What Is Tax Withholding?

What Is Tax Withholding?


Tax withholding is an important concept to understand when filing taxes. It involves taking a portion of your paycheck and putting it aside so that you can pay the IRS when tax season rolls around. Withholding tax helps you avoid owing tax or getting a large refund at the end of the year, which can throw off your budgeting plans.

In this article, we’ll discuss tax withholding and how it works to ensure you are properly prepared for tax time.


Tax forms on a table

What is Tax Withholding?

Tax withholding is a process by which your employer sets aside a portion of your wages to be paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to fulfill your tax obligations. Withholding allows you to pay taxes on what you earn rather than wait until the end of the year or face potential fees and penalties when filing your return.

Tax withholding can also ensure that you don’t owe money back at the end of the year since it considers all your income during the tax year. Withholding taxes also helps to fund important government programs and services such as Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits.

Who Pays Withholding Tax?

Anyone who earns wages or other income is subject to withholding tax. This includes income from employment, such as salary, wages, bonuses, and tips; self-employment income, such as freelance income; certain types of rent payments; and gambling winnings.

Withholding taxes are generally calculated based on the amount of money earned and the filing status you have chosen when filing your taxes. Generally, the more money you make, the more withholding tax you will owe.


Cash exchanging hands

How Does Tax Withholding Work?

When you start a new job, your employer will ask you to fill out a form W-4 . This document includes information about your filing status and the number of dependents that will determine how much of your income your employer withholds for taxes.

Your employer may also use additional forms, such as Form 941 or Form 9465, to calculate federal tax withholding. Once these forms are filled out, your employer will deduct the appropriate amount from your paychecks and send it directly to the IRS, where it will be credited against any taxes you owe at the end of the year.

Employers send the taxes withheld from their paycheck to the IRS by the date specified on Form 941 or another form. If you are still waiting to receive a refund after filing your tax return and believe that too much was withheld, you can contact the IRS and request a refund of the overpaid amount.

Types of Withholding Tax

There are several different types of withholding taxes that may apply to your income. These include federal, state, and local taxes, as well as certain other deductions such as social security and Medicare taxes. Let’s take a closer look at each withholding tax:

1. Federal Income Tax Withholding

Federal income tax withholding is a way for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect federal income taxes from taxpayers before the end of the year. Withholding allows taxpayers to pay their taxes throughout the year instead of waiting until the end of the year and owing money or getting a large refund. The federal income tax withheld helps to ensure that the taxpayer does not owe money back at the end of the year.

2. State and Local Income Tax Withholding

In addition to federal income tax withholding, many states require residents to have state and local taxes withheld from their paychecks. Each state has its rules regarding what types of taxes are required to be withheld and the amounts that must be paid. Generally, these taxes are used to fund state and local programs.

3. Social Security and Medicare Taxes (FICA)

FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, which is a law that requires employers to withhold both Social Security and Medicare taxes from their employee’s wages. The amount that is withheld from each paycheck goes towards funding the Social Security and Medicare programs, which provide eligible citizens retirement benefits and health care coverage.

4. Self-Employment Taxes

Self-employed individuals are also responsible for paying taxes on their income. This includes both federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are generally referred to as “self-employment tax.” Self-employed individuals can make estimated tax payments throughout the year or pay all of the taxes they owe.

5. Additional Medicare Tax on High Earners

High earners may also be subject to an additional Medicare tax of 0.9%. This tax applies to individuals who earn more than $200,000 in a calendar year or couples who earn more than $250,000. The additional Medicare tax is withheld from the wages of eligible taxpayers and is used to fund the Medicare program.

6. Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Taxes on Tips or Group Term Life Insurance Benefits

Employees receiving tips or group term life insurance benefits may also owe uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes. This includes tips that should have been reported to the employer and any group term life insurance coverage over $50,000. These taxes are due by the April 15th filing deadline.

7. Unemployment Taxes (FUTA)

FUTA stands for Federal Unemployment Tax Act, which is a law that requires employers to pay taxes on wages paid to their employees. The FUTA tax funds state unemployment programs and provide benefits for those who have lost their jobs through no fault.

8. Railroad Retirement Act Taxes

Railroad workers may be subject to Railroad Retirement Act taxes, which are used to fund the Railroad Retirement program. This tax is similar to Social Security and Medicare taxes and is withheld from the wages of eligible employees.

9. Alien Nonresident Withholding Tax

Nonresident aliens who earn income in the United States may be subject to federal income tax withholding. Nonresident alien taxes are used to fund the federal government and are generally withheld from wages paid to these individuals.

An employee having problems with a documen t


How Do You Calculate Withholding Tax?

Withholding tax is calculated based on the information provided in your W-4 form and other forms filled out with your employer. Generally, the more money you make, the higher percentage of taxes that will be withheld.

Additionally, your marital status and the number of dependents play a role in determining the withheld tax from each paycheck. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides an online tax withholding estimator to help taxpayers estimate their withholding tax bill.

Your employer will use the information provided to calculate the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from each paycheck. This withholding amount is based on filing status and income level. Also, note that the amount of taxes withheld varies depending on how often you are paid and how many dependents you have listed on your W-4 form.

Annual estimated deductions (such as mortgage interest and charitable donations) and additional tax credits that may apply to your situation may also influence your withholding tax.

The payroll withholding tables show how much should be withheld for each filing category, given certain income levels. For example, if you are single with no dependents and earn $50,000 per year, 15% of your income would be withheld for taxes each payday. This percentage can change depending on other factors, such as bonuses, additional exemptions, or deductions claimed on your return.

If the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck is too low, you may have a higher tax liability at the end of the year when you file your return. On the other hand, if too much is withheld, you may receive a large refund check.

Tax Withholding FAQs

Can I change the amount of tax withheld from my paycheck?

Yes, you can change the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck at any time by submitting a new W-4 form to your employer.

What happens if more tax is needed?

If not enough tax is withheld, you may owe additional taxes when you file your return and may be subject to penalties and interest on the amount owed.

Can I claim exemptions to lower my withholding tax?

Yes, you can claim certain exemptions to lower your tax withholding. However, it’s important to ensure you have enough being withheld.

How do I claim exemptions for tax withholding?

You can claim exemptions for tax withholding on your W-4 form. Exemptions may include dependents, additional withholdings allowances, and other credits and deductions that apply to your situation.

What forms do I need to fill out to change my tax withholding?

You will need to fill out a W-4 form to change your tax withholding. This form can be obtained from the IRS website or your employer.

How often should I review and update my tax withholding?

You should review and update your tax withholdings at least once a year or whenever your financial situation changes. An experienced accountant or financial advisor can help you understand what adjustments need to be made to get your withholdings right.

Can I have too much tax withheld?

Yes, if too much is withheld, you may receive a large tax refund check when you file your return.

What should I do if I receive a notice from the IRS about under-withholding?

If you receive a notice from the IRS about under-withholding, it is important to act quickly and make any necessary adjustments. You may need to file an amended return to correct errors and pay the amount owed.


Tax withholding is an important factor to consider when managing your finances. It’s important to review your withholdings throughout the year and adjust them if needed to avoid owing money.

You don’t have to let the stress of computing withholding taxes weigh you down. Let our expert payroll support team take care of it for you. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can make the process easy and seamless.