According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), commissions are classified as ‘supplemental’ wages, which are defined as earnings or payments outside of an employee’s regular wages. Other supplemental wages include: bonuses, overtime pay, payments for accumulated sick leave, severance pay, awards, prizes, back pay, retroactive pay increases, and payments for nondeductible moving expenses.
Like regular wages, supplemental wages such as commissions are considered taxable earnings. However, the amount of tax withheld on commissions depends on how the commissions are paid.
How are Commissions Taxed?
Contrary to popular belief, commissions are subject to all of the same withholding taxes as regular wages including Social Security, Medicare, State (if applicable) and Federal income taxes. In most cases the taxation for commission payments is based on whatever withholdings are claimed on an employee’s W-4.
However, the amount of tax withheld can vary depending on whether an employer is including commissions on the employee’s regular paycheck or if commissions are paid separately. If paid separately from regular income, taxes will still be calculated and deducted from the gross pay, but the total withholding will be determined in a different way.
The IRS has two methods for withholding taxes for commission payments.
Method 1: Flat Percentage Method
Using the flat percentage method, a flat supplemental tax rate of 22% is applied to commissions and other supplemental wages earned that are under $1 million within a calendar year. For higher wage earners receiving over $1 million in supplemental wages in a given calendar year, these earnings are taxed at a flat rate of 37%.
With this method, taxes are withheld without regard to the employees W-4 elections and are calculated by the flat percentage rates determined by the IRS.
Method 2: Aggregate Method
With the aggregate method, tax withholdings are calculated by aggregating regular wages with the supplemental wage payments. To do this, the employee’s regular wages and supplemental wages are totaled as if one single payment, and then taxes are withheld based on the employee’s tax elections. The taxes that are usually withheld from regular wages are subtracted, and the remaining tax is what should be withheld from the employee’s supplemental pay.
While there are a couple different methods for determining how much tax to withhold from commission payments, commission pay is still subject to the same taxes as regular earnings. Ultimately, how much tax is withheld from an employee’s commission check is based on when and how the commission payments are made as outlined in the company’s sales compensation structure.
For specific details regarding taxation on commission earnings, wage brackets, and tax withholding amounts, refer to the IRS Circular E or consult a tax professional for advice.
About Core Commissions
Core Commissions is a leader in sales compensation software. Founded in 2005, Core Commissions provides an affordable web-based commission management solution that automates the calculation of complex sales commission and incentive pay plans. Core’s powerful and robust application is capable of managing complex data relationships and commission rule scenarios while providing an intuitive online portal for salespeople to view their pay statements and performance dashboards.