Tax Info for Seasonal Employees

seasonal employee tax tips

The information in this article is up to date through tax year 2019 (taxes filed in 2020). 

A seasonal job could last anywhere from three to eight months, depending on the company, the position, and how long a “season” lasts. Holiday retail workers, camp counselors, lifeguards, and holiday mail delivery drivers would all fall under this category. Even TaxSlayer hires about 300 seasonal workers to assist with support during the busy tax season. Seasonal employees provide valuable relief, but you also have tax obligations – even when you only work part-time. Here are some of the top seasonal employees’ tax questions, answered.

Do I need to file taxes for a seasonal job?

Even though seasonal work is usually temporary and short-term, you must file taxes if you’re under 65, filing as a single taxpayer, and your income is $10,400 or more. Does someone else claim you as a dependent? If so, you’ll need to file your own return if you earned more than $6,350 as a seasonal employee.

You do not need to file a tax return if you’re being claimed as a dependent and make less than $6,350.

Let’s say you’re single, you worked for four months as a lifeguard, and you earned $4,000 by the end of the season. Your employer did not know you would make less than $10,400 so they withheld tax from each paycheck. However, you’re not required to pay tax because you don’t meet the $10,400 threshold. In this case, you might not be required to file a tax return. But you could still be eligible for a tax refund. It’s important to know that you can only get a refund if you submit a tax return, so you may want to file anyway.

Do I need to fill out a W-4 for a seasonal job?

Yes. For any job, seasonal or full-time, you must fill out a W-4 so your employer can report your income to the IRS. This does not mean you will owe taxes.

What is a tax-exempt employee?

When you fill out a W-4, you have the option to claim complete exemption from federal income tax withholding. That means that your employer will not withhold taxes from your paycheck.

If you choose tax-exempt status, you will be responsible for paying any taxes you do end up owing. Each state also has a different rule regarding tax exemption so you might have to fill out an additional form for your state.

How can I claim tax-exempt on my W-4?

As an employee, you can only claim tax exemption if you received a refund of all federal income tax that were withheld from your wages last year (because you owed $0 for taxes), and you expect to be refunded all your federal income tax again this year.

Note: If you make less than $10,400 in a calendar year and you claim tax exemption, you might not need to file a tax return at all.

Do taxes have to be withheld from my paycheck if I only work one season?

When you work for an employer, they are required to withhold some money from your paycheck for income taxes and FICA. When you work a full-time or non-seasonal position, the amount withheld is based on a 12-month work calendar. But seasonal employees only work for a few months out of the year, so using this method means there would be too much withheld. If you work less than 245 days during a calendar year, your employer should use the part-year withholding method instead.

Do I have to report tips from my seasonal job?

If you receive tips at your job, chances are you do need to report them as part of your income. For any month that you earn $20 or more in tips, the IRS requires you to account for it on your return. It’s easy to lose track of cash tips, so it is important to keep an accurate daily log for your own records.

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