How to Determine the True Cost of an Hourly Employee

An employee cost calculator for labor costs, payroll taxes, overhead and a more profitable company

It's no secret employees cost more than just their hourly wage. But just how much more can be somewhat of a mystery. 
To calculate an employee's true cost, you need to include related employee costs in your equation — things like overhead, payroll taxes, benefits, insurance, paid time off, and equipment or supplies. Add your numbers to our employee cost calculators below to determine your true labor costs.

2017 Employee Cost Calculators*

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Average, Annual Employee Hours Worked



Annual Employee Labor Cost, Without Taxes or Overhead

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Annual Overhead

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Learn more about employee labor costs and annual overhead.

Total Annual Payroll Taxes per Employee


Time to calculate your payroll taxes. But first, tell us which state you’re in.

And does your average employee qualify you for the Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) tax credit?

[Employee Labor Cost per Year] x .6% $ -
[Employee Labor Cost per Year] x 6.2% $ +
[Employee Labor Cost per Year] x 1.45% $ +
[Employee Labor Cost per Year] x State Tax % $ ÷

Learn more about payroll taxes.

The True Cost of an Employee Per Hour

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Bonus: Employee Billable Cost per Hour

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How to Calculate Labor Cost

Determine an employee's true hourly rate by adding their gross wages to the total cost of related expenses (including annual payroll taxes and annual overhead), then dividing by the number of hours the employee works each year. 
For example: Let's say you are paying an employee $15 per hour. If they work 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, they will work 2,080 hours, which makes their labor cost $31,200 (pre-tax) per year. But if your employee is absent from work for 15 days that year (due to paid time off), they will actually work closer to 1,960 hours per year — making their actual hourly rate closer to $16.
Sticking with that $31,200, we can now determine the amount of annual overhead costs you pay in addition to your employee's hourly wage. This includes building costs, property taxes, utilities, payroll taxes, benefits, insurance, supplies, and equipment costs. Once you add together your total overhead, add that figure to your employee's annual labor cost. Once you add together your total overhead, divide it by the number of employees, and add that figure to your employee's annual labor cost.
In this case, your employee's annual labor cost is $31,200. But let’s say you're spending an additional $8,000 on that employee throughout the year. Add $8,000 and $31,200 to get $39,200. Now, divide $39,200 by the number of hours your employee will actually work in a year (about 1,960) to calculate the true hourly rate of your employee. In this example, the total hourly cost of your employee is closer to $20 per hour. 

When factoring labor costs, be sure to include payroll taxes, benefits, insurance, paid time off, meals, and equipment or supplies.

What Is the Cost of Labor?

The cost of labor is the sum of each employee’s gross wages, in addition to all other expenses paid per employee. Other expenses include payroll taxes, benefits, insurance, paid time off, meals, and equipment or supplies. 

How Much Does an Employee Cost?

Each employee costs the sum of his or her gross wages, in addition to other employee-related expenses, such as state taxes for payroll, taxes paid for Social Security and Medicaid, benefits, insurance, paid time off,  and meals or equipment or supplies.

How to Calculate True Overhead Rates

Knowing the true cost of an employee is one thing, but if you're not including the cost of overhead in your equation, you could be under-billing your clients and losing money! Knowing how to accurately calculate the cost of overhead for each employee will help you determine what to charge and how to remain profitable. 

Start by determining the true cost of your employees. Not sure how to do this? Use the calculator above. Then calculate your overhead. 

What Is Overhead?

Overhead represents all the expenses you pay outside of labor costs — things like building costs, property taxes, and utilities — and they can be calculated either monthly or annually, depending on the needs of your business. To figure it out, just divide your total annual overhead costs by the number of employees at your business.

Overhead represents all the expenses you pay outside of labor costs.

Want to determine your employee’s billable rate? Take the true cost of your employee per hour (including employee labor costs, overhead, and taxes) and add it to your profit margin. Then divide this number by the number of hours your employee works per year and you’ve got your billable rate. No more lost profits!

What Are Payroll Taxes?

As a business owner, you're required to pay taxes for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), which covers Social Security and Medicare, and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), which funds workforce agencies. On top of that, there are unemployment taxes, which vary by state but can include state income taxes and unemployment insurance. 
State taxes aside, navigating federal payroll taxes can feel a bit like navigating a minefield. One wrong step and — boom! — you're in trouble with the IRS. It's always a best practice to check with your accountant when it comes to calculating payroll taxes (or anything to do with numbers), but you can get a pretty accurate estimate by following these steps.

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) sets your unemployment tax rate per employee at 6 percent, but if you qualify, you can claim a 5.4 percent credit. That would make your FUTA tax rate .6 percent. However, once an employee’s year-to-date earnings surpass $7,000, you no longer have to pay the FUTA federal unemployment tax on that employee for the remainder of the year.

1. What is your federal unemployment (FUTA) tax rate?

While you should always check with your accountant to know where you stand, businesses that file the Form 940, or the Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return, typically qualify for the 5.4 percent credit. If you pay wages of $1,500 or more to your employee in any calendar quarter or if you oversee one or more employees (part-time, full-time, and temporary) at least some part of a day in 20 or more weeks per year, you must file Form 940. 
For more information, see the IRS FUTA Credit Reduction Guide

2. What is your Social Security (FICA) tax rate?

Social Security tax is 6.2 percent of the taxable wages paid to each employee each year (up to $127,200 for 2017, a number that changes annually). 

3. What is your Medicare (FICA) tax rate?

Medicare tax is 1.45 percent of all taxable wages paid to each employee, with an additional .9 percent tax rate on wages that exceed $200,000. 

4. What is your state’s unemployment tax rate?

This rate (and the annual wage limit) is determined for you by your state unemployment agency. Some state unemployment tax rate minimums are as low as 0.0%, as is the case in places like Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, maximum tax rates can be as high as 12 percent, as is the case in Wisconsin. Always check with your accountant if you're not sure where you stand. 

5. What is you employment or job-training tax rate?

Some states require employers to pay employment or job-training taxes. If you're not sure whether or not your state is one of them, check with your accountant. 

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*Disclaimer: Please refer to a professional tax, payroll, or financial advisor regarding specific employee costs and state and federal taxes and how they impact your business. TSheets does not recommend particular financial practices and leaves those decisions to the discretion of your organization.