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Are Employee Referral Bonuses Taxable? [Guide to Employee Referral Bonus Taxes]

employee referral bonus taxes

Employee Referral Bonus Taxes

Employee referral bonuses have tax implications that should be carefully considered by companies. In most jurisdictions, these bonuses are considered taxable income and subject to applicable taxes.

Companies must accurately classify and report referral bonuses, withholding the appropriate taxes at the time of payment. This ensures compliance with tax regulations and the accurate remittance of taxes to the relevant authorities. Transparent communication with employees is crucial. Employees need to understand the impact of referral bonuses on their take-home pay and tax liabilities. Companies should provide employees with the necessary tax forms, such as W-2 or 1099 forms, reflecting the referral bonuses earned and any taxes withheld.

It is also important for companies to stay updated with the tax laws and regulations pertaining to referral bonuses. This helps to ensure ongoing compliance. Seek advice from tax professionals in case you have further questions.

Are Employee Referral Bonuses Taxable?

The answer is yes — employee referral bonuses are taxable and considered taxable income.

The specific tax treatment of these types of bonuses varies depending on the jurisdiction and applicable tax laws. For example, in the US, bonuses are considered supplemental wages by the IRS, making them subject to a flat withholding rate of 22% (if under $1 million).

If you’re curious about your tax implications (as anyone would be) regarding employee referral bonus taxes, check out this free online calculator.

It’s important for companies and individuals to consult with tax professionals and adhere to the relevant tax regulations. This helps to accurately classify and report referral bonuses, withhold the appropriate taxes, and issue the necessary tax forms to employees.

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How the Process Works

Since employee referral bonuses are considered supplemental wages by the IRS, these types of bonuses are subject to taxes.

Companies will usually:

  1. Tax gross-up for the bonus amount. Gross-up means a company will pay an employee to offset additional taxes. For example, if a bonus is $1,000, an employee can expect to pay the flat rate of supplemental wages of 22% ($220). If a company does a tax gross-up, the bonus amount would be $1,220, as the company would be offsetting the tax implication for the employee.
  2. Withhold the flat supplemental wages tax rate of 22% meaning your bonus amount will be on your W-2 at the end of the year.
  3. Add the employee’s bonus to their regular wages and then withhold taxes on the total sum. This method occurs when a company adds the bonus amount to the employee’s most recent paycheck, takes the sums, and determines the federal withholding amount. The usual withholding amount is then subtracted from the combined withholding amount and the difference from the bonus is then withheld. If this sounds confusing, here’s an article that digs a little deeper into this method.


Determining employee referral bonus taxes can be a daunting task, but is crucial to remain compliant.

Determining Your Employee Referral Bonus Policy

Employee referral bonuses should all be laid out in your employee referral bonus policy. Our recent blog post covers common features of employee referral policies to help you brainstorm and improve your current policies.

If you’re interested in gaining more robust insights, however, we suggest you check out our free eBook. In it, we highlight the process of creating or improving your own employee referral bonus policy.

employee referral ebook

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