Each pay period, your employer withholds a part of your wages to cover your income tax bill. The amount of taxes that your employer withholds depends on your filing status, the amount of your paycheck and the number of withholding allowances you claim on Form W-4. The Internal Revenue Service offers two methods to withhold taxes -- the wage bracket method and the percentage method. The wage bracket method uses a chart to determine your income tax; to determine what percentage of federal taxes is withheld from your paycheck, you must use the percentage method.
The Percentage Method Process
To figure your tax using the percentage method, your employer must refer to an IRS-generated chart that pertains to your filing status and payroll period. He must deduct your withholding allowances, which reduces your taxable income. Using the taxable amount, your employer will determine your tax percentage and calculate your tax. IRS Publication 15 contains all of the information your employer needs to calculate your income tax.
Deducting Your Withholding Allowances
Each exemption that you claim on Form W-4 reduces your taxable income. Your employer will refer to your W-4 and multiply your number of exemptions by the amount allowed, which is determined according to your pay period. He will then reduce your taxable income by this amount. The withholding allowance reduces only the amount that your employer can tax, not your salary. As of the 2012 tax year, employers must deduct $73.08 for each allowance claimed if an employee is paid weekly, $146.15 for biweekly, $158.33 for semimonthly, $316.67 for monthly, $950 for quarterly, $1,900 for semiannually and $3,800 for annually. If you are paid daily, your employer will deduct $14.62 from your pay before using the percentage method to determine your tax withholdings.
Determining Your Tax Percentage
After subtracting your withholding allowances, your employer will refer to the Percentage Method Table on Publication 15 to determine your percentage and any extra withholding amount. He will take the taxable amount of your pay, multiply it by a certain percentage and add a base amount. For example, if your pay is more than $209, but not more than $721, your employer will multiply your pay by 15 percent and add $16.80 to the result to determine your tax withholding.
Let's say that your gross pay is $900, and you are single, paid weekly and have two children. Your employer will deduct three allowances (you and two children) at $219.24 ($73.08 times 3) from your pay to allow for your withholding allowances. The remaining amount is $680.76. Your employer then will multiply $680.76 by 15 percent ($102.11) and add the $16.80 base amount. Your federal income tax withholding is $118.91. To locate your percentage and base amount, refer to the Publication 15, Percentage Method Table on the IRS website.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.