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2018 Federal Payroll Tax Rates

December 18, 2017 | posted by Abacus Payroll

Following is a summary of the federal 2018 payroll tax changes including Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Tax, Minimum Wage, 401(k) limits and more.


Print Full 2018 Payroll Tax Alert [PDF]


Social Security / Medicare

The wage base increases to $128,400 for Social Security and remains UNLIMITED for Medicare. For Social Security, the tax rate is 6.20% for both employers and employees. (Maximum Social Security tax withheld from wages is $7,960.80 in 2018).  For Medicare, the rate remains unchanged at 1.45% for both employers and employees.


Additional Medicare Tax

A 0.9% additional Medicare tax must be withheld from an individual’s wages paid in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. There is no employer match for the additional Medicare tax.


Federal Unemployment Tax

The wage base remains at $7,000.

The effective tax rate for 2018 is 0.6%.


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Earnings Under Social Security

A social security beneficiary under full retirement age can earn $17,040 before benefits are reduced.  For every $2 a person under full retirement age earns over $17,040, $1 is withheld from benefits.  In the year an employee reaches full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be withheld for each $3 they earn above $45,360 until the month the employee reaches full retirement age. Once an employee reaches full retirement age or older, their benefits are not reduced regardless of how much they earn.


Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage rate per hour for 2018 is $7.25, effective 7/24/09.


401(K) Plan Limits

The maximum employee pretax contribution increases to $18,500 in 2018. The “catch-up” contribution limit remains at $6,000 in 2018 for individuals who are age 50 or older.


SIMPLE  Plan Limits

The maximum salary deferral contribution remains unchanged at $12,500 in 2018. The “catch-up” contribution remains at $3,000 in 2018 for individuals who are age 50 or older.


Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS)

Employers must pay their Federal Tax Liabilities through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System unless they pay less than $2,500 in quarterly payroll tax liabilities and pay their liability when filing their employment tax returns (Forms 941 and 944).


Forms W-4, I-9 and W-9

All new employees are required to file Forms W-4 and I-9 which are to be kept on file by the employer. A new Form W-4 should be obtained when an employee’s filing status or exemption changes.

Be sure to request and keep on file a completed Form W-9 from all non-corporate taxpayers to whom your company pays commissions, interest, rents, etc., totaling $600 or more, and also payments made to certain incorporated entities such as attorneys for legal services and providers of medical and health care services.


Filing of Form W-2 and 1099

Social Security has eliminated the use of magnetic tapes, cartridges and diskettes as a means of filing W-2 reports to SSA. Reports containing 250 or more W-2’s must be filed electronically via the Social Security Business Services Online (BSO).


Employers filing 250 or more Form 1099s with the IRS also must file electronically. Form 1099 must provide payer telephone number or will be subject to penalties.

 W-2 and 1099 Filing Deadline for Employers

The due date for filing 2017 Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration is January 31st,, 2018. This also applies to Form 1099-MISC reporting for non-employee compensation such as payments to independent contractors.

Prior deadlines were end of February for paper filing and end of March for electronic. Which still applies to Form 1099-MISC other than payments reported in box 7. Click here for our recent article update on the new filing deadline.


Health Benefits W-2 Reporting

Employers are required to include the aggregate cost of employer sponsored health benefits on the 2017 W-2’s in Box 12 with code DD. It is for informational purposes only and will not be included in taxable income. Please contact us regarding the specific types of health benefits to be recorded.


Small employers who file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 are exempt.


Household Employment – Domestic Workers

Household employers are required to withhold and pay FICA for domestic workers (age 18 and older) if paid cash wages of $2,100 or more in 2018.  The $1,000 per calendar quarter threshold continues to apply for FUTA.  These taxes are reported on Schedule H of the employer’s personal tax return (Form 1040), but must be remitted through withholding or estimated payments during the year.


For Pennsylvania and New Jersey, unemployment coverage applies for domestic service in an employer’s private home for cash wages of $1,000 or more in a calendar quarter in the current or preceding calendar year.


New Hire Reporting Requirements

All employers in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are required to report basic information about employees who are newly hired, rehired and returning to work after separation of employment or leave of absence, temporary employees, and contracted entities. Employers must report this information via the internet at and at Failure to report a new employee could result in a fine up to $25 per violation. New employers should receive instruction booklets upon registration with the state. Basic employee information which must be provided:


(1)   Employee’s name

(2)   Employee’s address

(3)   Employee’s social security number

(4)   Employee’s date of hire and birth

(5)   Employer’s name and address

(6)   Employer’s federal identification number


For further information contact us or call the State of New Jersey at 1-877-654-4737 (NJ-HIRES) or Pennsylvania at 1-888-724-4737 (PA-HIRES).



2018 Federal Wage Tax Rate Summary


  2017 Current Year 2016 Prior Year

Employee rate

Maximum liability – employee

Employer rate

Maximum liability – employer

Wage limit















Employee and Employer rate

Maximum deduction / liability (each)

Wage limit

Additional employee rate on wages exceeding $200,000



No limit

No limit





No limit

No limit



Employer rate

Wage limit








Social Security Benefits

Earned income may be received without forfeiting benefits:


Under full retirement age

After full retirement age





No limit






No limit


View our End-of-Year Payroll Checklist


About the Author: Abacus Payroll

Abacus Payroll, Inc. is a leading provider of payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Whether yours is a family-owned small business or a national corporation, we provide payroll, tax and other financial services on time and at an affordable price. Unlike other payroll providers, Abacus Payroll will assign your very own payroll specialist who will understand your payroll needs inside and out. So no more speaking to a different person each time, no more sitting on hold for hours and most importantly no more missed deadlines! Contact us today to see how we can help your business. You can count on us.