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Fri 12 Jan, 2007 12:38 pm

Supplemental Wage (bonus) Witholding

PROBLEM: If an employee is paid non-recurring compensation in addition to regular wages, the amount of Federal income tax calculated on the combined payment might be disproportionately high. That is, the latter tax might exceed the sum of tax amounts calculated separately on EACH payment. The combined wage payment might put the employee into a higher percentage withholding range. Therefore, the I.R.S. and many states offer alternative withholding calculations when supplemental wages are paid.

Examples of supplemental wage payments: bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, payments for accumulated sick leave, severance pay, awards, prizes, back pay, retroactive pay increases for current employees, and payments for non- deductible moving expenses.

Federal Withholding Methods

How to withhold on supplemental payments for Federal income tax purposes, depends on whether the payment is set up as an amount separate from the regular wages. There are two possibilities:

* If the supplemental wages are COMBINED with regular wages in a single payment, without identifying the amount of each, income tax is withheld as if the total were a single payment for a regular payroll period.

* If the supplemental wages are PAID SEPARATELY (or combined in a single payment, but the amount of each is specified), the income tax withholding method depends partly on a second question: whether income tax is being withheld specifically from the regular wages.

1) Where income tax is WITHHELD from the regular wages, then use either of the following methods for the supplemental wages:

* withhold at a flat rate of 25.0% for payments made on and after May 28, 2003 (no other percentage allowed),

* However, effective January 1, 2005, if the supplemental wage payments to an employee during the year exceed $1 million, the applicable flat withholding rate is 35% on the excess.

OR

* add the supplemental to the regular wages for the most recent payroll period this year. Figure the income tax withholding as if the total were a single payment. Subtract the tax already withheld for the regular wages. Withhold the remaining tax from the supplemental wages.

2) where income tax is NOT WITHHELD from the employee's regular wages, income tax is withheld as if the total were a single payment for a regular payroll period.

Regardless of the method used to withhold income tax on supplemental wages, Social Security, Medicare and FUTA taxes apply to such payments.

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What can be done about this flat rate of 25% crap? Any loopholes anyone knows about?

So what's your question?

I get supplemental tax held out of my bonus, but I get it back when I file. I'm not living that close to the edge.

Re: Supplemental Wage (bonus) Witholding - WTF?!

McGentrix wrote:

1) Where income tax is WITHHELD from the regular wages, then use either of the following methods for the supplemental wages:

* withhold at a flat rate of 25.0% for payments made on and after May 28, 2003 (no other percentage allowed),

OR

* add the supplemental to the regular wages for the most recent payroll period this year. Figure the income tax withholding as if the total were a single payment. Subtract the tax already withheld for the regular wages. Withhold the remaining tax from the supplemental wages.

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What can be done about this flat rate of 25% crap? Any loopholes anyone knows about?

Make both calculations and withhold the lessor of the two from the bonus check. It all comes out in the wash on April 15th.

Problem for me is that the government holds onto my money for 15 months if I were to get a bonus in January. Seems that 25% is a rather large chunk of change.

Chai, others may not be so fortunate.

If your bonus is an annual event and expected to be a sufficient amount then you could under-withhold throughout the rest of the year by increasing your number of withholding allowances on your W-4. Then they would be holding on to less of your regular income. Again, it all comes out in the wash at the end.

right, what JPB said.

if you KNOW you're going to get a bonus, underpay the rest of the year.

If you're not sure if you'll get it, treat it as lanyape and be glad to get what you got.

I suppose part of why I'm fortunate is that I don't anticipate anything, so it's all good fortune.