Operational Gaze:
How to Run Payroll in Maine?

April 10th 2024

Are you navigating the complexities of running payroll in the Pine Tree State? Maine’s unique labor laws and tax regulations can pose challenges for both employers and employees striving to understand payroll processes. This comprehensive article demystifies the intricacies of running payroll in Maine, ensuring compliance and efficiency with state-specific requirements.

This Article Covers

Laws That Affect Payroll Procedures in Maine
Worker Classifications in Maine
Payroll Forms and Relevant Bodies in Maine
Applicable Taxes in Maine
Key Pay Elements That Impact Payroll in Maine
Step-by-Step Guide to Payroll in Maine

Laws That Affect Payroll Procedures in Maine

Maine Laws

  • Maine Minimum Wage Law: Maine’s Minimum Wage Law mandates a state minimum wage higher than the federal standard. Employers must pay employees at least this wage, with annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. Understanding this law is crucial for payroll, as it directly influences employee salaries, and non-compliance can lead to legal repercussions.
  • Maine Overtime Law: The Maine Overtime Law requires employers to pay 1.5 times the regular rate for hours worked over the standard 40 hours per week. This overtime law impacts payroll calculations, particularly in sectors/industries with extended working hours. Employers must meticulously track exact work hours to ensure accurate overtime compensation.
  • Maine Paid Leave Law: Under the Maine Paid Leave Law, employers with more than 10 employees must provide paid leave that accrues at one hour per 30 worked, capped at 40 hours per year. This law significantly affects payroll management as employers need to diligently track leave accrual and ensure proper compensation during these periods for eligible employees.
  • Maine Equal Pay Law: The Maine Equal Pay Law prohibits wage discrimination based on gender, requiring equal pay. Employers must evaluate and structure their payroll to ensure compliance, avoiding potential legal challenges and fostering a fair workplace environment.

Federal Laws

As compared to state-mandated laws, federal laws provide a nationwide framework for payroll procedures that must be adhered to by employers in Maine and across the United States.

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA is a federal law that sets standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment. As of the last update, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, although employers in Maine must comply with the state minimum wage laws which dictate a higher amount. Overtime must be paid at a rate of at least one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA sets out provisions for leave entitlement. Eligible employees have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events such as childbirth, adoption, or the care of a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA): The FICA requires that employers deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes from paychecks and also make a matching contribution. As of the current information available, the Social Security tax rate was 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the employee on earnings up to the applicable taxable maximum amount. Medicare tax was 1.45% each for both employer and employee, with an additional 0.9% for high earners.
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA): FUTA imposes a federal payroll tax on employers to help fund state unemployment agencies. Employers pay this tax annually, and it is calculated at 6% of the first $7,000 paid to each employee as wages during the fiscal year. Significantly, employers can receive a credit of up to 5.4% for making timely and full payments of state unemployment taxes, effectively reducing the FUTA rate to a more manageable 0.6%.

HR Laws

  • Maine Human Rights Act: The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, age, ancestry, or national origin. Employers must ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all employees working in the company, impacting hiring, promotion, and workplace policies.
  • Maine Whistleblower Protection Law: The Maine Whistleblower Protection Law protects employees who report or refuse to engage in illegal activities within the company. It safeguards employees from retaliation by employers, necessitating careful consideration in handling such complaints and ensuring no adverse employment actions are taken against whistleblowers.
  • Maine Parental Leave Law: The Maine Parental Leave Law mandates employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 10 weeks of unpaid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Employers must manage this leave in payroll and staffing plans, ensuring compliance with the law and continuity in operations, while also supporting employees’ family needs.
  • Maine Fair Employment Practices Act: The Maine Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits employment discrimination based on physical or mental disability. Employers are required to provide accommodations, affecting recruitment, hiring, and workplace adjustments. It’s crucial for HR policies to reflect these requirements to maintain compliance and inclusivity.
  • Maine Act To Prevent Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance: This law prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in employment and insurance. Employers must ensure that their employment and insurance practices do not use genetic information in a discriminatory manner, impacting health insurance policies and employment decisions.

Worker Classifications in Maine

Employees and Independent Contractors

The primary difference between employees and independent contractors lies in the degree of control and independence in the work relationship. Employees typically work under the direct supervision and control of the employer, who dictates work hours and tasks. They are also entitled to employee benefits and protections like overtime, minimum wage, and workers’ compensation. In contrast, independent contractors operate with more autonomy, often providing specialized services, and have the freedom to dictate the decision-making processes.

The ABC Test

Maine utilizes the ABC Test to determine a worker’s status. This test comprises three criteria:

  • Autonomy in Work: The worker must be free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract and in fact.
  • Business Nature: The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the business.
  • Customary Engagement: The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

For a worker to be classified as an independent contractor, all three conditions of the test must be met. If even one criterion is not satisfied, the worker is typically classified as an employee. This classification is more than a formality; it has legal and financial implications. Employers misclassifying employees as independent contractors can face penalties, including back taxes and fines. For workers, misclassification can mean the loss of benefits and protections.

Both employers and employees in Maine should be well-versed in these classifications to ensure legal compliance and protect the rights and obligations within the working relationship.

To learn more about the rights of salaried and hourly employees, you can read our guides on your rights as a salaried employee in Maine and your rights as an hourly employee in Maine.

Payroll Forms and Relevant Bodies in Maine

Maine Payroll Forms

  • Form ME W-4ME (Employee’s Withholding Certificate for Maine Personal Income Tax): This form is used to determine state income tax withholding. Employees fill out Form ME W-4ME to indicate their marital status and any additional withholding amounts. Employers use this form to calculate and deduct the amount of state income tax from employees’ paychecks.
  • Form 941/C1-ME (Employer’s Return of Maine Income Tax Withholding): Employers must file Form 941/C1-ME quarterly. It reports the total income tax withheld from employees’ wages. This form is essential for employers to stay compliant with state tax laws, ensuring that the correct amounts are reported and remitted to the Maine Revenue Services.
  • Form ME UC-1 (Maine Unemployment Contributions Report): Employers use Form ME UC-1 to report wages and calculate unemployment insurance contributions. It’s filed quarterly and is vital for contributing to the state’s unemployment insurance fund. This form ensures employees have access to unemployment benefits, should they become eligible.
  • Form W-3ME (Reconciliation of Maine Income Tax Withheld): Filed annually, Form W-3ME reconciles the total state income tax withheld from employees’ regular wages with the amounts reported quarterly. It ensures accuracy in tax reporting and withholding throughout the fiscal year and is crucial for end-of-year payroll processing and compliance verification.

Federal Payroll Forms

Alongside Maine-specific documentation, federal payroll forms are equally important:

  • Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate): The Form W-4, or Employee’s Withholding Certificate, is a federal document that employees across the United States fill out to inform employers about how much federal income tax should be withheld from their wages. The Form W-4 takes into account various factors like marital status, dependents, and additional income to tailor the withholding to the employee’s unique tax situation. With periodic updates, especially after major life events or changes in financial circumstances, the W-4 ensures that employees neither overpay nor underpay the federal income taxes throughout the year.
  • Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement): Employers use the Form W-2, known as the Wage and Tax Statement, to report the annual wages paid to each of their employees and the specific amount of taxes withheld. This federal form, issued to every employee before the end of January each year, is vital for individuals when preparing their personal income tax returns. For the employee, it offers a clear summary of their earnings and tax withholdings, while for the IRS, it serves as a record of the individual’s employment-related earnings and tax obligations.
  • Form W-3 (Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements): Form W-3 is basically a document used by employers to submit the total of all W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration. This form summarizes the total earnings, Social Security wages, Medicare wages, and withholding for all employees for the year. The W-3, which must accompany the W-2 forms, is an essential tool for the SSA to verify an employee’s income and tax information.
  • Form 940 (Federal Unemployment Tax Act Return): Form 940 is a federal form that employers utilize to report annual Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. This tax provides funds for state unemployment agencies and supports unemployed workers. The form calculates the employer’s federal unemployment tax liability, considering any state unemployment tax they’ve already paid. By accurately completing and submitting this form, employers contribute to a system that offers financial support to individuals during periods of joblessness.
  • Form 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return): Used by employers, Form 941, titled the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, reports the wages they’ve paid and the corresponding taxes withheld every quarter. It captures details related to federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare withholdings. By submitting this form quarterly, employers maintain a consistent record with the IRS, ensuring they meet tax obligations as required.
  • Form 944 (Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return): Designed for smaller employers, Form 944 allows them to report income and FICA taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks just once a year instead of quarterly. This form simplifies the reporting process for eligible small businesses by reducing the number of times they must submit tax withholding information, easing the administrative burden and allowing them to focus on running their business.
  • Form 1099 (Miscellaneous Income): The 1099 forms are a series of documents the IRS uses to account for various types of non-employment income. There are many different types of 1099 forms, but one of the most common is the 1099-MISC, which is given to independent contractors or freelancers to report payments made to them for services rendered in the course of trade or business. This form is critical for the IRS to track income that might otherwise go unreported and for contractors to accurately report their income and calculate the taxes.

Federal and Maine Payroll/Tax Bodies

  • Maine Revenue Services (MRS): MRS is responsible for tax administration, including income, sales, and other Maine state-mandated taxes. They provide guidance on tax laws, process tax returns, and manage tax collections. Employers and employees interact with MRS for state tax withholding, filings, and payments, making it a key entity in payroll management.
  • Maine Department of Labor (MDOL): MDOL administers employment laws, including wage and hour laws, workplace safety, and unemployment insurance. It’s essential for employers in understanding labor regulations and for employees to seek information on their rights and benefits. MDOL plays a crucial role in ensuring fair labor practices and resolving labor disputes.
  • Maine Workers’ Compensation Board: This board oversees the administration of the Workers’ Compensation system in Maine. It provides assistance related to workplace injuries and insurance claims. Employers must adhere to its regulations for workers’ compensation insurance, which is critical for payroll processing in cases of employee injury or illness.
  • Maine Bureau of Unemployment Compensation: Part of the MDOL, this Bureau manages unemployment benefits, including processing claims and ensuring fair distribution. Employers contribute to the unemployment insurance system through payroll taxes, and employees may interact with the Bureau when claiming unemployment benefits.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The IRS stands as the United States’ primary federal tax authority. Its mandate covers the vast spectrum of federal tax matters, inclusive of payroll taxes. By providing regulatory guidelines, tax codes, and essential resources, the IRS facilitates nationwide tax compliance. It is important to note that both employers and employees rely on the IRS’s directives to understand their federal tax obligations and ensure adherence.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): Believe it or not, the U.S. DOL has a broad role, impacting various facets of employment across the nation. Among its chief responsibilities are the formulation and enforcement of wage and hour standards. The DOL ensures fair labor practices, safeguards employee rights, and fosters a balanced work environment. This guidance assists employers in aligning the operations with federal employment norms and standards.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA): The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs programs for retirement, disability, survivor benefits, and family support. They also assist people in signing up for Medicare. The SSA is also the government body responsible for issuing Social Security Numbers— crucial for employment, finances, and accessing government services.
  • Wage and Hour Division (WHD): The WHD is a part of the U.S. DOL, whose main job is to ensure employers follow labor standards to protect workers’ rights. The WHD enforces laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which covers things like minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor rules. It also enforces other laws like the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and the FMLA.

Applicable Taxes in Maine

State Taxes

  • Maine State Income Tax: Maine imposes a progressive state income tax on both residents and non-residents earning some sort of income. The rates usually vary based on income levels. Employers must diligently withhold state income tax from employees’ regular wages, requiring accurate payroll calculations and regular remittances to Maine Revenue Services.
  • Maine Unemployment Tax: Employers in Maine pay unemployment taxes to fund the state’s robust unemployment insurance program. It’s important to note that the rate depends on the employer’s history and the state’s unemployment fund balance. This tax does not directly impact employees’ paychecks but is a significant and mandatory payroll consideration for employers.
  • Maine Workers’ Compensation Insurance: While not a tax, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, covering employees in case of work-related injuries or illnesses. The cost varies based on factors like industry and claim history. It’s a mandatory payroll expense for employers, ensuring protection for both the business and its employees.
  • Maine State Disability Insurance (SDI) Tax: Maine does not currently have an SDI tax. However, employers should be aware of this in case of future legislative changes in the state.

Federal Taxes

  • Federal Income Tax: Employers are obligated to withhold federal income tax from employees’ paychecks. The amount withheld is determined by the information the employee furnishes on Form W-4 and is calculated according to the IRS-provided tax tables. This tax is progressive, with the applicable rate escalating as the employee’s taxable income increases.
  • Social Security and Medicare Taxes (FICA): Both employers and employees are mandated to contribute to Social Security and Medicare through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Employers are responsible for accurately withholding the specified amount from their employees’ wages and also for contributing a corresponding matching amount.
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA): Employers pay this federal tax separately from other taxes, and it is not withheld from employees’ wages. FUTA, working in conjunction with the state unemployment system, provides critical funds for workers who are unemployed.

Key Pay Elements That Impact Payroll in Maine

Minimum Wage

Maine’s minimum wage is set above the federal minimum, impacting employers who must adjust pay rates accordingly. This is subject to periodic increases, reflecting changes in living costs. Employers must stay updated on these adjustments to ensure compliance. For employees, understanding minimum wage laws is crucial for knowing the rights to fair compensation.


In Maine, employees working over 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular rate. This essential law requires employers to accurately track hours worked and compensate accordingly. For employees, understanding overtime rules ensures they receive rightful pay for any extra hours worked, significantly affecting their overall earnings.

Pay Stub Laws

Maine law mandates employers to provide detailed pay stubs with each paycheck. These pay stubs must include information like hours worked, exact pay rate, and deductions. This transparency is essential for both parties, allowing employees to verify the exact earnings and deductions and helping employers maintain clear records for compliance and dispute resolution.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Employers in Maine are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to each employee. This mandatory insurance covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees injured at work. The cost of this insurance is a significant payroll consideration for employers, while for employees, it provides important protection and peace of mind in case of workplace injuries.

Garnishments and Deductions

Employers in Maine may be required to withhold wages for various garnishments like child support or tax levies. Understanding the laws governing these deductions is crucial for employers to process payroll correctly and accurately, and for employees to be fully aware of the rights and the specific, legally mandated reasons behind any deductions from the wages.

Final Paycheck

Maine law stipulates specific timelines and conditions under which final paychecks must be issued to departing employees. Employers need to be aware of these regulations to avoid penalties. For employees, knowing these rules ensures they receive their final earnings in a timely manner, including compensation for unused vacation time, if applicable.

Step-by-Step Guide to Payroll in Maine

  • Step 1: Employee Documentation and Setup: Begin by gathering all necessary employee documentation, including W-4 and ME W-4ME forms, for tax withholding purposes. Once done, set up each employee in your company’s payroll system, ensuring accurate details like pay rate, salary, and other necessary personal information. This step is foundational for accurate payroll processing, ensuring compliance with state tax laws and easing future payroll calculations.
  • Step 2: Establish Payroll Schedule: Determine your payroll schedule—be it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. This decision impacts cash flow management and employee satisfaction. Consistency is key in payroll scheduling. It aids in budget planning for employers and financial planning for employees, ensuring everyone is clear on when payments will be made.
  • Step 3: Calculate Gross Pay: For each pay period, calculate employees’ gross pay. This involves multiplying hourly rates by hours worked or confirming salaried amounts. Include any overtime pay, calculated at 1.5 times the regular rate for hours worked over 40 per week. Accurate gross pay calculation is essential for proper tax withholding and compliance.
  • Step 4: Withhold Taxes and Deductions: Withhold federal and state taxes based on each employee’s W-4 and ME W-4ME forms. Deduct other contributions like retirement plans or health insurance premiums. It’s crucial to keep abreast of current tax rates and deduction rules for accurate payroll processing, ensuring legal compliance and accurate employee paychecks.
  • Step 5: Pay Employees: Issue payments to employees via direct deposit, check, or other mutually agreed methods. Additionally, ensure timely and accurate payment delivery according to your established payroll schedule. This step is vital for maintaining employee trust and satisfaction, and for upholding your reputation as a reliable and responsible employer.
  • Step 6: File Payroll Taxes and Reports: Regularly file required tax reports and promptly remit withheld taxes to federal and state authorities. In Maine, this includes diligently filing forms like 941/C1-ME quarterly and W-3ME annually. Timely and accurate tax filing is crucial to avoid penalties and maintain good standing with tax agencies, ensuring legal compliance.
  • Step 7: Year-End Processing and Reporting: At the end of the year, finalize payroll records and prepare W-2 forms for all employees within the company. Submit any final reports to tax agencies, including the annual W-3ME form. This step wraps up the fiscal year’s payroll, ensuring all records are accurate and complete for tax purposes and employee records.

Final Thoughts

Managing payroll in Maine can be a particularly challenging task. Employees must ensure they diligently adhere to Maine’s strict payroll regulations. To simplify the often complex process of managing payroll, consider exploring our comprehensive list of the top 6 applications tailored to streamline payroll responsibilities in the United States. If you’ve already established a payroll system, we’ve provided ten tips to enhance your payroll procedure within the United States.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.