Federal Unemployment Tax Act
The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (or FUTA, I.R.C. ch. 23[dead link]) is a United States federal law that imposes a federal employer tax used to help fund state workforce agencies. Employers report this tax by filing an annual Form 940 with the Internal Revenue Service. In some cases, the employer is required to pay the tax in installments during the tax year.
FUTA covers a federal share of the costs of administering the unemployment insurance (UI) and job service programs in every state. In addition, FUTA pays one-half of the cost of extended unemployment benefits (during periods of high unemployment) and provides for a fund from which states may borrow, if necessary, to pay benefits.
Calculation of amount of tax
Through June 30, 2011, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act imposed a tax of 6.2%, which was composed of a permanent rate of 6.0% and a temporary rate of 0.2%, which was passed by Congress in 1976. The temporary rate was extended many times, but it expired on June 30, 2011.
Consequently, for years through 2010 and the first six months of 2011, the FUTA imposes a 6.2% tax (before credits) on the first $7,000 of gross earnings of each worker per year. Once the worker's earnings reach $7,000 during a given year, the employer no longer pays any Federal unemployment tax for that year with respect to that worker. Certain credits are allowed with respect to state unemployment taxes paid that may reduce the effective FUTA rate to 0.8%.
Effective July 1, 2011, the rate decreases to 6.0%. After applying the 5.4% credit under section 3302(b), the effective rate on and after July 1, 2011 is 0.6% (6.0% - 5.4%).
Wages exempt from FUTA
The following wages are exempt from Federal Unemployment Tax Act payments:
- Wages for services performed outside the United States.
- Wages paid to a deceased employee or a deceased employee's estate in any year after the year of the employee's death.
- Wages paid by a parent to a child under age 21, paid by a child to a parent, or paid by one spouse to the other spouse.
- Wages paid by a foreign government or international organization.
- Wages paid by a state or local government or by the United States federal government.
- Wages paid by a hospital to interns.
- Wages paid to newspaper carriers under age 18.
- Wages paid by a school to a student of the school.
- Wages paid by an organized camp to a student.
- Wages paid by non-profit organizations.
- See 26 U.S.C. § 3301.
- Publication 15 (Circular E) for 2011, "Employer's Tax Guide", p. 29, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Dep't of the Treasury; see also 26 U.S.C. § 3301.
- "Publication 15: (Circular E) Employer's Tax Guide" (PDF). Internal Revenue Service. United States Department of the Treasury. 2009.
- "Publication 15-A: Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide" (PDF). Internal Revenue Service. United States Department of the Treasury. 2009.