New Withholding Tables for 2018

Much-anticipated withholding tables for 2018 have been posted by the IRS. While the new withholding tables are designed to work with existing Forms W-4, the agency encouraged taxpayers to use its online withholding calculator to make adjustments if necessary. New Forms W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, will be released for 2019 withholding; withholding for 2018 will adapt to existing Forms W-4 already submitted by employees. Based upon the specific impact of the new tax law on their situations, some employees may wish to file a revised Form W-4 to supplement revisions to the withholding tables already being made by the IRS.

The IRS’s online withholding calculator is being reprogramed for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and will be online shorty. The guidance also sets the rates at 22% for optional flat-rate withholding on supplemental wages below $1 million, at 37% on supplemental wages on $1 million and above, and 24% for backup withholding.

The amount withheld from an employee’s wages is determined in part by the number of withholding exemptions and allowances the employee claims. For each exemption or allowance claimed, an amount equal to one personal exemption, prorated to the payroll period, is subtracted from the total amount of wages paid. This reduced amount, rather than the total wage amount, is subject to withholding.

A withholding table shows employers and payroll service providers how much federal tax to withhold from employee paychecks, given each employee’s wages, marital status and the number of withholding allowances claimed. Employees provide their employers with Form W-4 so employers can withhold the correct amount of federal tax.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act overhauls the Tax Code. The new law lowers individual income tax rates, revises the child tax credit, repeals the personal exemption deduction, and makes countless other changes.

Withholding for 2018
For 2018, the amount of one withholding allowance on an annual basis increases to $4,150. The amount of one withholding allowance on an annual basis for 2017 was $4,050.

For 2018, the withholding allowance amounts by payroll period are:

  • Weekly: $79.80
  • Biweekly: $159.60
  • Semimonthly: $172.90
  • Monthly: $345.80
  • Quarterly: $1,037.50
  • Semiannually: $2,075
  • Daily or miscellaneous (each day of payroll period): $16

The IRS instructed employers and payroll service providers to start using the new withholding tables as soon as possible, but no later than February 15, 2018. Until employers and payroll service providers implement the revised withholding tables, they should continue to use the 2017 tables, per the IRS.

Form W-4
Taxpayers will not need to complete new Forms W-4 immediately. “The new withholding tables are designed to minimize taxpayer burden as much as possible and will work with Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances,” the IRS explained. Further, transition rules temporarily permit employees to claim exemption from withholding for 2018 by using 2017 Form W-4. The deadline to claim exemption from income tax withholding in either case was extended to February 28, 2018.

In the meantime, taxpayers should check their withholdings, the IRS recommended. “Taxpayers who itemize their deductions, couples with multiple jobs or individuals with more than one job are encouraged to review their situation,” the IRS explained.

“The new withholding guidance, developed jointly by Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy and the IRS, was constructed to work within the constraints of the existing payroll withholding system in order to deliver the benefits of the tax cuts as soon as possible, to as many Americans as possible, and with as little disruption as possible,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters in Washington, D.C. “The withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers. This will minimize the burden on taxpayers and employers,” he predicted.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the new withholding tables and determine whether the tables “would result in the systematic underwithholding of federal taxes from employee paychecks.” Wyden and other Democrats in Congress have voiced concerns that the White House is “politically interfering with the development of the 2018 withholding tables.”

Supplemental wages
An employee may receive supplemental wages in addition to regular wage payments. If supplemental wages are paid concurrently (for example, in a single payment) with regular wages, and the employer does not specify the amount of each, the supplemental wages are combined with the regular wages for the pay period for purposes of determining the proper withholding amount. If the supplemental wages are not paid concurrently with regular wages, or if they are paid concurrently but the employer specifies the amount of each, two different methods of calculating the amount of withholding on the supplemental wages are available. If supplemental wages exceed $1 million during the calendar year, the excess is subject to withholding at 37%, effective this year, the IRS explained.

Examples of supplemental wages include bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, wages paid under reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangements, dismissal pay, vacation pay, back pay, and nonqualified deferred compensation. Other types of supplemental wages include payments for unused accumulated leave and separate payments representing sick pay and regular wages.

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