New law repeals 3% government withholding

New law repeals 3% government withholding, provides hiring credits for veterans, and more

On November 21, President Obama signed into law the 3% Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act. The new law does much more than merely repeal withholding on government contractors. The new law enhances the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, expands the IRS’ continuous levy authority, and more.

Government withholding

The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (2005 Tax Act) created a new withholding requirement for government agencies. The federal government, and every state and local government, would be required to withhold income tax at the rate of three percent on certain payments to persons providing any property or services. Some payments, such as payments of interest, were exempt.

The government withholding requirement was originally scheduled to apply to payments made after December 31, 2010. Congress delayed the effective date to payments made after December 31, 2011. The IRS issued final regulations in 2011, further delaying the effective date to payments made after December 31, 2012.

Since passage of the 2005 Tax Act, momentum for the repeal of withholding on government contractors has grown. The Senate approved the 3% Repeal Act unanimously on November 10, and the House voted 422–0 in favor of the bill on November 16. The 3% Repeal Act repeals government withholding as if it had never been enacted.


The WOTC provides employers an incentive to hire individuals from various target groups, including veterans, The 3% Repeal Act modifies the WOTC for qualified veterans. The WOTC enhancements for veterans are called the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit.

Returning Heroes Tax Credit. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit encourages employers to hire unemployed veterans. Employers hiring short-term unemployed veterans (generally veterans who have been unemployed for at least four weeks but less than six months) may be eligible for a credit of up to $2,400 per employee. The credit reaches $5,600 per employee if the employer hires a veteran who has been unemployed for longer than six months.

Wounded Warriors Tax Credit. The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit rewards employers that hire unemployed veterans with service connected disabilities. The credit reaches $9,600 per employee for employers that hire long-term unemployed veterans with service connected disabilities and $4,800 per employee for employers that hire short-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities.

The 3% Repeal Act also extends the current WOTC for qualified veterans who receive food stamps through the end of 2012. The credit for qualified veterans in this target group can reach $2,400 per employee. Additionally, the 3% Repeal Act makes the WOTC for qualified veterans available to tax-exempt employers and streamlines the certification process.

The changes to the WOTC under the 3% Repeal Act are effective for veterans who begin work for an employer after November 21, 2011 (the date of enactment of the new law). The 3% Repeal Act, however, is temporary and its enhancements to the WOTC for veterans will expire after 2012 unless extended by Congress.

IRS continuous levy

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 authorized the IRS to collect overdue tax debts of individuals and businesses that receive federal payments by levying up to 15 percent of each payment until the debt is paid. In 2004, Congress increased the percentage to 100 percent in case of certain payments due to vendors of services or goods sold or leased to the federal government. The 3% Repeal Act authorizes the IRS to continuously levy at 100 percent on payments for goods, services and property due to vendors of the federal government. This change is effective for levies issued after November 21, 2011 (the date of enactment of the new law).

More provisions

The 3% Repeal Act also:

  • Changes the definition of modified adjusted gross income for purposes of the Code Sec. 36B health insurance premium assistance tax credit and certain other federal health care programs
  • Extends information sharing between the IRS and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Enhances federal job training programs for veterans
  • Directs the Treasury Department to prepare a report on the tax gap and government contractors

If you have any questions about the 3% Withholding Repeal Act, please contact our office.

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