14 Tips to Reduce Taxes on Severance Pay in 2023

Last Updated: January 18, 2023 10 min read
Author: Zach L.

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There are many ways to reduce taxes on severance pay, and when you are counting on that money every dollar you can reduce in taxes is another in your pocket.

Tips to Reduce Taxes on Severance Pay

Severance pay refers to the amount of money that is owed to an employee when they retire, resign, or are terminated from their job. Salary and benefits from employees who have been employed with a business for at least six months are taxed and withheld by their employer. The taxable income of the employee is then calculated based on his total income. The first question that people ask is, "How much money can an employer withhold from me?"

The amount which is paid to the employee is subject to taxes and may end up being less than what has been earned. An employee can only claim tax refunds for taxes that have been withheld by their employers. For an employee to claim severance pay, it should be included in their payroll tax withholding records and it should not be reported as additional income when included in the individual tax returns. State laws should be followed to qualify for receiving a tax refund from the IRS.

1. Contact the IRS

You can call the IRS for any questions that you have about your taxes. The IRS will walk you through the process. They can also verify if your employer has been withholding taxes from severance pay and if not, you're eligible for tax refunds from your employer. You can also send direct letters to the IRS or visit their website to determine if they have already received any refund requests regarding severance pay or paychecks. Their legal advice will help you get the most information about your taxes. You will be refunded back within six months of filing a claim for a tax refund if you have been owed money from your employer.

2. Pay any outstanding salary and benefits earned from your last job, including severance pay

If you have already paid all of the funds that should have been paid to you when you left your previous employment, then you are not eligible for claiming a tax refund from the IRS. The IRS will not accept any claims for tax refunds on an employee's salary and benefits once they have been paid to the employee. For individuals in higher tax brackets, getting a refund is better than an outright payment in the form of a check.

3. Request a W-9 form from your employer

To be eligible to claim a tax refund for severance pay, you must fill out a form W-9 and send it to your employer. The employer will give you a W-2 form so that you can claim a refund for the taxes that have been withheld from your severance pay. Regular wages can be treated as a refund for the amount that you have overpaid when it comes to taxes. However, severance pay is subject to more scrutiny by the IRS and it will not be given out as a refund.

4. File your tax return early

Many people wait until January to file their taxes and this leaves them with limited time to claim a tax refund or get information regarding their income. The income tax act has a six-month deadline that must be met for you to claim a refund from the IRS. If you have been owed severance pay, then you should file your taxes early and make sure that your deductions are correctly matched.

Find out if the IRS has already taken action on your behalf

5. Find out if the IRS has already taken action on your behalf

If you have kept records of your taxes, then you may be able to find out which time frame the employer submitted their W-2 and W-4 forms for withholding tax on these checks. Any employment contract that you have signed should also have a section that states if any taxes will be withheld from your severance pay. It is always best for you to get help from the IRS if you are unsure of what forms to use when filing for a tax refund. If the IRS has already taken action on your behalf, then you may not be able to get any additional refund.

6. Ask for help from an accountant

Your accountant will be able to help you through the process of calculating and claiming tax refunds for severance pay. Any lump sum payment will be treated as wages and you will have to pay tax for this amount if you do not claim a tax refund. You must understand how your severance pay may affect your other sources of income as well as taxes. If you are unsure, then it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a professional accountant before claiming a refund on your taxes. For recognition of long service and extra mileage, you may want to ask your employer to add the cost of any unused gasoline and mileage to your tax refund. Tax advice on issues like sick pay, job loss, and job termination should be sought from a tax professional.

7. Know the different tax scenarios

If you are being taxed on severance pay, then you are getting taxed on all of your income. This includes other sources of income such as retirement benefits, interest, and rental payments. The IRS requires that you file your taxes if the total amount that you earn is greater than the standard deduction which can be calculated using a worksheet. If the sum of your income is greater than what is allowed for a standard deduction then you will likely be liable for taxes on this amount. Federal income tax is assessed on a tax return unless you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit which can be claimed by individuals who have low incomes.

Ask your employer if they will provide your tax rebate form to you

8. Ask your employer if they will provide your tax rebate form to you

If your employer has already taken action on your behalf and remitted the taxes, then they may be able to provide you with a form W-2 or W-4 form to claim a tax refund. You should always check with the IRS website before contacting a business regarding this issue. Roth ira contributions will be excluded from your income and if you claim a tax refund on this amount, then it may be denied.

9. Take advantage of the tax deduction offered by an employer

When you leave your employment, you should consider asking your employer to provide you with a tax deduction form so that the financial impact of your severance pay is now reflected in the amount that has been withheld in taxes. Subsequent year gains will be excluded from taxes if your earnings have been below what is needed for a tax deduction. There are times when a company wants to remain proactive and pays their employees for services that have already been rendered, to eliminate any possibility of any tax liability.

10. Get help from the HR department

The HR department should be able to provide you with advice regarding taxes on severance pay. They will know more about payroll taxes and how they are calculated, as well as any payroll tax agreements between the company and the IRS. Tax obligations are always best dealt with by making use of the services of an accountant who will be able to guide you through the process. For non-taxable damages, you will have to consult the IRS website.

11. Know any potential consequences of failure to file

Failure to file your taxes on time can result in an additional amount of penalties and interest charges. Excuses like sick days, being fired, and death in the family can result in denial of your tax refund on severance pay. In this case, a notice period pay can be received as per the terms and conditions of your employment contract. Lump-sum severance payments are treated as wages and taxes will be deducted by the IRS. If the severance pay is not tied to one-year employment, then it may not qualify for the exclusion clause of severance pay. In this case, you will have to file your taxes on your severance pay in case you seek a tax deduction or refund.

Know how severance pay is taxed in different situations

12. Know how severance pay is taxed in different situations

Ordinary income tax will be levied on severance pay received as part of an employee's compensation package. Unused sick leave credits, health insurance coverage, high deductible health plan, and foreign earned income exclusion may or may not qualify for a tax refund. Fair labor standards act states that current-year bonuses must be included in income unless the employer has a specific written policy.

13. Avoid any tax audit claims in case of overpayment

If you receive pension or severance payments and you file the taxes on your severance payment in one year, then you are likely to face a tax audit after two years. Supreme court has ruled that a taxpayer cannot be required to pay additional taxes if the overpayment of taxes was the result of good faith error. A tax refund may be denied if the payment is not in good faith and may cause emotional distress and financial hardship to you. The hands of the employee are tied and there is no other way that you can appeal against the deduction.

14. Know whether your employer has withheld taxes

Taxes are not deducted at the time of payout and can be deducted only after the end of the tax year. For example, if you are paid a bonus in June and then get a bonus in December then it will not be deductible till December of the following year. Once taxes have been withheld, they cannot be reversed without paying an additional amount on penalty and interest charges. This specific information should help you decide whether it is worth it to claim a tax refund on the amount that you receive as severance pay. Fair labor standards act requires that employers must withhold federal income taxes on severance pay unless they have a signed agreement stating otherwise.

Final Thoughts

Legal counsel can be obtained by those who are not sure of how to go about claiming a tax refund. You may have waited until the last minute to file your taxes, or you may have made an error in calculating the amount that is owed you. Many things can become confusing when it comes to dealing with severance pay and taxes. If you are unsure about how much of a refund will be offered by the IRS, then it is recommended that you seek the advice of a professional tax adviser before claiming a tax rebate.