What is Payroll Tax?

We thoroughly investigate payroll taxes, stressing their significance in paying critical services such as Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. It deconstructs payroll taxes, outlines employers’ duties and discusses the repercussions for employees.
What is Payroll Tax
What is Payroll Tax?
We discuss payroll taxes, including how they work and what they consist of. It covers the necessities for employees and companies, from federal income tax to Social Security and Medicare contributions.
In this article

Getting your first paycheck can bring many emotions. But with your first paycheck also comes the need for budgeting. You will be required to calculate your net income for each pay cycle.

A part of your paycheck can go to the Federal Reserve through taxes. So, what is payroll tax? In this article, let’s explore a payroll tax, how it works, and what makes up payroll taxes.

What are Payroll Taxes?

When you get your paycheck, a portion of it goes toward payroll taxes, which help to support essential programs like Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment insurance. These taxes aren’t minor; they account for 24.8 percent of total federal, state, and municipal government revenue.

So, payroll taxes are the second-largest source of overall tax income, ensuring these crucial services are adequately funded.

Payroll tax consists of federal as well as state tax that is deducted from an employee’s taxable income, which includes:

  1. If you want to calculate your income tax, you can use Form W-4.
  2. The tax incurred from employees’ salary.
  3. Employers and workers, on the other hand, employers and workers are not required to pay FICA taxes, including Social Security and Medicare.
  4. Retirees, former spouses, disabled persons, spouses, and dependant children benefit from OASDI, survivors, and disability insurance.
  5. Under the Medicare program, people 65 or older can obtain free Part A and premium-based coverage for Parts B, C, and D.
  6. However, employers must pay the federal unemployment tax, also called FUTA.
  7. It is important to note that some employees may also need to pay unemployment tax in some states.

How Does Payroll Tax Work?

It is usually withdrawn from your salary component. The onus to send the withheld taxes, a part of social security and Medicare taxes, falls on employers while they deposit taxes. If you file taxes independently, you don’t have to handle payroll taxes with each paycheck; your employer manages and remits these taxes on your behalf.

What Makes Up Payroll Taxes?

Usually, employers are responsible for determining their Part of taxes, deducting the right amount, submitting the payment, and filing taxes promptly. Every payroll cycle consists of the following taxes:-

Social Security and Medicare Taxes

Employees’ wages must generally be withheld, along with the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, which must be paid.

There is a wage base limit only for the social security tax, which has different rates than Medicare. Taxable wages are those subject to the wage base limit for a given year. Multiply each payment by the employee tax rate to determine Social Security and Medicare withholding.

Employer’s Tax Guide, Publication 15 (Circular E), contains the current year’s Social Security wage base limits and Medicare tax rates.

Federal Income Tax

In addition to the wages earned over the pay period, federal income tax is calculated using the information on Form W-4.

State and Local Income Tax

Employees are solely responsible for paying these taxes, which vary by location.

Federal and State Unemployment

In addition to reporting and paying personal income tax, social security, and Medicare taxes, employers must also report and pay FUTA tax. Only your funds are used to pay FUTA tax. It is not withheld from employees’ paychecks or paid to them. The Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide (Publication 15 and 15-A) contains more information about the FUTA tax.

Who Pays Payroll Taxes?

In some states, employees are responsible for almost all payroll taxes instead of sharing the burden with their employers.

The law does not determine tax incidence, but the markets do. Federal taxes are usually borne by someone different from the person who carries the tax burden. The marketplace typically splits the tax load between buyers and sellers in proportion to their price elasticity.

How Much is Payroll Tax?

Do you have any questions concerning your payroll tax? Depending on your W-4 withholdings, your federal income tax withholding ranges from 0% to 25%. Here’s how to calculate your tax deduction.

If you work for a firm, your Social Security contribution is 6.2%, and your Medicare contribution is 1.45%. In addition, the employer contributes 7.65% (6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare). 

So, if you work, you only contribute 6.2%, and your employer will take care of the rest. The overall Social Security tax is now 12.4%. But you’re on the hook for 12.4% if you’re self-employed.

Employers’ Responsibilities for Payroll Tax

It is generally the employer’s responsibility to withhold from employees’ wages and pay the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

There is a wage base limit only for the social security tax, which has different rates than Medicare. Taxable wages are those subject to the wage base limit for a given year. Calculate the withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes by multiplying each payment by the employee tax rate.

Employees’ Payroll Tax Withholding

Form W-4 records the deductions an employee reports on pay slips. Employers use this form to determine whether additional withholding is needed to cover certain personal taxes or whether an employee may qualify for deductions that reduce income taxes. Withholding is based on the employee’s status as a single employee if no W-4 is provided.

Your employer may outsource the calculation of taxes to payroll service providers. However, those employers who do it in-house usually rely on the IRS table and Circular E to determine payroll taxes.

Employers primarily finance unemployment insurance. If a company is forced to lay off an employee, the employee is eligible for unemployment compensation. Employers will pay varied amounts of unemployment insurance depending on the industry, state, and federal level. Some states may require unemployment insurance and disability insurance.

Exemptions and Deductions from Payroll Tax

In addition to pretax deductions, there are post-tax, voluntary, and mandatory deductions. Health insurance, for instance, is commonly offered as a pretax deduction. 

Payroll deductions can be divided into the following types:

  • Deductions before taxes: Medical and dental benefits, 401(k) retirement plans (for federal and state income tax purposes), and group term life insurance.
  • Mandatory deductions must be assessed, like federal and state income taxes, FICA taxes, and wage garnishments.
  • Donations to charitable organizations, garnishments, and Roth IRAs are all post-tax deductions.
  • Expenses related to a job and retirement plans can be deducted voluntarily.


The blog discusses the complexities of payroll taxes, which necessitates a thorough awareness of its diverse nature. Payroll taxes are essential in the financial ecosystem, financing critical programs like Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment insurance and accounting for significant government revenue. Also, check out Beem Tax Calculator to get a quick and accurate estimate of your federal and state tax refund for free

The essay delves into the numerous components involved, from Social Security and Medicare to federal, state, and local income taxes, whether you’re an employee subject to withholding or a self-employed individual shouldering the whole responsibility.

Employers also take responsibility for handling and remitting these taxes. As the complexity of payroll taxes unravels, it becomes clear that they go beyond ordinary deductions, influencing the financial environment for companies and employees. This detailed review gives readers insights into the mechanics and factors necessary for making educated financial decisions on payroll taxes.


What are the wage limits for payroll tax?

According to the latest data, the wage base limit is $147,000 for payroll tax.

What Are the Largest Payroll Taxes?

Social security taxes are the most significant payroll tax, which is 12.4 percent of your payroll.

Who Pays Payroll Taxes?

Employees usually incur Payroll taxes.

Does Everyone Pay Payroll Tax?

Yes, everyone has to pay payroll tax capped at a limit.

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Prem Kishan

A seasoned Product Manager who thrives on making a meaningful impact within the organization, Prem is deeply passionate about tackling intricate problems using cutting-edge technology and is a specialist in tax content.


This page is purely informational. Beem does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

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