union-imgcross icon
skuad logo

Hire, pay and manage your talent in 160+ countries.






We respect your data. By submitting the form, you agree that we will contact you about our products and services, in accordance with our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
close icon
notification icon
 ✨ Access Skuad’s free Global Hiring Toolkit: E-books, guides, and more at your fingertips! ✨Explore now

Supplemental Pay: A Comprehensive Guide



Supplemental Pay

Supplemental Pay: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated on:
16 Jan, 2014
Supplemental Pay

Building a remote team?

Employ exceptional talent, anywhere, anytime!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

In the increasingly complex world of compensation packages, you've likely come across the term "supplemental pay." Whether you're a tech talent working remotely or part of a team building a global workforce, understanding this crucial aspect of payroll can prove valuable.

What is Supplemental Pay?

Supplemental pay refers to compensation paid to an employee separate from their regular wages. Unlike regular wages, supplemental wages are generally not based on hours worked or job performance but are triggered by specific events or circumstances.

One platform to grow your global team

Hire and pay talent globally, the hassle -free way with Skuad

Talk to an experteor pattern

Forms of Supplemental Pay

Supplemental wage payments encompass a wide range of financial benefits. These payments vary in nature, scope, and function, making them a versatile tool in an employer's arsenal. Let's take a deeper dive into some of the most common types.

Overtime Pay

Overtime pay payments are additional compensation awarded to employees who work beyond their standard working hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the United States, for instance, requires that overtime pay rate must be at least one and a half times the regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek, making it a mandated form of supplemental pay in specific situations. Overtime pay payments may be subject to different federal income tax rules and other income tax regulations compared to regular pay.


Bonuses are a way for employers to reward employees for excellent performance. Supplemental income can also be used to show appreciation during festive seasons. Employers might withhold federal income tax from these bonuses. One common type of bonus is the referral bonus, given to an employee when they refer a candidate who gets hired and stays at the company for a specified pay period.

Severance Pay

Severance pay is compensation provided when an employee's tenure with the company ends, usually in cases of layoffs or mutual separation. While not required by federal law in the U.S., many companies offer severance pay to maintain goodwill with their former employees.

Severance pay may also be classified as supplemental wages taxed.

Back Pay

Back pay is the remuneration employees owe for previous work, usually due to administrative errors, disputes over pay rates, or retroactive pay increases. The Department of Labor enforces rules on back pay to protect workers and ensure proper federal income tax and withhold federal income taxes.


Commissions, which qualify as supplemental wages, are often given to sales professionals, calculated based on the volume or value of sales they achieve. This supplemental wage is a powerful motivator for sales teams, incentivizing performance and driving sales.

Holiday Pay

Holiday pay refers to additional wages for work performed on holidays. Employee supplemental wages like holiday pay can be particularly relevant for part-time employees as an incentive to work during these periods.

In-kind Benefits

In-kind benefits are non-cash benefits provided to employees, including health insurance, life insurance, retirement contributions, tuition assistance, company cars, or subsidized meals. These taxable fringe benefits can be a significant component of employee compensation packages.

13th and 14th Month Pay

In some countries, a 13th and even a 14th month's salary is a mandated form of supplemental pay, often paid at the end of the year or split between the middle and the end of the year. Understanding how to handle this particular form of supplemental pay is essential in a global payroll context.

Importance of Supplemental Pay

Supplemental pay can be a critical component of an employee's total compensation package, but it's also essential to understand the federal income tax implications for these extra earnings. 

A Powerful Motivational Tool

Supplemental pay serves as a robust incentive for employees. By linking compensation to performance or milestones through bonuses or commissions, you can drive a higher level of dedication and effort from your team. Especially in tech fields, referral bonuses can encourage employees to bring in new talent, further enhancing the team's skill set. This can be particularly useful for organizations planning to scale quickly and efficiently, as detailed in Skuad's article on referral bonuses. Also, companies must know how to withhold federal income tax properly on these additional earnings.

Fair Compensation for Extra Work

Overtime, holiday, and 13th or 14th-month pay are supplemental wages that compensate employees for exceeding their usual job requirements. It's a method of ensuring that your team members are fairly remunerated for their extra work, especially during holiday seasons or for part-time employees, as mentioned in Skuad's article on holiday pay.

Valuable Rewards for High Performance

By rewarding exceptional performance or sales achievements with supplemental pay, companies can effectively motivate their employees to strive for excellence. It also helps businesses retain top-performing employees, reducing the overall costs associated with hiring new personnel. These payments qualify as supplemental income, and their correct federal income tax withholding can help avoid any tax liability for the company or employee.

Boost Employee Retention and Recruitment

A competitive package of supplemental pay can be a significant selling point when it comes to employee recruitment. Job seekers often look beyond just base salary, considering aspects like bonuses, in-kind benefits, and holiday pays that contribute to the overall value of the employment offer. This can be particularly important for tech companies competing for top talent in a competitive market. Understanding how to handle the withheld income tax from these additional earnings can help companies comply with tax laws.

Supplemental Wages vs. Regular Wages

Delineating the difference between supplemental wages and regular wages is vital for tech talents and organizations managing distributed teams. It is especially important when reporting supplemental wages to the IRS, as these supplemental and regular wages have different tax implications. To simplify, let's delve deeper into these concepts, identifying their individual attributes and comparative implications.

Regular Wages: The Bedrock of Employee Compensation

Regular wages are the core of employee compensation. This is the agreed-upon standard pay an employee receives for fulfilling their job responsibilities within the set work schedule. Regular wages are outlined in the employment contract and are typically calculated hourly, weekly, or monthly. They provide a steady and predictable income stream, serving as the bedrock of an employee's earnings. Also, they are usually paid each pay period and are subject to regular income tax rules.

Supplemental Wages: Adding the Extra in Extraordinary

In contrast, supplemental wages emerge as additional compensation awarded over and above the standard salary. They qualify as supplemental income, and employers must calculate and withhold taxes differently are tied to certain conditions, achievements, or extra efforts exerted by employees and aren't usually incorporated into the routine pay cycle. Supplemental wages encompass bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, holiday pay, and even non-cash compensation like in-kind benefits.

The Differentiating Factors: Predictability, Purpose, and Perception

While regular wages are consistent and predictable, supplemental wages are typically variable and depend on specific events or performance metrics. The timing and amount of supplemental pay are often uncertain, giving them an element of surprise and anticipation.

The fundamental purpose of these wages also diverges. Regular wages are essential to compensate employees for their time and effort, while supplemental wages aim to incentivize, reward, or provide additional support. For instance, a referral bonus encourages employees to refer skilled candidates, while severance pay aids employees in transitioning after employment termination.

Furthermore, the perception of these wage types can significantly impact employee motivation and retention. Supplemental wages are often viewed as a tangible recognition of employees' extra efforts or stellar performance, hence playing a pivotal role in boosting morale and job satisfaction. This, in turn, influences an employee's decision to continue or part ways with an organization, emphasizing its role in assessing the costs of employee turnover.

Regulatory Considerations

Taxation and legal aspects often treat regular and supplemental wages differently. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, supplemental wages can be subject to different tax rules than regular wages, highlighting the importance of accurately distinguishing between these types of compensation for correct tax computations.

IRS Guidelines for Supplemental Wages

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement, has established precise rules concerning supplemental wages. Recognizing and correctly following these guidelines is vital for every business, especially for tech entities creating remote or distributed teams. Here, we delve deeper into the IRS regulations to provide a better understanding.

Definition and Categories

The IRS classifies supplemental wages as compensation paid in addition to an employee's regular wages. As already mentioned, these encompass a range of wage types, such as bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, and severance pay, among others. The IRS differentiates supplemental wages into two categories based on the amount:

  • Supplemental wages totaling $1 million or less: This is the most common category for a majority of employees.
  • Supplemental wages exceeding $1 million are less common and typically seen in executive-level compensation.

Taxation of Supplemental Wages

The IRS applies distinctive taxation procedures for each category of supplemental wages.

For Supplemental Wages Totaling $1 Million or Less

If the supplemental wages paid to an employee during the calendar year are $1 million or less, the IRS allows two methods for income tax withholding:

  • Aggregate method: This combines the employee's regular wages and supplemental wages as if they are a single payment for the regular payroll period. The tax is then calculated based on this aggregate amount using the withholding rates applicable to the employee.
  • Percentage method: The employer can choose to withhold a flat 22% of the supplemental wages as income tax. This method is only allowed if the employer withheld tax from the employee's regular wages in the current or preceding calendar year.

For Supplemental Wages Exceeding $1 Million

When an employee's supplemental wages exceed $1 million for the calendar year, any amount above $1 million is subject to a mandatory flat rate of 37%. This rate is regardless of the employee's W-4 form.

For the portion of supplemental wages up to $1 million, employers can use the methods outlined above (aggregate or percentage). However, these wages should be considered separately from regular wages for determining income tax withholding.

Understanding these guidelines becomes especially important for companies offering high-value supplemental payments like bonuses, in-kind benefits, or 13th and 14th-month pay.

Furthermore, state and local tax laws might also apply, and those laws could have different rates or rules than federal tax laws.

Best Ways to Manage Supplemental Wages

Effective management of supplemental wages is pivotal for companies aiming to remain competitive, compliant, and efficient. Here are several strategies and insights that can guide you in this essential aspect of payroll management.

Maintain Accurate Record-Keeping

The first step to managing supplemental wages effectively is ensuring accurate record-keeping. This involves documenting each supplemental pay type given to each employee accurately, including bonuses, commissions, and overtime pay. Keeping detailed records can help facilitate accurate tax deductions, seamless audits, and effective communication with employees about their compensation.

Understand Tax Obligations

Supplemental wages are subject to tax, but the tax rules can vary significantly depending on jurisdiction. For example, the IRS provides specific guidelines on handling supplemental wages in the United States. Employers should prioritize understanding tax obligations in all locations where their employees reside and work, withholding the correct amounts to remain compliant.

Provide Clear Communication

Maintaining open lines of communication with your employees regarding their supplemental wages is crucial. This involves clarifying how these wages are calculated, when they'll be paid, and how they'll be taxed. Transparency helps build trust and ensure employees fully understand their compensation.

Leverage Professional Payroll Services

As companies expand and diversify their workforce, managing payroll—including supplemental wages—can become increasingly complex. At this point, businesses might consider leveraging professional payroll services.

Such services, particularly those specializing in global payroll, can help businesses navigate the intricacies of different tax systems, labor laws, and currencies. These services also stay updated with the latest best practices, ensuring your business remains compliant and efficient.

Implement Robust Payroll Systems

Technology can be a great ally in managing supplemental wages. Robust payroll systems can automate calculations, deductions, and record-keeping, significantly reducing the risk of human error. Additionally, implementing systems with built-in checks can help in preventing data errors, a common issue that can lead to substantial financial and legal consequences.

Classify Your Workers Correctly

Correct worker classification is crucial when it comes to supplemental wages. Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor, or vice versa, can lead to legal and financial issues. If your workforce includes contractors, gaining a solid understanding of contractor payroll can prevent costly missteps.

Offer a Competitive Mix of Supplemental Pay

Attracting and retaining top talent in today's competitive tech industry involves more than just offering a high base salary. Companies need to consider the full range of benefits they provide, including various supplemental pay options. Balancing direct and indirect benefits can play a crucial role in shaping a compensation package that appeals to top-tier professionals while considering the costs associated with hiring new employees.

How Skuad Can Help

Understanding and effectively managing supplemental wage can significantly impact an organization's ability to attract, retain, and motivate top talent. From the various forms of supplemental pay to the tax implications and the crucial role of accurate record-keeping, managing supplemental wages can be quite a complex task.

As a comprehensive global employment and payroll platform, Skuad enables businesses to process accurate and timely payments for their employees, irrespective of their location. With Skuad's platform, the cross-border payroll process is no longer a tedious task fraught with data errors. It allows you to disburse payments in multiple currencies, ensuring your employees receive their wages.

Moreover, Skuad ensures full compliance with local payroll and employment laws, removing the heavy burden of compliance from your shoulders. The platform's capabilities extend beyond simplifying payroll tasks to providing a broad view of your global workforce's costs and insights that can help drive strategic decision-making.

An efficient and reliable payroll solution is a valuable asset in the vast landscape of remote work and global teams. By choosing Skuad, you can streamline your payroll processes and create an environment where employees feel valued and compensated fairly for their contributions.

To learn more about how Skuad can simplify your payroll processes and help manage supplemental wages effectively, talk to Skuad experts today.


What is the limit for supplemental wages?

The supplemental wage limit is fixed at 1 million USD. If it exceeds that amount, the employer must withhold tax on the 1 million USD using the highest income tax rate, which is currently 37%.

What is the supplemental pay tax rate for 2023?

The federal withholding tax rate on supplemental pay is 22%.











Building a remote team?

Employ exceptional talent, anywhere, anytime!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Skuad is the best solution to hire and expand globally.

Request demo
start hiring