Seasonal Employees and Taxes
Many businesses hire part-time or full-time workers, especially in the summer. These types of employees are referred to as seasonal workers, which the IRS defines as an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis (i.e. six months or less). Examples of this kind of work include retail work exclusively during holiday seasons, sports events, harvesting and commercial fishing season. Part-time and seasonal employees are subject to the same tax withholding rules that apply to other employees.
All taxpayers fill out a Form W-4 when starting a new job. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from each paycheck; however, Form W-4 worksheets filled out by many employees do not distinguish between part-year jobs and full-year jobs. Taxpayers (including students–more about this topic below) with multiple summer jobs will want to make sure all their employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover their total income tax liability.
Changes to Withholding under Tax Reform
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, eliminating personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing the tax rates and brackets starting in 2018.
Many taxpayers working part-time or who have seasonal jobs may not be aware of the changes in tax law that could affect their paycheck–and their 2018 tax returns when they file next year. Of note is that any changes a part-year employee makes to their withholding amount has a more significant impact on their paycheck than it does for employees who work year-round.
As such, now is a good time to perform a “paycheck check-up” using the Withholding Calculator, a special tool on the IRS website that can help taxpayers with part-year employment estimate their income, credits, adjustments and deductions more accurately. It also checks to see whether a taxpayer is having the correct amount of tax withheld for their financial situation.
Using the Withholding Calculator
- First, the calculator asks about the dates of a taxpayer’s employment and accounts for a part-year employee’s shorter employment rather than assuming that their periodic tax withholding amount would be applied to a full year.
- Next, the calculator makes recommendations for part-year employees accordingly. If a taxpayer has more than one part-year job, the Withholding Calculator can account for this as well.
Taxpayers should have a completed 2017 tax return available and will also need their most recent pay stub before using the Withholding Calculator.
Calculator results depend on the accuracy of information entered. If a taxpayer’s personal circumstances change during the year, they should return to the calculator to check whether their withholding needs to be adjusted. For taxpayers who work for only part of the year, it’s best to do a paycheck check-up early in their employment period, so their tax withholding is most accurate from the start.
The Withholding Calculator does not request personally-identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers. The IRS does not save or record the information entered on the calculator. As always, taxpayers should watch out for tax scams, especially via email or phone and be especially alert to cybercriminals impersonating the IRS. Remember, the IRS does not send emails related to the calculator or the information entered.
If You Need to Adjust Your Withholding
If the calculator results indicate a change in withholding amount, the employee should complete a new Form W-4 and should submit it to their employer as soon as possible. Employees with a change in personal circumstances that reduces the number of withholding allowances should submit a new Form W-4 with corrected withholding allowances to their employer within 10 days of the change.
As a general rule, the fewer withholding allowances an employee enters on the Form W-4, the higher their tax withholding will be. Entering “0” or “1” on line 5 of the W-4 means more tax will be withheld. Entering a bigger number means less tax withholding, resulting in a smaller tax refund or potentially a tax bill or even a penalty.
Students with Income from a Summer Job
If your child is a student with a summer job, the income your child earns over the summer is taxable. For example, if your child is working as a waiter or a camp counselor, he or she may receive tips as part of his or her summer income. All tip income is subject to federal income tax.
Many students take on odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash. If this is your child’s situation, keep in mind that earnings received from self-employment are also subject to income tax. This includes income from odd jobs such as babysitting and lawn mowing. If your child has net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment, he or she must also pay self-employment tax. Church employee income of $108.28 or more triggers self-employment tax as well. This tax pays for benefits under the Social Security system. Social Security and Medicare benefits are available to individuals who are self-employed just as they are to wage earners who have Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from their wages. The self-employment tax is figured on Form 1040, Schedule SE.
Generally, newspaper carriers or distributors under age 18 are not subject to self-employment tax; however, special rules apply to services performed as a newspaper carrier or distributor. As a direct seller, your child is treated as being self-employed for federal tax purposes if the following conditions are met:
- Your child is in the business of delivering newspapers.
- All pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked.
- Delivery services are performed under a written contract which states that your child will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.
If your child participates in advanced training as an ROTC student and receives a subsistence allowance, it is not taxable. However, active duty pay, for example, pay received during a summer advanced camp, is taxable.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
As a seasonal or part-time worker, you may not be required to file a federal or state return, if the wages you earn at a part-time or seasonal job are less than the standard deduction; however, if you work more than one job, you may end up owing tax. As you can see, seasonal and part-time workers have unique tax situations. If you have any questions about your tax situation, please call us.