By: Charles Bowen
Most readers don’t know how to read the data on their paychecks.
Neither do most reporters and editors, by and large. With all those
deductions on a company paycheck, how can your readers possibly be
sure they are getting the pay they were promised?
Why, by checking in with their friends on the Web, of course. A service
called the Paycheck Calculator, operated by Symmetry Software of
Scottsdale, Ariz., figures out exactly what an employee should be taking
For journalists, it’s also an ideal little Web tool for calculating all those
“real-life” examples that we like to use to humanize financial stories.
Located on a Web site called PayCheckCity.com, this actually is a whole
suite of calculators, with some covering topics such as stock options and 401(k)
planning and others devoted specifically to bonuses and hourly pay.
To use the resource, visit the site at http://www.paycheckcity.com,
where the introductory screen provides immediate links to:
o The Paycheck Calculator, which calculates net pay or “take-
home pay” – wages after withholdings and taxes.
o The Hourly Paycheck Calculator, which provides a different
calculation of take-home pay, this one based on up to six different pay
rates that you can enter.
o The Public Employee Paycheck Calculator, which figures the
take-home for employees of federal, state, and local governments.
(Often, employees in the public sector do not have federal tax liability.
This calculator gives you the option to create a paycheck using this
o The Gross Pay Calculator, which determines what wages are
before taxes and deductions are withheld.
o The Bonus Calculator (Aggregate), which uses your last
paycheck amount to apply the correct withholding rate to your special
wage payments, such as bonuses.
o The Bonus Calculator (Percent), which uses supplemental tax
rates to calculate withholding on special wage payments. (If your state
does not have a special supplemental rate, you will be forwarded to the
aggregate bonus calculator.)
o The 401(k) Planner, meant to help users to plan for the future.
o Fill in paycheck and 401(k) numbers, then adjust the interest rate,
contribution percentage, and current balance to determine the projected
value of your money in the future. The information is shown in both
graphical and tabular formats.
o The W-4 Assistant, which will take you step by step through
the process of filling out a W-4 form. As the last step, you can even print
an official copy to give to the payroll department at your company.
o Tip Tax Calculator, intended for those who receive tips as part
of their incomes. Here is an easy way to verify or anticipate what a
paycheck will be. For these calculations, the site assumes that the tip is
already received by the employee.
o Stock Options Calculator, for figuring out taxes when cashing
in stock options. This calculator determines how much tax will be
withheld and what the user’s actual take-home amount will be. It also
finds the current stock price when you enter a ticker symbol.
Other considerations in using PayCheckCity.com for your writing and
o At the heart of the site is Symmetry Software’s payroll-tax-calculation
engine, used by more than half a million businesses nationwide to figure
deductions and other paycheck issues. The online calculators compute
state withholdings for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto
Rico. Difficult local withholdings, such as New York City (both resident
and nonresident) also are included.
o If you’re thinking about writing about the site itself, in addition to using
it in your own work, consider incorporating it in your spring graduation
stories. College graduates might find the calculators especially useful as
they negotiate salaries for new jobs.
o Also, you might want to consider a mention of the site in your package
of tax-preparation stories next month. In addition to the paycheck
calculators, the site has this year’s tax tables online from each state, as
well as a summary of tax changes.
Bowen writes columns, articles and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show (http://www.netnewstoday.com).
Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher