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IRS Publication 15


IRS Publication 15, also known as Circular E or the Employer’s Tax Guide, is a document issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the U.S. It provides employers with information on how to handle payroll taxes, including how to calculate and withhold federal income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax from employees’ wages. It also includes information on depositing employment taxes and reporting those taxes to the IRS.


The phonetics of the keyword: “IRS Publication 15” is “aɪ-aɹ-ɛs pʌblɪkeɪʃən fɪfti:n”.

Key Takeaways

  1. IRS Publication 15, also referred to as Circular E, provides guidelines for employers regarding the withholding and depositing of employment taxes. It is essential for businesses to accurately conduct these processes to maintain compliance with the IRS.
  2. The publication covers a range of relevant topics for employers. It comprises detailed information on how to calculate an employee’s withholding tax, how to report payroll taxes to the government, and specific rules for agricultural, household, and other specific types of employees.
  3. The IRS updates Publication 15 annually, reflecting any changes to tax rates or rules. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to regularly review the most recent instructions to ensure they are correctly applying the updated federal tax withholding tables and related guidance.


IRS Publication 15, also known as the “Employer’s Tax Guide,” is a critical resource for businesses because it provides extensive information on a variety of tax obligations that employers have towards their employees. It covers a broad range of topics including how to calculate withholding taxes from employee’s wages, depositing and reporting employment taxes, and determining which types of income are subject to taxation. Furthermore, the guide also explains the necessary tax forms that employers need to fill out. Hence, understanding and following the guidance in IRS Publication 15 is essential for businesses to ensure they are in compliance with federal tax laws and regulations, thereby avoiding potential financial penalties or legal problems.


IRS Publication 15, also known as the Employer’s Tax Guide, serves a key purpose in guiding employers in the calculation and management of federal taxes related to employment. It provides comprehensive information on the procedure and regulations for withholding, depositing, reporting, paying, and correcting employment taxes. This document is vital for businesses as it provides the necessary framework and guidelines to ensure they fulfill their tax obligations accurately and promptly. The IRS Publication 15 is also used for determining taxability of certain fringe benefits, the value of such benefits, the rules for withholding income tax on wages, and the procedures for depositing and reporting employment taxes. Essentially, this document provides employers with all the necessary detailed information regarding their specific responsibilities related to employee tax. It helps to mitigate potential issues that could arise from non-compliance with tax laws, thus ensuring the seamless operation of day-to-day business activities.


1. Small Business Owner: A small business owner might use IRS Publication 15 to navigate required federal tax withholdings for their employees. This could include determining how much to withhold from each paycheck for things like Social Security or Medicare taxes, understanding the specific guidelines for depositing these taxes, or learning about the various forms they need to report.2. Payroll Department: A corporation’s payroll department could refer to IRS Publication 15 to understand how to calculate the withholding amounts for an employee’s bonus. Publication 15 includes special rules and tables specifically for supplemental wages, like bonuses, to ensure they’re taxed at the correct rate.3. Independent Contractor: An independent contractor who hires their own workers might use IRS Publication 15 to clarify if their workers are employees or contractors for tax purposes. There are specific rules outlined in Publication 15 that determine worker status, which is crucial to understanding what tax forms need to be filed and how to handle tax withholding.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is IRS Publication 15?

IRS Publication 15, also known as Circular E, is a tax guide provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for employers detailing the tax withholding procedures.

Who should use IRS Publication 15?

IRS Publication 15 is primarily used by employers and business owners to get a better understanding of their tax withholding, reporting, and depositing obligations.

What information can I find in IRS Publication 15?

This publication provides information on a variety of topics including how to handle tax withholdings, reporting and depositing taxes, and filing an annual Form 940, a federal unemployment (FUTA) tax return.

Where can I find a copy of IRS Publication 15?

IRS Publication 15 is accessible online through the IRS official website. You can download it as a PDF file for free.

Is IRS Publication 15 updated regularly?

Yes, the IRS updates Publication 15 annually to reflect any changes in tax law, rates, or regulations that employers need to be made aware of.

Does IRS Publication 15 provide information on state taxes?

No, IRS Publication 15 only covers federal taxes. For information on state taxes, you should refer to your state’s tax authority or a tax professional.

Is there a penalty for not adhering to the guidelines in IRS Publication 15?

Yes, the IRS may impose penalties for non-compliance with the guidelines outlined in Publication 15, such as failing to withhold appropriate tax amounts or failing to deposit these withholdings in a timely manner.

Does the IRS Publication 15 cover all types of businesses?

IRS Publication 15 specifically provides tax information for employers, business owners and those that run payroll. It does not necessarily cover all types of businesses or financial situations. If you have questions about your specific situation, it’s always a good idea to consult a tax professional.

Related Finance Terms

  • Employer’s Tax Guide: IRS Publication 15 acts as a holistic guide providing relevant tax information for employers.
  • Federal Income Tax: This is a key component of IRS Publication 15 that stipulates the ways in which employers should withhold and pay federal income taxes.
  • FICA Tax: This Federal Insurance Contributions Act imposes two taxes, social security and Medicare that employers need to understand and apply for their employees, a topic covered in IRS Publication 15.
  • Tax Tables: These are charts included in IRS Publication 15 to help employers determine the amount of tax to withhold from each Employee’s paycheck.
  • Form W-4: Guide on how to use information from an employee’s Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate) to calculate the amount of income tax to withhold is detailed in IRS Publication 15.

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