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How to Address SUTA Rates for Your Business

You may be familiar with the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), but are you acquainted with the State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA)? For small business owners, grasping the intricacies of SUTA taxes is essential for efficient business management. However, when collaborating with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization), they typically handle tax distribution through their payroll systems. In such scenarios, how can you collaborate with your PEO to reduce SUTA rates for your company and the PEO as a whole?

To fully grasp the complexities and variations of SUTA taxes across different states, it's crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of what SUTA and FUTA entail.

Differences Between FUTA and SUTA

FUTA, as stipulated by federal law, enforces a tax on employers, aiming to sustain the federal unemployment program and offer benefits to eligible workers nationwide. Tax rates and wage criteria under FUTA are federally standardized, though states may receive credits against their federal tax liability for maintaining compliant state unemployment programs.


Each state has its own unemployment tax rate and wage base, determined by its legislation and economic factors. Employers pay SUTA taxes to their respective states, and these funds are used to provide unemployment benefits to workers within that state.

What is SUTA?

SUTA is an acronym for the State Unemployment Tax Act. Its primary function is to delineate guidelines and regulations governing state unemployment insurance programs.

SUTA may also be referred to as these names:

  • State unemployment insurance (SUI)

  • Reemployment tax

  • Employment security tax

Under the provisions of SUTA, employers are obligated to remit state unemployment taxes. The assessment of these taxes typically hinges on variables such as workforce size and the employer's past layoff history. Each state independently oversees its unemployment insurance program, aligning with the regulatory directives outlined by SUTA.

Employers usually need to obtain a State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) account number and fulfill state unemployment insurance obligations in each state where they employ individuals.

When partnering with a PEO like Cornerstone PEO, each state will fit into one of three classifications: PEO-reporting, client-reporting, or hybrid states.

In PEO-reporting states, the PEO serves as the official employer for state unemployment insurance tax and oversees filing on behalf of your team. If your team maintains an active account in a PEO-reporting state, it should be closed to prevent receipt of delinquency notices and fines from the state.

In client-reporting states, employers are mandated to file using an unemployment account directly linked to their Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Hybrid states mandate that your business holds a separate unemployment account linked to your PEO's master account in the state. If you've previously opened an account in one of these states before engaging with a PEO, you'll be required to close it as directed by your PEO. Subsequently, your PEO will register for an account connected to their master account in that state.

Each state in the United States maintains its own system for unemployment taxation, as regulated by SUTA. In parallel, FUTA imposes federal-level unemployment taxes on employers. These complementary systems collectively fund unemployment benefits for displaced workers. While each state operates under its distinct SUTA framework, adherence to federal guidelines outlined in FUTA is also imperative.

Understanding Wage Bases and Tax Rates

In order to fully grasp SUTA and FUTA, it's important to understand what wage base and tax rate mean.

The FUTA wage base defines the portion of employee earnings subject to FUTA tax. Currently, the wage base is $7,000, meaning the tax rate is applicable to the first $7,000 in wages paid to each employee annually.

The SUTA wage base defines the portion of employee earnings subject to SUTA tax, ensuring consistency across all employees within the state. This figure, also known as a wage limit, represents the maximum threshold.

The FUTA tax rate is 6.0%. The tax rate and wage base for FUTA are subject to potential revisions.

In contrast to FUTA tax, states do not employ a uniform SUTA tax rate for all nonexempt employers. Instead, state unemployment offices or agencies allocate personalized tax rates to employers and PEO’s, which might undergo adjustments based on annual evaluations.

How SUTA Varies by State and Taxpayer

FUTA functions at the federal level, ensuring consistent standards nationwide, while SUTA regulations differ from state to state, as each state administers its own program in accordance with its unique set of regulations.

The State Unemployment Tax Act exhibits significant variance across states, reflecting diverse tax rates, wage bases, and eligibility criteria for employers and employees alike. Each state establishes its unique set of regulations governing SUTA taxes.

In many states, the burden of SUTA tax payment falls solely on employers. However, Alaska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania stand apart, requiring both employers and employees to contribute to SUTA funds.

SUTA regulations can differ significantly across states, with some states offering exemptions for specific organizations or types of employment from SUTA tax obligations. For instance, non-profit organizations may qualify for exemption in certain states if they meet specific criteria.


It's imperative to grasp that SUTA exemption policies exhibit considerable variation from one state to another. Therefore, it's advisable to seek guidance from your state's labor or unemployment department to determine any relevant SUTA exemptions applicable to your business.

Factors Affecting SUTA Rates

In most states, your business's SUTA tax rate is influenced by several factors, emphasizing the importance of understanding them. Familiarity with these factors offers you the chance to potentially decrease your SUTA tax rates.

The provided factors are generally accurate in influencing state-determined SUTA rates for businesses:

  • New Employers Newly established businesses may often have higher SUTA rates initially until they establish a history of employment stability.

  • Business Industry Some industries are considered higher risk for unemployment claims, leading to potentially higher SUTA rates.

  • History of Turnover/Unemployment Claims Employers with a history of frequent turnover or unemployment claims tend to face higher SUTA rates as it reflects higher risk for future claims.

Employers bear significant responsibility for ensuring accurate reporting and maintenance of current employee data and unemployment claims within their business. Demonstrating employment stability and minimizing employee turnover not only enhances overall business performance but also leads to improved SUTA tax rates, benefiting both the business and its PEO partner.

Importance of Compliance with SUTA and FUTA

Maintaining compliance with SUTA tax regulations is crucial for businesses, ensuring smooth operations, financial stability, and effective management of financial obligations while preventing penalties. Additionally, staying compliant demonstrates good governance and integrity, enhancing the company's reputation and credibility.

Accurate reporting from an employer is invaluable for a PEO when managing SUTA matters. Precise data from the employer enables the PEO to effectively calculate and allocate SUTA tax liabilities, ensuring compliance with state regulations. By providing comprehensive and accurate information, employers empower the PEO to make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and optimize tax management strategies.


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