SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Employers Can File Unemployment Tax Online
By Marie L. Monyak


February 25, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Bruce L. Garrison, a field tax auditor from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division, was the speaker at this week's Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Garrison was present to discuss on-line filing, rates, options and the background of the Unemployment Tax Program.

jpg Tax audiot Bruce Garrison

Bruce L. Garrison, a field tax auditor from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

"We have three tax offices in the State, in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau with two smaller offices in Kenai and Wasilla. We also run the UI call center from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. We have a job service that provides job training and we even have a job fair coming up, here in Ketchikan, on March 10th," Garrison said.

He continued, "I work out of the Juneau field tax office where we have three auditors and I come to Ketchikan a couple times a year. I'm always available to help with any questions, you can call for any reason."

Garrison related to the audience that unemployment insurance came about in 1933 because of the Great Depression and two years later in 1935, the Social Security Act was passed.

He further explained, "Unemployment Insurance is a trust fund based on an insurance plan. We keep a trust fund large enough to pay one year's unemployment, as the fund shrinks, rates go up and as the fund increases, rates go down. We have to set premiums high enough to cover the trust fund."

"What happens," Garrison said, "is that you [the employer] file your quarterly taxes to SUTA (State Unemployment Tax Act), you pay anywhere from 1 to 3% that goes into a fund to pay unemployment."

Garrison presented everyone in the audience with a handout that listed some interesting facts and figures regarding unemployment insurance.

  • Total Alaskan labor workforce was 335,426.
  • $193.61 was the average weekly amount paid out to claimants.
  • The total number of people receiving a UI payment for at least one week is 53,607.
  • The average duration of UI for a claimant is 14.56 weeks.

"In Alaska, employees pay SUTA also, and a portion pays for training. Most states don't tax the employee," Garrison said "We are only one of three states where the employee pays any portion of unemployment."

Garrison's next topic was the on-line filing system designed for employers to utilize in the filing of their quarterly taxes. "We are really trying to encourage employers to file on-line. "I've spent the last four years working in a dark room with no windows, building a tax system and one of the outcomes of that is an on-line filing system that I created," Garrison stated "There are roughly 17,000 employers and most of those have 10 employees or less." Garrison related statistics to the group, "Every quarter we get about 17,000 reports filed, we do 70,000 contribution reports a year and it's easier on-line and more accurate. We collected about $156 million from employers in the State of Alaska last year."

"The reason for filing on-line is that we do the math for the tax and wage base for you, eliminating errors. We gave back a million dollars last year to employers that overpaid," Garrison said. The web link for the State of Alaska on-line filing was in the handout that Garrison circulated earlier. He proudly stated that there is an on-line demo explaining how to file on-line.

"I've been auditing Ketchikan for 17 years," Garrison said. "When we audit, we audit a calendar year. We verify that you're reporting everyone correctly and it only takes about two to three hours. We did 350 to 400 audits last year out of 70,000 employers."

Garrison made it very clear that he is always available to assist employers with any questions and how important it is for employers to file every quarter. "If you don't file, we don't know who worked for you and we can't pay unemployment. The other thing is when it comes to rate season, you'll end up owing us money.

"If you hide from us, we have a lot of power..I hate to do that. We do blanket seizures, it's one of the last things we do," Garrison continued. "We will work with businesses. The labor and workforce goal is to have job ready employees available in the market for employers when they need them. We really do work with you."

Next week's guest speaker will be Karen Eakes from Patchworks, preceded by a brief "teaser" from First City Players' upcoming performance of CHAPS.


On the Web:

The on-line filing system and instructional demo can be found at


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.

Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]

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Stories In The News ©2006
Ketchikan, Alaska