Q & A: Employer-initiated Payroll Deductions

Q:  What payroll deductions can be employer-initiated?

A:  Employers are limited by state law in what they can withhold from employees’ paychecks. Specific laws vary, but permissible deductions generally include:

  • Withholdings authorized by law (such as federal and state income taxes)
  • Court-ordered deductions (such as wage garnishments for child support)

Employees generally must approve other deductions from their paychecks. Examples of items employers may not be able to deduct, unless state law allows, include costs for:

  • Unreturned company equipment
  • Damaged company property
  • Defective or faulty workmanship

To ensure that deductions that require consent are done properly, consider using a payroll deduction authorization form granting the employer power to withhold specific deductions from an employee’s wages. Employers should also become familiar with laws concerning payroll deductions in their states.


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The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information above contains only a summary of the applicable legal provisions and does not purport to cover every aspect of any particular law, regulation or requirement. Depending on the specific facts of any situation, there may be additional or different requirements. This is to be used only as a guide and not as a definitive description of your compliance obligations.