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Backup Withholding


Backup withholding is a tax mechanism used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure that taxes are collected on certain types of income, such as interest, dividends, and non-employee compensation. It is typically applied when a taxpayer fails to provide an accurate Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number. In these cases, a mandatory withholding rate, currently set at 24%, is applied to the individual’s income to cover potential tax liabilities.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Backup Withholding” is:ˈbækʌp wɪðˈhoʊldɪŋ

Key Takeaways

  1. Backup Withholding is a tax measure applied to certain types of income when a payee fails to provide accurate taxpayer identification information, usually their Social Security or Taxpayer Identification Number.
  2. The current backup withholding rate is set at 24% of the payment amount, and it is required by the IRS to ensure accurate reporting and collection of taxes on all taxable income sources.
  3. To avoid backup withholding, individuals need to provide their taxpayer identification information, certify that they are not subject to backup withholding, and ensure their tax information is accurate and up-to-date with payers.


Backup withholding is an essential finance term, as it refers to a tax mechanism employed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect taxes on specific income types, such as dividends, interests, and non-employee payments. This process helps ensure that individuals and businesses comply with taxation laws. It is crucial because if a payee fails to provide accurate tax identification information or has a history of underreporting income, the payer is obliged to withhold a percentage of the payment as a backup, remitting it to the IRS. Thus, backup withholding serves as a preventive measure to safeguard tax revenues and maintain the integrity of the taxation system.


The purpose of backup withholding is to ensure the government receives the taxes it is owed from various income sources that may not otherwise be withheld at the source. This mechanism acts as a safeguard to protect the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from losing tax revenue as a result of taxpayers evading or under-reporting their true income. Backup withholding plays a vital role in tax collection, especially in transactions where there’s a high probability of reporting discrepancies between the payer and payee. For example, it is employed in situations involving earnings from interests, dividends, or freelance/contract work, which are more prone to discrepancies in tax reporting compared to regular salary income.

Backup withholding is used by financial institutions and other entities as a means to withhold a fixed percentage of an individual’s gross earnings from these specific sources. When the recipient of the income provides the payer with the correct Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and has no pending tax liability issues, backup withholding does not typically occur. However, in cases where the payee fails to furnish the necessary information or has unresolved tax obligations, the payer is required to withhold a portion of the earnings, typically at a flat rate of 24%, and send it directly to the IRS. Thus, this mechanism helps avoid potential tax evasion and ensures that the required taxes are paid accordingly.


Backup withholding is a tax regulation that requires payers, such as employers or financial institutions, to withhold a specific percentage from certain types of payments for taxes. This may be applied when recipients fail to provide their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or if an individual owes taxes to the IRS. Here are three real-world examples:

1. Independent Contractors: A freelance graphic designer provides services to a company but fails to provide the TIN. Due to this, the company is required to implement backup withholding by deducting a percentage of the payment for the graphic designer as taxes before sending payment to the designer

.2. Interest Income: An individual has a savings account in a bank that earns interest income. If the bank doesn’t have the correct TIN for the account holder, or the account holder has an outstanding tax debt, the bank must apply backup withholding to the interest payments. The withheld amount will be sent to the IRS.

3. Stock Dividends: A shareholder receives regular dividend payments from a company in which they own shares. If the shareholder did not provide their TIN, or the IRS has notified the company that the shareholder is subject to backup withholding, the dividend payments will have a percentage withheld and sent to the IRS.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is backup withholding?

Backup withholding is a tax collection mechanism, mandated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in which a payer holds a certain percentage of a payee’s income and remits it directly to the government to ensure the proper payment of taxes. Backup withholding is generally applicable to non-wage income, such as interest, dividends, and independent contractor payments.

When is backup withholding applicable?

Backup withholding is applicable when:1. The payee fails to provide a taxpayer identification number (TIN) to the payer.2. The TIN provided by the payee is incorrect.3. The IRS notifies the payer that the payee has previously under-reported interest or dividend income.4. The payee has failed to certify that they are not subject to backup withholding.

What is the current backup withholding rate?

As of 2021, the backup withholding rate is 24% according to the IRS. This rate is subject to change, so it’s advisable to keep up to date with IRS guidelines.

Are all payments subject to backup withholding?

No, only specific types of payments are subject to backup withholding. Some examples include interest, dividends, patronage dividends, rents, commissions, non-employee compensation, and other reportable payments.

How can I prevent backup withholding?

To avoid backup withholding:1. Provide the payer with your correct taxpayer identification number (TIN).2. Certify that the TIN provided is correct.3. Certify that you are not subject to backup withholding as notified by the IRS.4. Claim exemption from backup withholding if you are exempt from it.

Can I get a refund for the amount withheld due to backup withholding?

Yes, if the amount withheld is more than what you owe in taxes, you can claim a refund for the excess amount when you file your annual tax return.

How do I know if I am subject to backup withholding?

If you have received a notice (CP2100 or CP2100A) from the IRS informing you that you are subject to backup withholding due to under-reporting interest or dividends, or if you have provided incorrect TIN to the payer, you may be subject to backup withholding. It’s essential to update your information with the payer and comply with the IRS’s requirements.

Related Finance Terms

  • Tax Withholding
  • IRS Form W-9
  • TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number)
  • Non-Compliance
  • 1099 Forms

Sources for More Information

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