Payroll by the Numbers: Key Tax-Related Amounts for New Year

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By Keith M. Hill

Most of the tax-related amounts that payroll practitioners are to work with in 2015 are available. Some of the numbers are to decrease and others remain unchanged.

For payroll departments, this guide serves as a reminder of some of the amounts required for 2015.

Threshold Amounts

These figures represent amounts that are to be used in the new year.

•$118,500—the 2015 wage base for the Social Security program, also known as the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program, up from $117,000.

•$1,900—the maximum amount a domestic employee in a private home may be paid in a year that is exempt from FICA taxes in 2015.

•$18,000—the limit for tax-deferred employee contributions to a Section 401(k) plan, Section 403(b) plan or Section 457 plan for 2015.

•$6,000—the catch-up contribution limit to a Section 401(k) plan for individuals 50 and older for 2015.

•$53,000—the annual contribution limit for defined-contribution plans in 2015, provided the annual compensation taken into consideration is no more than $265,000.

•$12,500—the maximum elective deferral an employee may contribute in 2015 to a savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE plan). Employees 50 and older may contribute up to $15,500.

•$600—the participation threshold for a simplified employee pension under Internal Revenue Code Section 408(k)(2)(C) in 2015.

•$215,000—the annual benefit limit for defined-benefit plans for 2015.

•$395,000—the Section 401(a)(17) cost-of-living adjustment to the compensation limit for 2015.

•$120,000—the limitation used in the definition of a highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) for 2015.

•$170,000—the dollar limitation for a key employee in a top-heavy plan in 2015.

•$105,000—the amount of compensation used to identify a control employee for use in valuing fringe benefits in 2015.

Other Payroll Numbers

2015 per diem rates: The standard per diem rate is $129 ($83 lodging, $46 meals and incidental expenses) to reflect the average daily rate for lodging and meals and incidentals. Four hundred locations were assigned rates higher than the standard rate for the continental U.S. High-low per diem rates for 2015 also have been released.

•57.5 cents a mile—the standard mileage rate for 2015, which employers may use to reimburse employees on a tax-exempt basis for the business use of their personal automobiles. For 2014, this amount was 56 cents a mile. The standard mileage rate for the use of an automobile as part of a move for which the expenses are deductible is 23 cents a mile.

•$130—the maximum monthly amount that an employer may provide on a tax-free basis for transit passes or qualified van pools or both. The employer-provided parking exclusion remains $250 a month. Employers may reimburse employees who commute by bicycle up to $20 a month in expenses tax free. Note: An IRS letter states that a bike-share program is not considered a qualified transportation fringe benefit under tax code Section 132(a)(5).

•$100,800—the total amount of foreign-earned income that a U.S. citizen or resident living and working abroad may exclude for tax purposes in 2015, provided the individual qualifies under Internal Revenue Code Section 911 requirements.

•$3,350—the maximum amount of tax-free contributions for covered benefits allowed for individual health savings accounts. For family HSAs, the amount is $6,650.

•$1,100—the amount per employee that an employer may be charged for repeated or willful violations of the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The penalty for violations of the child labor provisions of the law remains a maximum of $11,000 per employee.

•$13,400—the credit allowed for expenses related to adoption assistance.

•39.6 percent—the highest marginal tax rate will affect singles whose income exceeds $413,200 in 2015, up from $406,750 in 2014. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the threshold amount will be $464,850, up from $457,600.

•$2,550—the tax-free amount for qualified health flexible spending arrangements in 2015, up from $2,500 in 2014.

Phone Numbers

•(800) 829-4933—the toll-free number established by the Internal Revenue Service to help businesses with questions on employment taxes.

•(866) 455-7438—the toll-free number for the IRS Information Reporting Program.

•(800) 772-6270—the toll-free number for the Social Security Administration.

•(202) 693-0067—the number for the Labor Department's Fair Labor Standards Act team on wage and hour issues.

•(800) 372-1033—the toll-free Bloomberg BNA customer service number.