additional Medicare Tax, visit IRS.gov and enter "Additional Medicare Tax" in the search box.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202407

Successor employer.(p23)

rule
When corporate acquisitions meet certain requirements, wages paid by the predecessor are treated as if paid by the successor for purposes of applying the social security wage base and for applying the Additional Medicare Tax withholding threshold (that is, $200,000 in a calendar year). 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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202408

Example.(p23)

Early in 2014, 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 $115,000 ($117,000 minus $2,000). Medicare tax is due on all of the wages you pay him during the calendar year. You should include the $2,000 Mr. Brown received while employed by Mr. Martin in determining whether Mr. Brown's wages exceed the $200,000 for Additional Medicare Tax withholding threshold.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202409

Withholding of social security and Medicare taxes on nonresident aliens.(p23)

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 for exceptions to this general rule.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202410

International social security agreements.(p23)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202411

Religious exemption.(p24)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202412

Foreign persons treated as American employers.(p24)

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.
taxmap/pubs/p15-008.htm#en_us_publink1000202413

Part-Time Workers(p24)

rule
Part-time workers and workers hired for short periods of time are treated the same as full-time employees, for federal income tax withholding and social security, Medicare, and FUTA tax purposes.
Generally, it does not matter whether the part-time worker or worker hired for a short period of time has another job or has the maximum amount of social security tax withheld by another employer. See Successor employer, earlier in this section, for an exception to this rule.
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.