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5 Best Tips to Reduce Taxes on Severance Pay in 2024

Tips to Reduce Taxes on Severance Pay

Severance pay is a financial package employees receive when they leave a company. The money helps with the transition. 

But, people often miss how taxes apply to this sum. Understanding how to manage these taxes is vital. Doing so can save you money and reduce stress.

In this article, we will be sharing a few top tips to reduce taxes on severance pay to help you out in the best manner possible.

Understanding Severance Pay Taxation

Severance pay is for lost wages. As such, it faces the same taxes as regular income. Your tax rate depends on the total amount you earn in a year. 

Adding severance pay could put you in a higher tax bracket. This would increase the taxes you owe.

Reduce Taxes

5 Top Tips to Reduce Taxes on Severance Pay

Maximize Retirement Plan Contributions

Putting money in a retirement plan like a 401(k) can lower your taxable income. This may keep you in a lower tax bracket. 

You would pay less on your severance. Plans like IRAs offer similar benefits.

Spread the Severance Payments

You can ask your employer to pay your severance over two years. This can keep you in a lower tax bracket each year. As a result, you’ll pay less in taxes overall.

Invest in a Health Savings Account (HSA)

HSAs are savings accounts for medical costs. They offer tax advantages. Money you put into an HSA is tax-free. This reduces your taxable income. It must be used for qualified medical expenses.

Leverage a Donor-Advised Fund

A donor-advised fund is an account for charitable giving. It allows you to donate money and get a tax deduction when you contribute. 

This can offset your severance pay taxes. You decide when and where the money gets donated.

Deduct Job Search Expenses

If you spend money looking for a new job, you may deduct these expenses from your taxes. This includes costs like travel, resume services, and some job placement agency fees. 

There are precise rules for these deductions. It’s important to know them before you claim anything.

Practical Tips for Managing Severance Pay Tax

It is essential to get tax advice that fits your unique situation. A professional can help you plan your taxes. They can consider your severance and help avoid unexpected costs.

Tax Withholding on Severance Pay

When you receive severance pay, it’s crucial to realize that it often comes with taxes already withheld by your employer, much like a regular paycheck. 

The withholding includes federal income tax, state income tax where applicable, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. The rate at which these are withheld can sometimes be at a flat rate, which might be different from the rate you’re used to from your regular income.

Understanding this withholding process is essential because it impacts your net take-home amount and your financial planning. If too much tax is withheld, you may receive a larger refund after filing your tax returns, which means you’ve essentially given the government an interest-free loan. 

Conversely, if not enough is withheld, you could face an unexpected tax bill and possibly penalties and interest. To avoid surprises at tax time, it’s a good idea to check the withholding amount indicated on the severance agreement and discuss it with a tax professional who can offer personalized advice applicable to your situation.

Severance Packages

Legal Considerations of Severance Packages

When dealing with severance packages, it’s vital to be aware of potential legal issues:

  • Discrimination Claims: Employees must ensure that their severance package is not structured in a discriminatory manner, affecting them based on age, gender, ethnicity, or disability.
  • Waivers: Severance agreements often include waivers where employees relinquish the right to sue the employer. It’s crucial to understand what you are waiving.
  • Release Agreements: These agreements might require the employee to give up certain rights, such as pursuing legal action for wrongful termination. It’s essential to read and comprehend these terms fully.

Understanding these legal aspects helps protect rights and ensure fair treatment, highlighting the importance of consulting legal advice before accepting any severance package.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my severance pay taxed at a higher rate?

Some think severance pay is taxed more. It’s taxed like regular income. But it could bump you up to a higher tax bracket. That means you may pay a higher rate.

How can contributing to a retirement plan affect my severance tax?

Putting money in a retirement plan reduces your taxable income. This could lower the taxes on your severance. It’s a smart way to save for the future too.

Are there differences in tax reduction strategies across states like California, New York, or Texas?

Yes, local tax laws can change your strategy. Some states have different rules for retirement contributions and other tax breaks. It’s important to understand your state’s laws.


Severance pay taxes can be complex. Yet, informed strategies can lessen what you owe. Using methods like spreading out payments, investing in retirement, HSAs, and charity funds are good places to start. 

Deductions for job-seeking costs are also useful. For the best outcomes, consult with a tax expert. Planning ahead ensures that when you receive severance pay, you are ready to manage it smartly.