Many US taxpayers have their withholdings refunded. But do refunds include payroll taxes?

I found this page with the actual code, but frankly, it's hopelessly unintelligible enough that I'm still not sure. I'd love a plain English answer.

If you're feeling really generous, what does the refund actually consist of? Which taxes are refunded, and in what percentages?

1 Answer 1


Payroll taxes are taxes on the employer, not on the employee. They're not refunded unless there was a mistake of some kind, and if they are - they're refunded to the employer.

Refund on your 1040 consists of overpaid income taxes, which are taxes that you pay based on your income. That also include overpayment of social security (employee portion), credits for foreign taxes paid on the same income (to the extent they're allowable) and other credits (some may be refundable even if you don't owe any taxes, others only reduce the amount of taxes owed), etc. There are no percentages. You're refunded what you paid in excess of your liability, nothing more and nothing less.

  • 2
    Isn't payroll tax slang for FICA withholding? And that's paid by both emoter and employee. There's an employee refund if you work two jobs and have more than the annual cap withheld. Commented May 4, 2014 at 22:09
  • @JoeTaxpayer No, not at all. FICA withholding is not payroll tax, its a tax on the employee and is essentially an income tax. Part of it may be overpaid and thus refunded (the part I mentioned as SS overpayment). See here for details: money.stackexchange.com/questions/29091/…
    – littleadv
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 22:18
  • @Joe examples for payroll taxes - FICA employer portion (Subchapter B), FUTA, State unemployment, Workers' compensation, etc etc.
    – littleadv
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 22:23
  • 1
    @littleadv: That may be what payroll tax actually is, but I agree with JoeTaxpayer that the term "payroll tax" is often used informally to refer to both parts of the FICA.
    – BrenBarn
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 0:19
  • @Bren well I did mention that portion in my answer.
    – littleadv
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 0:26

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