How to Calculate Tax on a Bonus Check in California

Receiving a bonus check is always exciting, but it’s important to understand how taxes are calculated on these additional earnings. In California, bonus checks are subject to both federal and state taxes. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to calculate tax on a bonus check in California:

Step 1: Determine the Bonus Amount
The first step is to determine the amount of the bonus check you received. This can be found on your pay stub or by contacting your employer’s human resources department.

Step 2: Identify the Tax Rate
The tax rate for bonuses in California depends on your total earnings for the year. The bonus will be subject to federal income tax, state income tax, and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes.

Step 3: Calculate Federal Income Tax
To calculate federal income tax on your bonus check, you can use the IRS withholding tables or the percentage method. The percentage method is commonly used and involves applying a flat rate of 22% to the bonus amount.

Step 4: Determine State Income Tax
California has a progressive income tax system, which means higher earners pay a higher tax rate. The state income tax rate ranges from 1% to 12.3%. You can find the specific tax rates on the California Franchise Tax Board’s website.

Step 5: Calculate FICA Taxes
FICA taxes consist of Social Security tax (6.2% of earnings up to a certain limit) and Medicare tax (1.45% of all earnings). These taxes are deducted automatically from your paycheck, including bonus checks.

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Step 6: Deduct Other Withholdings
Deduct any other withholdings such as health insurance premiums or retirement contributions from the bonus amount.

Step 7: Subtract Taxes and Withholdings from the Bonus Amount
Subtract the federal income tax, state income tax, and FICA taxes, as well as any other withholdings, from the bonus amount to determine the net amount you will receive.


1. Are bonus checks taxed at a higher rate than regular income?
No, bonus checks are generally taxed at the same rate as regular income. However, the bonus amount may push you into a higher tax bracket temporarily.

2. Are bonus checks subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes?
Yes, bonus checks are subject to FICA taxes, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes.

3. Can I choose to have more taxes withheld from my bonus check?
Yes, you can request your employer to withhold additional taxes from your bonus check by filling out a new W-4 form.

4. Are there any exemptions or deductions available for bonus checks?
The same exemptions and deductions that apply to regular income also apply to bonus checks. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to determine your eligibility for any exemptions or deductions.

5. Can I estimate my tax liability using online calculators?
Yes, there are numerous online calculators available that can help you estimate your tax liability on a bonus check. However, it’s always best to consult with a tax professional for accurate advice.

6. Will my employer automatically withhold taxes from my bonus check?
Yes, employers are required to withhold federal and state taxes, as well as FICA taxes, from bonus checks.

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7. Can I receive my bonus check as a separate payment to minimize taxes?
While it may be possible to negotiate with your employer to issue your bonus check separately, it will not change the overall tax liability. The total taxes owed will remain the same.

8. Are there any additional taxes or penalties on bonus checks?
In addition to income taxes, there are no additional taxes or penalties specific to bonus checks in California. However, it’s important to comply with all tax laws and regulations to avoid any potential penalties.

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