On each of the two sites below, the average salary in California for C++ developers is reported.

Would the average reported be before or after taxes?

  • Consider this, tax rates vary a lot by individual based on a lot of factors. An after-tax number wouldn't be very useful outside of the context of the person's finances who the number came from. – JohnFx Jan 3 '14 at 0:07

In the U.S., virtually all salaries are expressed as "gross salaries", which are before the taxes that the individual must pay on their income. The numbers shown in the links are almost certainly gross salary figures.

However, the "gross salary" is not the entire "total compensation" number, which is the total value of all compensation and benefits that the employee receives for his work. Total compensation includes not only salary and bonuses, but the cost or value of any employer-paid healthcare, retirement, company car, expense account, stock options, and other valuable goods or services.

That's still not the total amount of money the company has to pay to have you; there are employer-paid payroll taxes totaling 6.2% of your gross salary, plus practical costs like the cost of your computer, cubicle or office furniture, and the portion of utility costs that keep you well-lit, clean and comfortable. This complete number is called "total employee cost", and the general rule of thumb is that it's double your gross cash compensation (salary + bonuses).

Lastly, $100k in California isn't worth as much, in real terms, as $100k in other parts of the U.S. The cost of living in California, especially in Silicon Valley where the majority of the people who make six figures by being C++ programmers are located, is ridiculously expensive. There are other tech hubs in the U.S., like DFW, Austin TX, Atlanta GA, St Louis MO, Raleigh NC, etc where people earn less, but also spend less to live and so can use more of their salary in a "discretionary" manner.

  • Thank you! That is, in this case, "total amount of money the company has to pay to have me" = ($100K + bonuses) + 6.2% of it + practical costs? – alexandre0sheva Dec 31 '13 at 0:01
  • @alexandre0sheva + the cost of your other benefits, and really more. There's direct (salary) and indirect (HR support, accounting, etc) costs for keeping employees. – C. Ross Dec 31 '13 at 1:49

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