Payroll taxes are taxes imposed on employers or employees, and are usually calculated as a percentage of the salaries that employers pay their employees. By law, some payroll taxes are the responsibility of the employee and others fall on the employer, but almost all economists agree that the true economic incidence of a payroll tax is unaffected by this distinction, and falls largely or entirely on workers in the form of lower wages. Because payroll taxes fall exclusively on wages and not on returns to financial or physical investments, payroll taxes may contribute to underinvestment in human capital such as higher education.

National payroll tax systems


The Australian federal government (
ATO ATO may refer to: Technology *Abort to Orbit Space Shuttle abort modes were procedures by which the nominal launch of the NASA Space Shuttle could be terminated. A pad abort occurred after ignition of the shuttle's Space Shuttle Main Engine, main ...
) requires withholding tax on employment income (payroll taxes of the first type), under a system known as
pay-as-you-go Pay as you go or PAYG may refer to: Finance * Pay-as-you-go tax or pay-as-you-earn tax * PAYGO, the practice in the US of financing expenditures with current funds rather than borrowing * PAUG, a structured financial product * Prepayment (disambigu ...
(PAYG). The individual states impose payroll taxes of the second type.


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, payroll tax accounts for over a third of the annual national budget, making it the primary source of government revenue. The tax is paid by employers based on the total remuneration (salary and benefits) paid to all employees, at a standard rate of 14% (though, under certain circumstances, can be as low as 4.75%). Employers are allowed to deduct a small percentage of an employee's pay (around 4%). Another tax,
social insurance Social insurance is a concept where the government intervenes in the insurance market to ensure that a group of individuals are insured or protected against the risk of any emergencies that lead to financial problems. This is done through a proc ...
, is withheld by the employer.


Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

employers are required to withhold 11% of the employee's wages for Social Security and a certain percentage as Income Tax (according to the applicable
tax bracket Tax brackets are the divisions at which tax rates change in a progressive tax system (or an explicitly regressive tax system, though that is rarer). Essentially, tax brackets are the cutoff values for taxable income—income past a certain point ...
). The employer is required to contribute an additional 20% of the total payroll value to the Social Security system. Depending on the company's main activity, the employer must also contribute to federally funded insurance and educational programs. There is also a required deposit of 8% of the employee's wages (not withheld from him) into a bank account that can be withdrawn only when the employee is fired, or under certain other extraordinary circumstances, such as serious illness (called a "Security Fund for Duration of Employment"). All these contributions amount to a total tax burden of almost 40% of the payroll for the employer and 15% of the employee's wages.


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Northwest Territories
in Canada applies a payroll tax of 2% to all employees. It is an example of the second type of payroll tax, but unlike in other jurisdictions, it is paid directly by employees rather than employers. Unlike the first type of payroll tax as it is applied in Canada, though, there is no basic personal exemption below which employees are not required to pay the tax.
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applies a health premium tax to all payrolls on a sliding scale up to $900 per year.


China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

, the payroll tax is a specific tax that is paid to provinces and territories by employers, not by employees. The tax is deducted from the worker's pay. The Chinese Government itself requires only one tax to be withheld from paychecks: the PAYG (or pay-as-you-go) tax, which includes medicare levies and insurances. Tax calculations and contributions differ from city to city in China, and each city's data will be updated yearly. Taxable Income = Gross Salary – Social Benefits – ¥3,500 IIT = Taxable Income x Tax Rate – Quick Deduction Net Salary = Gross Salary – Social Benefits – IIT


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, the payroll tax is composed of several items: * national income tax on personal income ( hr, porez na dohodak), which is applied incrementally with rates of 0% (personal exemption = 3800 HRK), 24% (3800-30000 HRK) and 36% (30000 HRK - ) * optional local surcharge on personal income ( hr, prirez), which is applied by some cities and municipalities on the amount of national tax, currently up to 18% (in
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) * pension insurance ( hr, mirovinsko osiguranje), universal 20%, for some people divided into two different funds, one of which is government-managed (15%) and the other is a personal pension fund (5%) * health insurance ( hr, zdravstveno osiguranje), universal 16.5% * health insurance exemption exists for the population below 30 years of age as part of government policy to encourage youth employment.


In France, statutory payroll tax only covers employee and employer contributions to the social security system. Income tax deductions from the payroll are voluntary and may be requested by the employee, otherwise, employees are billed 2 mandatory income tax prepayments during the year directly by the tax authority (set at 1/3 of the prior year's final tax bill). Employee payroll tax is made up of assigned taxes for the three branches of the social security system and includes both basic and supplementary coverage. Different percentages apply depending on thresholds that are multiples of the social security earnings ceiling (in 2012 = 36,372 euro per year). Contributions for salaries between the minimum wage and 1.6 times the minimum wage are eligible to relief (known as Fillon relief) of up to 28 percentage points of employer contributions, effectively halving employer non-wage costs.


German employers are obliged to withhold wage tax on a monthly basis. The wage tax withheld will be qualified as prepayment of the income tax of the employee in case the taxpayer files an annual income tax return. The actual tax rate depends on the personal income of the employee and the tax class the employee (and his/her partner) has chosen. In addition to income tax withheld, employees and employers in Germany must pay contributions to finance social security benefits. The social security system consists of four insurances, for which the contribution will be (nearly) equally shared between employer and employee (old age insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance and nursing care insurance). Contributions are payable only on wages up to the social security threshold: In addition there are some insurance which are covered by the employee only (accident insurance, insolvency insurance, contribution to the maternity allocation, contribution for sick pay allocation for small companies). The following table shows employee and employer contributions by category for the year 2015.


An employer is obligated to deduct tax at source from an employee and to make additional contributions to social security as in many other EU member states. The employer's contribution amounts to 28.06% of the salary. The employee's contribution is 16%.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Pe ...

Hong Kong
, salaries tax is capped at 15%. Depending on income, employers fall into different tax brackets.


In 2018, the Swedish social security contribution paid by the employer is 31.42 percent, calculated on top of the employee's salary. The percentage is lower for old employees. The other type of Swedish payroll tax is the income tax withheld (
PAYE A pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE), or pay-as-you-go (PAYG) in Australia, is a withholding of taxes on income payments to employees. Amounts withheld are treated as advance payments of income tax An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entitie ...
), which consists of municipal, county, and, for higher income brackets, state tax. In most municipalities, the income tax comes to approximately 32 percent, with the two higher income brackets also paying a state tax of 20 or 25 percent respectively. The combination of the two types is a total
marginal tax In a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacit ...
effect of 52 to 60 percent. According to a 2019 study in the ''American Economic Review'', a large employee payroll tax cut for young workers did not lead to increases in wages for young workers, but it did lead to an increase in employment, capital, sales, and profits of firms with many young workers.

United Kingdom

In the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
pay as you earn A pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE), or pay-as-you-go (PAYG) in Australia, is a withholding of taxes on income payments to employees. Amounts withheld are treated as advance payments of income tax An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entitie ...
(PAYE) income tax and Employees'
National Insurance National Insurance (NI) is a fundamental component of the welfare state in the United Kingdom Welfare is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter. Social s ...
contributions are examples of the first kind of payroll tax, while Employers' National Insurance contributions are an example of the second kind of payroll tax. There are currently (July 2011) four PAYE income tax bands: 23% plus 11% national insurance on annual income up to £35,000, 40% from £35,001 to £150,000 and 45% on all income above £150,000. The fourth rate of 10% is paid on income from savings up to £2,560 per annum only and is not paid if non-savings income is in excess of this limit. In addition employees pay a national insurance contribution of 12%, while employers pay 13.8%. The contributions are not paid on the total salary but only above a lower threshold.

United States

In the United States, payroll taxes are assessed by the federal government, some of the fifty states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming do not have state income tax; New Hampshire only taxes income from interest and dividends although these will be phased out by 2027),
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, and numerous cities. These taxes are imposed on employers and employees and on various compensation bases and are collected and paid to the taxing jurisdiction by the employers. Most jurisdictions imposing payroll taxes require reporting quarterly and annually in most cases, and electronic reporting is generally required for all but small employers. The
Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA ) is a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America ...
is a federal payroll tax imposed on both employees and employers to fund
Social Security Welfare (or commonly, social welfare) is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and ...
and Medicare—federal programs that provide benefits for retirees, the disabled, and children of deceased workers.

Income tax withholding

Federal, state, and local
withholding tax Tax withholding, also known as tax retention, Pay-as-You-Go, Pay-as-You-Earn, or a ''Prélèvement à la source'', is income tax An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entities (taxpayers) in respect of the income or profits earned by t ...
es are required in those jurisdictions imposing an income tax. Employers having contact with the jurisdiction must withhold the tax from wages paid to their employees in those jurisdictions. Computation of the amount of tax to withhold is performed by the employer based on representations by the employee regarding their tax status on IRS
Form W-4 Form W-4 (otherwise known as the "Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate") is an Internal Revenue Service The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the revenue service of the United States federal government responsible for collecting t ...
. Amounts of income tax so withheld must be paid to the taxing jurisdiction, and are available as refundable
tax credits A tax credit is a tax incentive A tax incentive is an aspect of a country's tax code Tax law or revenue law is an area of legal study in which public or sanctioned authorities, such as federal, state and municipal governments (as in the ca ...
to the employees. Income taxes withheld from payroll are not final taxes, merely prepayments. Employees must still file income tax returns and self assess tax, claiming amounts withheld as payments.

Social Security and Medicare taxes

Federal social insurance taxes are imposed on employers and employees, ordinarily consisting of a tax of 12.4% of wages up to an annual wage maximum ($118,500 in wages, for a maximum contribution of $14,694 in 2016) for Social Security and a tax of 2.9% (half imposed on employer and half withheld from the employee's pay) of all wages for Medicare. The Social Security tax is divided into 6.2% that is visible to employees (the "employee contribution") and 6.2% that is visible only to employers (the "employer's contribution"). For the years 2011 and 2012, the employee's contribution had been temporarily reduced to 4.2%, while the employer's portion remained at 6.2%, but Congress allowed the rate to return to 6.2% for the individual in 2013. To the extent an employee's portion of the 6.2% tax exceeded the maximum by reason of multiple employers, the employee is entitled to a refundable
tax credit A tax credit is a tax incentive which allows certain taxpayers to subtract the amount of the credit they have accrued from the total they owe the state (polity), state. It may also be a credit granted in recognition of taxes already paid or a for ...
upon filing an income tax return for the year.

Unemployment taxes

Employers are subject to unemployment taxes by the federal and all state governments. The tax is a percentage of taxable wages with a cap. The tax rate and cap vary by jurisdiction and by employer's industry and experience rating. For 2009, the typical maximum tax per employee was under $1,000. Some states also impose unemployment, disability insurance, or similar taxes on employees.

Reporting and payment

Employers must report payroll taxes to the appropriate taxing jurisdiction in the manner each jurisdiction provides. Quarterly reporting of aggregate income tax withholding and
Social Security tax The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA ) is a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America ...
es is required in most jurisdictions. Employers must file reports of aggregate unemployment tax quarterly and annually with each applicable state, and annually at the Federal level. Each employer is required to provide each employee an annual report on IRS
Form W-2 Form W-2 (officially, the "Wage and Tax Statement") is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax form used in the United States to report wages paid to employees and the taxes withheld from them. Employers must complete a Form W-2 for each employee ...
of wages paid and Federal, state and local taxes withheld. A copy must be sent to the IRS, and some state governments also require a copy. These are due by January 31 and February 28 (March 31 if filed electronically), respectively, following the calendar year in which wages are paid. The Form W-2 constitutes proof of payment of tax for the employee. Employers are required to pay payroll taxes to the taxing jurisdiction under varying rules, in many cases within one banking day. Payment of Federal and many state payroll taxes is required to be made by
electronic funds transfer Electronic funds transfer (EFT) is the electronic transfer of money from one bank account A bank account is a financial account maintained by a bank or other financial institution in which the financial transactions between the bank and a cus ...
if certain dollar thresholds are met, or by deposit with a bank for the benefit of the taxing jurisdiction.


Failure to timely and properly pay federal payroll taxes results in an automatic penalty of 2% to 10%. Similar state and local penalties apply. Failure to properly file monthly or quarterly returns may result in additional penalties. Failure to file Forms W-2 results in an automatic penalty of up to $50 per form not timely filed. State and local penalties vary by jurisdiction. A particularly severe penalty applies where federal income tax withholding and Social Security taxes are not paid to the IRS. The penalty of up to 100% of the amount not paid can be assessed against the employer entity as well as any person (such as a corporate officer) having control or custody of the funds from which payment should have been made.26 USC 6672

See also

List of countries by tax rates A comparison of tax rate In a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a ...


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External links

Payroll tax in ChinaIRS publication 15
- detailed information on federal payroll tax in the U.S.
Trust Fund Recovery Penalty
irs.gov Wages and salaries Withholding taxes Taxation-related lists Payroll