Is Third-party Sick Pay Taxable or Non-taxable?

A sick woman sitting in blanket with medicines around

Understanding tax is essential for both employers and employees and dealing with its complexities can be overwhelming. Proper knowledge is crucial for navigating through these intricacies. Employees and employers are always keen on minimizing tax liabilities, but without a solid understanding, it becomes challenging. Third-party sick pay is a form of income or compensation that often leaves employees and employers uncertain about its taxability.
Navigating the tax implications of third-party sick pay necessitates a thorough comprehension of tax regulations. In this blog, we aim to delve into this topic, offering clarity and a comprehensive understanding of whether third-party sick pay is taxable or non-taxable.

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What is Third-Party Sick Pay?

Ever wondered who pays employees when they are out sick and their employer’s resources don’t cover it? That’s where third-party sick pay (TSP) comes in! It’s like a safety net, providing income replacement during illness or injury. But how does it work, and who’s involved? Let’s break it down:

The Players:

  • Employee: When illness or injury sidelines employee, TSP helps maintain their cash flow.
  • Employer: They might offer TSP plans through an insurance company or trust.
  • Third-Party Sick Payer: This could be an insurance company, administrator, or trust that handles TSP payments on your employer’s behalf.

The Flow of Funds:

  1. Employee Get Sick: Unfortunately, illness strikes. Employee inform their employer and file a claim with the designated third-party sick payer.
  2. Third-Party Pays Sick Employee: The sick payer, upon verifying employee claim, sends them partial income replacement based on their plan and eligibility.
  3. Employer Reimbursement: In some cases, the employer reimburses the third-party payer for the sick pay provided.

Reporting Responsibilities:

While you receive the payments, reporting them to the taxman falls on different shoulders:

  • Employer: They typically report TSP on employee W-2 form for tax purposes.
  • Third-Party Payer: They might need to report the payments to relevant government agencies depending on location and plan specifics.

Third-Party Sick Pay Providers:

Large Insurance Companies:

Major insurance providers like Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield offer short-term disability insurance, which can serve as third-party sick pay. These companies provide comprehensive coverage for employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury.

Specialized Absence Management Companies:

Firms such as Absence Management Solutions, LTD America, and Sedgwick offer a range of services, including short-term disability and leave of absence programs. These companies specialize in managing employee absences efficiently and effectively, ensuring that employees receive the support they need during difficult times.

Now, let’s dive into a crucial aspect: Is this pay taxable?

In general, third-party sick pay is subject to taxation, but this can vary based on certain factors. If a third party, like a health insurance company, provides sick pay to an employee, it is considered taxable income. The tax treatment depends on whether the premiums for the sick pay were paid with pre-tax or after-tax dollars.

Why Tax Implications of Third-party Sick Pay is Vital for Both Employers and Employees.

Pre-Tax Premiums:

If the money used to pay for the insurance covering sick pay wasn’t taxed before, then when you receive the sick pay, it becomes taxable. In this scenario, tax is charged on the sick payment you receive because tax was not charged on the premiums your employer paid before.

After-Tax Premiums:

Conversely, if the health insurance premium was paid with after-tax dollars, the sick pay received by the employee is non-taxable. In this situation, the employee can use the entire payment for their treatment and well-being. This is because, in this scenario, the employee has already paid taxes on the income used to fund the premiums, making the sick pay considered non-taxable.

It’s crucial to understand that the tax treatment of sick pay is intricately linked to its association with either a short-term or long-term disability plan. Short-term disability plans, covering brief periods of incapacity, may have different tax implications compared to long-term plans that cater to more extended periods. Additionally, the source of premium payments, whether covered by the employer or the employee, plays a pivotal role in determining tax outcomes.

For instance, if an employer contributes to the premiums for a short-term disability plan, any subsequent sick pay received may be taxable. On the other hand, if an employee funds the premiums for a long-term disability plan with after-tax dollars, the resulting sick pay is likely to be non-taxable. Grasping these distinctions ensures informed decision-making regarding financial planning and tax obligations, promoting a more comprehensive understanding of the diverse scenarios that can impact the taxable or non-taxable nature of sick pay.


Whether third-party sick pay is taxable or non-taxable depends on several factors, primarily how the premiums for the sick pay were funded. Understanding these nuances is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure accurate tax compliance and reporting. It’s advisable to consult with a tax professional or accountant to navigate the intricacies of third-party sick pay taxation, deductible payroll taxes and ensure compliance with current tax regulations.

In addressing this topic, simplicity and clarity are key. Knowing the tax implications of third-party sick pay can empower individuals to make informed decisions and fulfill their tax obligations accurately. Keep in mind that tax laws can change, staying informed with payroll taxes laws and seeking professional advice is always a prudent approach for both employers and employees alike.

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