Operational Gaze:
How to Run Payroll in Utah?

January 19th 2024

As a Utah-based employer, overseeing payroll requires you to comply with precise legal procedures when compensating your staff. This includes computing their earnings, deductions, and adhering to payroll tax rules. It’s imperative for employers to comprehend these regulations and stay updated on Utah’s labor and tax statutes for effective payroll management.

This article delivers a detailed roadmap customized to suit Utah’s payroll demands. Its aim is to aid businesses in efficiently managing each pay cycle, guaranteeing adherence to legal guidelines during payroll operations.

This Article Covers

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

Laws That Affect Payroll Procedures in Utah

In the space of payroll procedures, certain legal regulations govern how employees are compensated and businesses must adhere to these rules. 

Utah Laws

  • Utah Code: The Utah Code covers civil and criminal statutes, industry regulations, government operations, and rules governing taxation, education, and healthcare. It acts as the official record of laws passed by the state legislature, providing the framework for legal operations within the state.
  • Minimum Wage in Utah: Employees in Utah are entitled to receive at least $7.25 per hour as their minimum wage, in line with the federal minimum wage rate. This rate signifies the lowest amount an employer can pay their employees per hour of work.
  • Breaks and Meal Periods: Utah labor laws generally do not mandate specific breaks or meal periods for employees, except for special provisions for certain industries or occupations. However, many workplaces offer short breaks, usually less than 20 minutes, and employees are often compensated for this time.
  • Pay Periods in Utah: Employers in Utah must pay their employees at least bi-monthly, meaning at least twice a month, ensuring employees receive their wages at regular intervals throughout the month.
  • Paid Time Off and Leaves: While Utah law does not require employers to offer paid vacation or sick leave, employers may choose to provide these benefits as part of their company policies. If they do, they must adhere to their own policies regarding accrual, usage, and payouts.
  • Payroll Recordkeeping in Utah: Employers in Utah are required to maintain accurate records for each employee, including crucial details such as full name, address, date of birth (if under 19), job title, and the start date and time of the employee’s workweek, especially if it’s consistent for all employees.
  • Payroll Taxes in Utah: Employers in Utah are responsible for paying various state taxes, including State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) and income tax. Income tax rates in Utah vary between 4.95% and 5.95% based on different income brackets.
  • Final Pay: When an employee leaves their job or is terminated, Utah employers must provide their final wages either on the next regular payday or within 24 hours upon request by the employee. Failure to do so may result in penalties for the employer.

Federal Laws

Federal laws create a national groundwork for payroll procedures that employers in Utah, just like across the country, need to follow.

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA sets minimum wage and overtime pay standards. Overtime should be paid at 1.5 times the regular rate for hours beyond 40 in a workweek.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events like childbirth or caring for a family member with a severe health condition.
  • Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA): FICA requires employers to deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes from paychecks and match these contributions. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for both employer and employee, and Medicare tax is 1.45%, with an extra 0.9% for higher earners.
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA): FUTA imposes a federal payroll tax on employers to assist state unemployment agencies. Employers pay 6% annually on the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages. Timely and full state unemployment tax payments can earn employers a credit of up to 5.4%, reducing the effective FUTA rate to 0.6%.

HR Laws

  • Posting Obligations: Employers with four or more employees in Utah must display labor law posters about Minimum Wage, Overtime, Child Labor, and Wage Collection rules. Additionally, there are specific posting requirements outlined by both state and federal laws.
  • New Hire Reporting in Utah: Employers in Utah must report all newly hired or rehired employees to the Utah New Hire Reporting Center within 20 days of their commencement date. You can complete the Utah New Hire Reporting Form conveniently online or submit it via mail to the center’s main office.

Worker Classifications in Utah

Accurately categorizing workers in Utah is crucial. Employees and independent contractors are differentiated based on their relationship with the company and work engagement. Employers primarily use the IRS 20-factor test, also known as the Common Law test, to classify workers.

Employees and Independent Contractors

Employees in Utah typically work under structured supervision, follow set schedules, and utilize company-provided resources like tools and workspace. Employers deduct income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare contributions from employees’ pay. They’re also obliged to provide benefits such as workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and, at times, healthcare coverage, paid leave, and retirement plans.

On the other hand, independent contractors in Utah operate with more autonomy, often hired for specific projects and using their tools and equipment. They manage their tax obligations, including income tax payments and self-employment taxes. Independent contractors do not receive employee benefits like workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, or employer-sponsored healthcare and retirement plans.

It is critical for Utah employers to discern accurately between employees and independent contractors to avoid legal and financial repercussions associated with misclassification.

IRS 20-factor test

The IRS 20-factor test is implemented to figure out if someone is an employee for factors including pay, tax withholding, and workers’ compensation. This test looks at how much control a business has over a worker. 

The differences between employees and contractors include:

  • Contractors decide when and how they work.
  • Employees usually get training, but contractors already know their job.
  • Contractors can hire helpers.
  • Contractors often get paid for a job, while employees get hourly pay.
  • Employers give tools to employees, but contractors use their own.
  • Contractors run their own business, can make money or lose it, and work for different companies.
  • Employees can leave or get fired without big consequences, but contractors can only be let go for breaking their contract.

Not all 20 things in this test may fit every situation, but it helps understand how Utah sees people working for your business. To learn more about the rights of salaried and hourly employees, you can read our guides on your rights as a salaried employee in Utah, and your rights as an hourly employee in Utah.

Payroll Forms and Relevant Bodies in Utah

Overseeing payroll in Utah involves following various state and federal rules, which typically require completing important payroll paperwork. This section will delve into the essential forms and official entities in Utah that employers must know about to meet standards and manage payroll tasks efficiently. It’s worth noting that in Utah, there isn’t a state-specific income tax.

Utah Payroll Forms

  • TC-941 Form: Used for reporting and submitting state income tax withholdings from employee wages to the Utah State Tax Commission.
  • TC-721 Form: This form is for employees claiming exemption from Utah state income tax.

Federal Payroll Forms

  • W-4 Form: This form helps employers calculate employee tax withholdings.
  • W-2 Form: Shows yearly wages for each employee.
  • W-3 Form: Allows employers to summarize annual wages and taxes for all employees.
  • Form 940: Computes and reports IRS unemployment taxes.
  • Form 941: Used to submit quarterly income and FICA tax withholdings.
  • Form 944: Submits yearly income and FICA tax withholdings.
  • 1099 Forms: Offers pay details to contractors for tax calculations.

Federal and Utah Payroll/ Tax Bodies

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The IRS is the key federal agency for tax administration. It makes and enforces tax rules, like taking federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax from workers’ pay. Employers must calculate and collect these taxes from paychecks and send the money to the IRS.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA): The SSA runs the Social Security program, offering retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, plus Medicare coverage. Employers gather Social Security taxes from employees’ wages to support these benefits and also add their part to the SSA fund.
  • Utah State Tax Commission: The Utah State Tax Commission handles state tax laws in Utah. It oversees income tax, unemployment insurance tax, and other state taxes. Businesses in Utah follow tax guidelines set by this commission, which might be different from federal tax rules.
  • Utah Department of Workforce Services: The Utah Department of Workforce Services is in charge of Utah’s unemployment insurance program, this department provides benefits to people who lose jobs without their fault. Employers pay into this program through unemployment taxes.

Applicable Taxes in Utah

Employer Contributions

Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA): Utah complies with the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) which currently sets a standard federal rate, currently 6.0% on the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages.

Withheld from Employee’s Wages

  • Utah State Income Taxes: Employees in Utah are subject to a flat income tax rate of 4.85%. Certain Utah municipalities may also impose local income taxes on residents and non-residents working within their borders, each with varying tax rates. Employees should refer to the Utah State Tax Commission or local tax authorities for precise information on income tax rates and applicable local taxes.
  • Workers’ Compensation in Utah: Employers in Utah are mandated to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. This program, overseen by the Utah Labor Commission, offers medical and wage replacement benefits to employees injured while performing job-related duties. The cost of workers’ compensation insurance can fluctuate based on industry, the workforce size, and an employer’s claims history. Employers should obtain current rates from insurance providers or the Utah Labor Commission.
  • Social Security (FICA) Withholding: FICA tax withholding involves deducting 6.2% from employee earnings for Social Security, applicable to income up to a specified annual limit. Additionally, a 1.45% deduction is made for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance portion on all employee earnings. The income threshold for Social Security withholding may change annually, and employees should verify current limits with the Social Security Administration for accurate information.

Key Pay Elements That Impact Payroll in Utah

Minimum Wage

In Utah, the state’s minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour, consistent with the federal minimum wage rate. However, employers are required to pay at least $2.13 per hour for tipped employees, provided that the total earnings, including tips, equal the regular minimum wage. Additionally, certain exemptions apply, allowing employers to pay workers with disabilities or students a subminimum wage, which is less than the standard minimum wage rate.

Overtime

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees in Utah are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular hourly wage for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. However, certain categories of employees, such as executives, administrative staff, professionals with specialized skills, and outside sales representatives, might not automatically qualify for overtime pay under federal regulations. Employees falling within these exceptions should discuss overtime pay with their employer to determine eligibility.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Businesses in Utah with one or more employees are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This includes both full-time and part-time employees, along with subcontractors. Employers are expected to display a poster with instructions for employees, inform them about designated doctors for work-related injuries, and report any employee injuries or medical bills to their insurance representative.

Pay Stub Laws

While Utah doesn’t have specific legislation mandating the distribution of pay stubs, it is considered a recommended practice for employers to provide detailed pay stubs to their employees. This helps ensure transparency and provides a clear breakdown of earnings and deductions, fostering fair labor practices within organizations.

Wage Garnishment

Wage garnishment in Utah involves an employer deducting a portion of an employee’s pay and forwarding it to their creditor. While creditors often need court approval for wage garnishment, certain entities, such as tax collectors or those managing federal student loans or child support, can directly garnish wages. Utah sets limits on garnishment, generally allowing up to 25% of an employee’s wages, with specific protections for laborers and mechanics.

Final Paycheck

How an employee receives their final pay in Utah depends on whether the termination is voluntary or involuntary. For voluntary termination, payment should be included in the upcoming regular pay cycle. In cases of involuntary termination, payment should be made on the next scheduled payday. Failure to make payment within seven days after the scheduled payday may result in owing the employee twice the amount owed.

Step-by-Step Guide to Payroll in Utah

  • Understand Payroll Rules: Gain a comprehensive understanding of Utah’s specific payroll regulations. This includes familiarizing yourself with minimum wage requirements, tax obligations, and other payroll-related laws applicable to your business.
  • Register as an Employer: Secure an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to serve as your business’s unique tax identifier. Additionally, complete the state registration process with the Utah State Tax Commission to operate as an employer within the state.
  • Establish Payroll Procedures: Develop a structured payroll system that outlines the frequency of pay, preferred payment methods (such as direct deposit or checks), and a clear payment schedule. Employing payroll software or services can streamline these processes and ensure accuracy.
  • Collect Employee Payroll Documents: Request and collect essential payroll forms from employees, including federal Form W-4 for tax withholding purposes and Utah-specific tax forms, ideally during the onboarding phase.
  • Track Time and Attendance: Implement a reliable system to monitor employees’ clock-in and clock-out times accurately. This can involve using time and attendance software to track hours worked, allowing you to comply with labor laws.
  • Compute and Disburse Payroll: Calculate employee wages meticulously, considering factors such as hours worked, overtime, and deductions. Ensure timely and accurate payments based on the chosen pay schedule to maintain employee satisfaction and compliance.
  • File Federal and Utah Payroll Taxes: Fulfill federal tax obligations by filing payroll tax reports and submitting payments to the IRS. Similarly, handle state payroll taxes by filing reports and remitting payments to the Utah Department of Revenue according to the designated timelines.
  • Maintain Payroll Records: Preserve payroll records for at least four years, including essential documents such as check stubs, canceled checks, payroll journals, and detailed tax filings, in compliance with Utah regulations.
  • Year-End Tax Reporting: Complete year-end tax reporting by furnishing W-2 forms to employees summarizing annual earnings and withholdings, and issuing 1099 forms to contractors by the January 31 deadline of the following year.

Final Thoughts

Navigating payroll in Utah involves its intricacies, but with a systematic approach, it becomes a manageable task. Understanding the specific regulations applicable to your business, establishing an efficient payroll system, and ensuring compliance with both federal and state laws are crucial steps toward accurately and punctually compensating your employees.

For those seeking to streamline their processes, explore our recommended list of the top 6 payroll apps for US businesses. Alternatively, if you already have a system in place, we offer 10 valuable tips to optimize your payroll procedures in the US.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for the use of this guide.