Publication 15 - Employer's Tax Guide


This publication explains your tax responsibilities as an employer. It explains the requirements for withholding, depositing, reporting, paying, and correcting employment taxes. It explains the forms you must give to your employees, those your employees must give to you, and those you must send to the IRS and the SSA. References to “income tax” in this guide apply only to federal income tax. Contact your state or local tax department to determine their rules.

When you pay your employees, you don't pay them all the money they earned. As their employer, you have the added responsibility of withholding taxes from their paychecks. The federal income tax and employees' share of social security and Medicare taxes that you withhold from your employees' paychecks are part of their wages that you pay to the U.S. Treasury instead of to your employees. Your employees trust that you pay the withheld taxes to the U.S. Treasury by making federal tax deposits. This is the reason that these withheld taxes are called trust fund taxes. If federal income, social security, or Medicare taxes that must be withheld aren't withheld or aren't deposited or paid to the U.S. Treasury, the trust fund recovery penalty may apply. See section 11 for more information.

Additional employment tax information is available in Pubs. 15-A, 15-B, and 15-T. Pub. 15-A includes specialized information supplementing the basic employment tax information provided in this publication. Pub. 15-B, Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, contains information about the employment tax treatment and valuation of various types of noncash compensation. Pub. 15-T includes the federal income tax withholding tables and instructions on how to use the tables.

Most employers must withhold (except FUTA), deposit, report, and pay the following employment taxes.

  • Income tax.
  • Social security tax.
  • Medicare tax.
  • FUTA tax.

There are exceptions to these requirements. See section 15 for guidance. Railroad retirement taxes are explained in the Instructions for Form CT-1. Employment taxes for agricultural employers are explained in Pub. 51. If you have employees in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, see Pub. 80.


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