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Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)


The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a United States federal law that imposes a payroll tax on employers to fund the federal-state unemployment insurance system. This system provides temporary financial assistance to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The FUTA tax, paid solely by employers, helps supply each state’s unemployment fund and supports administrative costs associated with unemployment benefits.


The phonetics of the keyword “Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)” can be represented as follows:- Federal: ˈfɛdərəl- Unemployment: ˌʌnɪmˈplɔɪmənt- Tax: tæks- Act: ækt- FUTA: ˈfuːtə

Key Takeaways

  1. FUTA is a federal law that imposes a tax on employers to fund unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their jobs.
  2. The tax is applied to the first $7,000 of an employee’s wages, with employers currently paying a rate of 6.0%
  3. Employers who pay their state unemployment taxes on time and in full are eligible to receive a tax credit, reducing their effective FUTA rate to 0.6%.


The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is an important business/finance term as it plays a crucial role in financing the US unemployment insurance system. This act empowers the federal government to impose a tax on employers, which is then used to fund state workforce agencies and provide financial support to eligible unemployed workers. By mandating contributions to the unemployment insurance system, FUTA ensures a safety-net for individuals experiencing temporary job loss, while also promoting economic stability during periods of fluctuating employment rates. Therefore, FUTA greatly impacts an employer’s tax obligations and influences their financial planning, while serving as a vital component of the social safety net for workers in the United States.


The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) serves a crucial purpose in providing financial support to those who have lost their jobs involuntarily. Established in 1939 as a part of the U.S.’s social security program, this law was enacted in response to the Great Depression to help mitigate financial hardships during periods of high unemployment. The primary function of FUTA is to accumulate funds through taxation of employers, which are then allocated to states for unemployment insurance programs. By establishing a funding source and a safety net for unemployed individuals, FUTA aims to lessen the economic strain experienced by individuals and families during job loss, thereby promoting financial stability and economic recovery.

FUTA operates through a cooperative framework where both federal and state governments work together to manage and distribute funds. Though FUTA is a federally mandated tax, it is essential to note that the funds collected are used to administer and fund state-level unemployment insurance programs. Employers are required to pay FUTA taxes for their employees, and these taxes are based on a percentage of an employee’s income, up to a certain wage cap. By contributing to the unemployment insurance pool, employers help maintain a support system for their employees in times of economic uncertainty. Additionally, the efficient administration and disbursement of unemployment benefits foster an environment that allows businesses to adapt and recover from economic downturns more smoothly, preserving overall economic stability.


1. Company Layoff: A medium-sized manufacturing company in Michigan experiences a decline in orders, leading to the layoff of a significant number of employees. Those employees are now eligible for unemployment benefits, which are funded in part through the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). The company must pay a FUTA tax on the first $7,000 earned by each employee to contribute to the federal funds used to support state unemployment programs.

2. Employee Filing Unemployment Claims: Jenny, who used to work at a retail store in California, was recently let go because the store had to close permanently due to financial difficulties. As a result, she files for unemployment benefits to support herself while looking for a new job. The benefits she receives are partly funded by the FUTA tax paid by her former employer.

3. Natural Disaster Impact: A hurricane hits the coast of Florida, and many local businesses are forced to shut down temporarily or permanently. As a consequence, numerous employees lose their jobs, and the demand for unemployment benefits increases. The FUTA tax collected from employers nationwide helps the federal government support the sudden increase in the number of people needing unemployment assistance in the affected area.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)?

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a United States federal law that was enacted in 1939. The main purpose of FUTA is to provide financial assistance to those who lost their jobs. It does so by collecting a federal payroll tax from employers, which is then used to fund state unemployment insurance programs.

Who is required to pay FUTA taxes?

Employers are responsible for paying FUTA taxes. This includes businesses, organizations, and government entities. It generally applies to employers who paid at least $1,500 in wages during any calendar quarter or had at least one employee for 20 or more weeks during the year.

How are FUTA taxes calculated?

FUTA taxes are calculated based on a percentage of an employee’s taxable wages. The current FUTA tax rate is 6.0%, but employers may receive a credit of up to 5.4% if they pay their state unemployment taxes in full and on time. The effective FUTA tax rate for most employers is therefore 0.6%. FUTA tax is applied to the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages in a year.

When are FUTA taxes due?

FUTA taxes are required to be paid on a quarterly basis if an employer’s FUTA tax liability exceeds $500 for a calendar quarter. If the tax liability is $500 or less, the employer can carry it over to the next quarter. Employers must file a Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return” by January 31st of the following year, regardless of when the quarterly payments were made.

Are there any exceptions to FUTA taxes?

Yes, there are certain types of payments and employees that are exempt from FUTA taxes. Some examples include wages paid to family members (spouse, children under 21, and parents), certain types of agricultural labor, and payments for services performed outside the United States.

How does FUTA interact with state unemployment insurance programs?

FUTA works in conjunction with state unemployment insurance programs by providing funds for these programs. Employers pay both federal and state unemployment taxes, with FUTA taxes providing a financial safety net for the state programs. The state programs are responsible for distributing the unemployment benefits to eligible workers who have lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in working hours.

What happens if an employer fails to pay FUTA taxes?

If an employer fails to pay FUTA taxes, they may face penalties and interest charges from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, the employer may lose the state unemployment tax credit, which would result in a higher effective FUTA tax rate. Employers who fail to file Form 940 by the deadline may also face penalties and interest charges.

Related Finance Terms

  • Unemployment insurance
  • State unemployment tax
  • Employer tax obligations
  • Form 940
  • Federal tax deposit (FTD)

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