Unemployment & Employee Withholding in Washington State

The state of Washington provides assistance to qualified unemployed workers through its unemployed benefits program, which helps workers deal with some of their expenses while looking for a new job. In Washington state, employers pay a tax to cover the cost of unemployment benefits. Workers do not share in this cost. But workers are taxed for unemployment benefits and can ask that a portion be withheld to cover this expense.

Unemployment Benefits

When Washington workers lose their jobs, they can apply to the state Employment Security Department and receive benefits, if they're eligible. The amount they might receive depends on their earnings in the base year, among other things. Washington in 2013 has a maximum weekly benefit of $624 and a minimum of $148, irrespective of base-year earnings. When workers find employment, they can simply stop filing the weekly claims and the income stops. Even if they move out of state, workers are eligible to receive benefits, but only if they worked in the state during the base year.

Base Year and Eligibility

The 12 months before the quarter in which a worker files a claim make up the base year. For example, if a worker filed a claim in January 2013, her base year is October 2011 through September 30, 2012. Workers are eligible to receive benefits if they worked at least 680 hours in the base year. They're also eligible if their employers no longer have work for them. The Employment Security Department claims center contacts employers for information about job terminations to determine if workers left employment on their own accord or if they were suspended or placed on a leave of absence. Workers need to be physically fit and available to work to qualify for benefits.

Filing a Claim

Unemployed workers need to set up a personal identification number when they file for unemployment benefits. They need to file a new claim each week, even if they’re waiting for approval of their application. They also need to continue filing claims each week if the center rejects their application and they submitted an appeal. Workweeks end on Saturday at midnight. If a worker didn’t work the previous week, he can put in a claim application in the subsequent week, and if he doesn’t submit his claim on time, it will be rejected. Volunteer work does not affect unemployment benefits as long as the worker is actively looking for a job.

Withholding From Unemployment Benefits

Workers still need to pay federal income tax on the benefits they receive even if they're unemployed. The claims center does not automatically withhold taxes, but workers can ask that the center deduct 10 percent before issuing benefit payments. At the end of the year, the claim center sends out the 1099-G form, which contains complete information about the benefits workers received during the year. Workers can get information from this form to complete their federal tax returns.

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