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How To Read Your Paycheck

Whether you get paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, all paychecks have the same basic information on them.

Items required by federal law to appear on your paycheck

  • Gross Pay: The total amount you earned before any taxes were withheld for the pay period.
  • Net Pay: The amount of your check after all your withholdings are taken out.
  • Federal Tax (Fed Tax, FT or FWT): The amount of federal tax withheld from your paycheck. It is determined by whether you’re married or single and how many allowances you claim on your W-4.
  • State Tax (St Tax, ST, or SWT; occasionally appearing with a state abbreviation): This is the amount of state tax withheld from your paycheck. Depending on where you live, you may not have to pay state tax at all. On the other hand, you may have to pay dual state tax if you live in one state and work in another. The amount of taxes taken out is determined by your marital status and how many allowances you claim on your W-4.
  • Local Tax: This uncommon tax could be withheld on wages earned in a city or county or within school district boundaries.
  • Social Security (FICA, SS, SSWT or OASDI): The federal government requires that every employee have a percentage of his or her pay withheld for the Social Security fund. Each employer withholds 6.2 percent of your gross income for Social Security and then matches your withholdings.
  • Medicare (MT or Med.): The amount withheld for Medicare is 1.45 percent of your gross income. Your employer also contributes 1.45 percent. This amount is withheld to ensure Medicare will cover you when you turn 65.
  • Year-to-Date (YTD): This is the year-to-date total of your earnings and tax withholdings.

Additional items that may appear on your paycheck

  • Insurance deductions: Premium payments deducted by your employer for health, dental, vision or life insurance coverage.
  • Retirement Plan Contributions: A percentage of your paycheck that’s contributed to a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b).
  • Leave Time: The amount of vacation or sick hours you have. Most employers will detail how many have been used and how many are still available.
  • Flexible Spending Account Deductions: A set amount you have designated for pre-tax benefit to be used for childcare assistance or medical assistance.