Higher payroll tax awaits Oregon employers in 2021
Oregon businesses will pay more in payroll taxes to the state unemployment trust fund in 2021.
But the change to Schedule 4 by the Employment Department is a modest shift from 2020. The average rate is estimated at 2.26% on the first $43,800 paid to each employee.
The overall increase is relatively low for two reasons.
The 2021 tax rate was determined by the three-year average from July 1, 2017, through June 30 of this year. The start of the coronavirus pandemic accounted for only 8% of the period, from April through June of this year.
Oregon's unemployment rate shot up from a record low 3.5% in March to a modern record 14.2% in April at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the business shutdowns or curtailments that led to layoffs. The rate has since declined, to 8% in September, though the growth in jobs has slowed.
Also, although $1.8 billion has been paid in benefits from the state unemployment trust fund, far more has come from the federal government. Just under $3 billion resulted from the extra $600-per-week payments under the CARES Act that stopped at the end of July, and federal payments also went to self-employed and gig workers — the first time they were covered — and some employees whose companies signed up for Work Share programs.
The actual rate paid by an employer will hinge on how much the employer has tapped the state trust fund during the past three years.
Oregon has not had to borrow from the federal government, unlike 21 other states, to pay out regular unemployment benefits. Oregon did not borrow from the federal government during the Great Recession from 2007 through 2010.
Department officials have urged businesses to wait until they have received their 2021 notices before they call or write about their new rates.
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