profitjets logo

FUTA: A Comprehensive Guide to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act 

Read Time: 4 min

Running a business involves many responsibilities, including staying compliant with various taxes. Understanding and fulfilling your employer obligations is crucial, and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) plays a significant role in this context. This guide dives into the intricacies of FUTA, simplifying the concepts and empowering you to manage this tax efficiently.

Table of Contents

What is Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)?

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a federal law establishing a payroll tax funding unemployment benefits for eligible individuals who lose their jobs through no fault. This tax contributes to a federal unemployment trust fund, which states then use to support their unemployment insurance programs.

FUTA is distinct from State Unemployment Insurance (SUTA) taxes, which each state levies to fund its unemployment benefit programs.

How does FUTA work?

During a calendar year, every employer is required to pay FUTA tax on the initial $7,000 of wages paid to each employee. This means that regardless of how much an employee earns annually, the FUTA tax applies only to the first $7,000 of their wages. The current FUTA tax rate is 6%, meaning employers contribute 6.0% of the first $7,000 to the federal unemployment trust fund.

Important note: Many states offer employers a credit against their federal FUTA tax liability for the amount they pay into their state unemployment insurance programs. This credit can reduce the effective FUTA tax rate to as low as 0.6%.

Who pays FUTA Tax?

FUTA applies to most businesses that pay wages to employees. Here are the general criteria:

  • Wages of $1,500 or higher in any calendar quarter: Even if you only paid this amount in one quarter, you’re still subject to FUTA.
  • Have employed at least one employee for at least some part of a day in any 20 or more different weeks within the current or preceding calendar year: This applies even if the employee worked part-time or for short periods.

Certain employees, like independent contractors or agricultural workers, might be exempt from FUTA taxation. It is recommended to seek advice from a tax expert to obtain personalized recommendations concerning employee categorization and tax responsibilities.


How to calculate FUTA Tax?

Calculating your FUTA tax liability is relatively straightforward:

  1. Identify the total wages paid to each employee during the calendar year.
  2. Limit the wage amount to the first $7,000 for each employee.
  3. Multiply the total taxable wages by the FUTA tax rate (currently 6%).
  4. Consider any applicable state unemployment tax credits to reduce your federal FUTA tax liability.

Example: If you paid an employee $10,000 in wages during the year, your FUTA tax liability would be calculated as follows:

  • Taxable wages: $7,000 (limited to the first $7,000)
  • FUTA tax: $7,000 x 6% = $420

However, if your state offers a 5.4% credit, your effective FUTA tax would be:

  • Reduced FUTA tax: $420 – ($7,000 x 5.4%) = $25.20

The IRS requires employers to use Form 940 to pay and report their Federal Unemployment (FUTA) taxes annually. This tax return is commonly called the Employer’s Annual FUTA Tax Return.


Payroll taxes include FICA and FUTA, but these taxes have unique features and serve different functions:

PurposeFunds Social Security and Medicare benefitsFunds unemployment benefits 
Taxed WagesAll wages paid to employees $7,000 of wages paid to each employee
Tax RateSplit between employer and employee (6.2% each for social security, 1.45% each for Medicare)Paid solely by employer (6.0%
Filing and PaymentQuarterly deposits (Form 941)Annual return and deposit (Form 940)

How much is FUTA Tax?

The FUTA tax rate is currently 6.0%, but the effective rate you pay could be lower depending on any applicable state unemployment tax credits. Many states offer credits that significantly reduce the federal FUTA tax burden for employers.

When are FUTA taxes due dates in a year?

The due dates for FUTA tax deposits are:

  • January 31st: If your FUTA tax liability for the previous calendar year was $500 or less, you can pay it with your Form 940 by this date. Otherwise, you should have made quarterly deposits throughout the year.
  • April 30th: This is the due date for the first quarter deposit covering wages paid from January 1st to March 31st.
  • July 31st: This is the due date for the second quarter deposit covering wages paid from April 1st to June 30th.
  • October 31st: This is the due date for the third quarter deposit covering wages paid from July 1st to September 30th.

Important note: If any of these due dates fall on a weekend or federal holiday, the deadline is shifted to the next business day.

How to pay FUTA Tax?

There are several ways to pay your FUTA tax deposits:

  • By mail: Send a check or money order payable to the “United States Treasury” to the designated address for your state.
  • In-person: At certain IRS offices.

Remember: To steer clear of penalties and interest charges, it is essential to ensure that your FUTA tax deposits are made on time.

Additional Considerations:

  • State-specific filing requirements: Some states might have additional filing requirements or deadlines for unemployment insurance taxes. Consult your state’s Department of Revenue for specific details.
  • Professional guidance: If you have complex payroll situations or uncertainties about your FUTA obligations, seeking advice from a tax professional or a certified accountant is recommended.


Understanding and fulfilling your FUTA tax obligations is essential for responsible business ownership. This blog has an overview of FUTA, from its purpose and calculation to deadlines and payment methods. By staying informed and adhering to requirements, you can ensure timely tax compliance and avoid unnecessary penalties.