The tax skinny on this year's fatter paychecks

Woman using a computer

(ARA) — Wondering where that small increase in your paychecks came from? Take a closer look at your pay stub and you'll see that your Social Security taxes are 2 percent lower this year. The employee and self-employed portion of the FICA-OASDI Social Security taxes has been reduced to 4.2 percent for employees and 10.4 percent for self-employed.

The tax cut, also known as the payroll tax holiday, was part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 passed in December 2010. Employers had until Jan. 31, 2011, to implement the cut.

There is a $106,800 income-earned limit, which means the maximum amount a worker can receive by the end of 2011 from the 2 percent reduction is $2,136.

The payroll tax holiday replaces the Making Work Pay Credit that expired at the end of 2010 that was also distributed in paychecks but through reduced federal withholding. The credit was worth 6.2 percent of your modified adjusted gross income, up to $400 ($800 for joint filers).

Whether your 2011 paychecks are bigger depends on your earned income and whether you received the Making Work Pay Credit last year. Taxpayers making $20,000 or more this year will receive larger paychecks this year because 2 percent of income exceeds the $400 Making Work Pay Credit. On the other hand, paychecks for lower income taxpayers earning less than $20,000 will be smaller because the $400 credit exceeds the 2 percent payroll tax holiday.

"Regardless of whether your paycheck amounts have changed, you should do two things," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. "First, review your federal withholding. Since the Making Work Pay Credit expired, you may need to adjust your withholding. If you're self-employed, review your estimated tax payments.

"Second, if you received the Making Work Pay Credit last year, you still need to claim it on your federal return that's due by April 18, 2011," Dolmage continued. "Claiming the credit cancels out the reduced federal withholding in last year's paychecks."

The Making Work Pay Credit amount is figured on Schedule M for Forms 1040 and 1040A. If you're filing Form 1040-EZ, use the designated worksheet to figure the credit. The economic recovery payments and government retiree credit that factored into the Making Work Pay Credit on last year's return expired, so figuring this year's amount is easier.

Free tax preparation solutions, including TaxACT Free Federal Edition, guides you step-by-step through the Making Work Pay Credit and all tax law changes to help you maximize your credits and deductions. They can also help you figure your federal withholding and even complete a new Form W-4 that can be printed and turned into your employer.

For more information about the payroll tax holiday and Making Work Pay Credit, visit www.irs.gov, where you can also find a free withholding calculator. To take advantage of free tax preparation, printing and filing with TaxACT Free Federal Edition, go to www.taxact.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 2 Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2014 by February 2. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 2, file and pay your tax by April 15.

February 2 All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 2Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 2 Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 2 Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2014 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 2Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2014.

February 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2014.

February 2Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2014.

February 10Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 11Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 13Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 17Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 17Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 17All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 17Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 17Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 18All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2014, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 27Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

View More Tax Dates