Although a bonus payment may fall within one of the employee’s pay periods, the regular income tax tables should not be used to determine the amount of income tax owing on the bonus, as this will increase the amount of tax being deducted even more. The pay period tables apply a rate of taxation based on the assumption the employee will be making X amount of dollars for the year, spread over Y number of pay periods. A bonus payment increases the employee’s overall earnings for the year, which increases the rate at which the employee should have been paying income tax since the beginning of the taxation year.
For example, an employee receiving an annual salary of $50,000 per year in addition to a bonus payment of $10,000 will be taxed based on $60,000 per year when they file their personal income tax return at the end of the year. The employee’s income tax deductions each pay period, however, are only calculated based on an annual salary of $50,000. With a bonus payment, the payroll system is required to recalculate the employee’s taxes based on $60,000 and then calculate the difference between the income taxes the employee pays on a regular basis and the employee’s newly revised salary which has been increase by $10,000 for the entire year.
The payment of the bonus often results in the employee being bumped up to a higher income bracket. Both the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Revenu Québec (RQ) require the employer to collect the difference between the pro-rated income tax that the employee regularly pays on an annual pay of $50,000 and the income taxes that would have been paid based on an annual salary of $60,000. This difference is then deducted from the bonus payment.
If an employer pays an employee additional bonuses throughout the year, the income taxes will be recalculated once again to take into consideration the previous bonuses paid to the employee.
The bonus tax method can be used for any payments that do not represent regular pay period earnings, for example, stock option taxable benefits, a taxable gift or award, or outstanding vacation paid upon termination.