Why Didn't My Take-Home Pay Increase With My Raise?

Here’s why your paycheck may not reflect your raise

Person reading papers in front of a computer

MoMo Productions / Getty Images

When you get a raise or promotion, you’re generally given an increase in your annual salary or an increase in your hourly wage. Either way, the number may sound great on paper. On the way home, you might create an elaborate plan for what you’re going to do with the extra funds, or what you want to splurge on with your new, bigger paycheck. 

But when that first new paycheck rolls around, you might be disappointed. The large amount you were expecting is nowhere to be seen; rather, the increase in take-home pay is much smaller than you thought it would be. Below, we explain how to understand your paycheck, work out where your earnings are going, and how you can improve your take-home pay.

Key Takeaways

  • If you’ve recently received a raise or promotion, you may be disappointed that your increased salary or rate is not fully reflected in your take-home pay. There can be a variety of reasons for this, but the most common are taxes, retirement contributions, and health care costs.
  • If you think your pay is wrong, carefully check your paycheck to make sure it is correct.
  • If you still can’t work out why your raise is lower than it should be, contact your payroll or HR department.

Where Did Your Raise Go?

To understand how a raise in your gross salary or hourly rate will affect the money you actually take home, you need to understand how taxes and other deductions are calculated.

Let’s start with the difference between the terms “gross” and “take-home” earnings. Your gross pay is the amount of money your employer has actually paid. Various deductions (including taxes) then are taken out of this amount, and the details are recorded on your paycheck. After all the deductions have been taken, the amount left is your take-home pay.

The majority of taxes and other deductions are calculated as a percentage of your gross pay. For example, the 2022 tax rate for Medicare tax is 1.45% for the employee—so if you earn $1,000, you’ll pay $14.50 in Medicare tax. Because of this, the amount of money you pay in tax increases with your increased pay.

That said, almost all of your raise can be swallowed up by taxes and other deductions. Let’s look at these deductions in more detail.


It’s likely that the biggest single deduction from your paycheck is taxes—both federal and state—and you may find that almost all of your raise is taken back via these taxes.

It can be very complicated to work out how much income tax you should be paying, even for tax experts, and getting a raise can have particularly confusing tax implications. For example, many people fear that receiving a raise will catapult them into a higher tax bracket, and they'll wind up worse off than they were before.

This, however, is a somewhat misguided notion about how the progressive federal income tax system works in the U.S. While those who receive salary increases are indeed taxed at higher rates, only the added income is vulnerable to the increased rates. In other words, you’ll pay your new marginal tax rate on the extra money you’re earning, not your whole paycheck.

On the other hand, it’s likely your marginal tax rate—the amount you pay on your raise—is much higher than your effective tax rate. This means, for example, that you might pay just 20% of your overall income in tax, but that your raise is taxed at more than 30%.


You can explore options to reduce your taxable income, such as increasing your retirement contributions or opening a flexible spending account (FSA) during open enrollment. This could lower the amount you pay in taxes, since both are deducted from your paycheck before taxes.


Contributions to your retirement account might also reduce the proportion of your raise you get to take home. This is because just as with taxes, your retirement contributions may well be calculated as a percentage of your gross pay. This means that as your pay increases, your retirement contributions will also increase. For example, let’s say you contribute 10% per year to your 401(k). If your salary increases from $80,000 to $90,000, your contribution will increase from $8,000 per year to $9,000 per year. This will impact your paychecks.

If you have an employer-sponsored retirement account such as a 401(k), this may be a blessing in disguise. Contributions to your retirement account are tax-free, as long as you stay below the annual limit. It may be frustrating to not see the raise in your paycheck, but you will be glad your contribution also went up when it’s time to retire later in life.

Experts say you should contribute at least the percentage that your employer matches to your 401(k), and max out potential contributions to an IRA, but you could also contribute more once you get a raise. This is the ideal time to increase your retirement contributions because you will likely not even miss the money. Just keep in mind the contribution limits for both 401(k)s and IRAs.

Health Care

Health care costs are another factor that can take a chunk out of your raise. In part, this is because many health care related taxes and deductions are also calculated as a percentage of your gross pay. As mentioned earlier, the Medicare tax rate for employees is 1.45%.

Health care costs can be more complex than this, though, because many federal and state health care programs are designed to lower the cost of health care for people on lower incomes. The cost of your health insurance, for example, might depend on you earning below a defined maximum salary. Similarly, getting a raise might reduce or even eliminate your access to certain health care benefits and premium tax credits.

Other Benefits

In addition to the above factors, there may be other deductions coming out of your paycheck. These can include stock purchase plans, commuter programs, or life insurance. If the cost of these is calculated as a percentage of your gross income, you’ll also see your contributions rise in line with your raise.

Check Your Pay Stub

If you think that your post-raise take-home pay is incorrect, you can check your pay stub—it should outline all of the taxes and deductions that apply to your situation.

First, find a pre-raise pay stub, ideally the last one before you got your raise.


Your company may have a system where you can find all of your pay stubs online.

Then, find your first post-raise pay stub where you earned your new salary for the entire pay period.

After that, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you got the raise you were supposed to get: Take your gross pay from your current paycheck and multiply it by the number of paychecks you get each year. The result should be your new annual salary. If it isn’t, double-check with your human resources or payroll department to make sure your raise was properly applied.
  2. Compare each line item on your pre-raise pay stub to your post-raise pay stub: To do this, make a list that starts with gross pay and ends with net pay. For example, if your gross pay was $2,000 and now it’s $2,500, and Medicare tax is 1.45%, you’ll pay $36.25 per paycheck now compared to $29 with your old salary.
  3. Compare the net pay amounts pre-raise and post-raise: If you add up all of the changes (except for the change in your gross pay), you should be able to see the difference between your pre-raise and post-raise pay.

If you don’t think you were given the raise you were supposed to get, first contact your HR or payroll department. Some companies use strange abbreviations for deductions, or simply produce confusing pay stubs. They’ll be able to help you understand your paycheck.

If you did receive the raise you were expecting, and are not happy with the take-home pay, consider changing your contributions to retirement or other optional programs. You can also update your withholding on your W-4.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you calculate your new paycheck after a raise?

If your raise is a flat dollar amount, you can calculate your new base salary by adding that amount to your prior salary. If it’s a percentage, multiply it by your prior salary, then add it to the prior salary. Once you know your new salary, divide it by the time period for which you earn it. If it’s an annual salary, divide it by 52 weeks to determine your gross weekly pay (this is what you’ll earn before taxes and deductions).

Why do you pay more in taxes after a raise?

When you get a raise, the additional money triggers a higher tax bill because of the marginal tax rates. For example, if you previously earned an annual salary of $41,000 and your raise increased your salary to $50,000, you’ll now have to pay more in taxes because the top end of the new salary falls into a different tax bracket than your original salary (22% vs. 24%).

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. IRS. “Topic No. 751 Social Security and Medicare Withholding Rates.”

  2. Congressional Research Service. “How Do Marginal Income Tax Rates Work in 2021?

  3. IRS. “IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022.”

  4. IRS. “Retirement Topics - IRA Contribution Limits.”

  5. Medicare.gov. “Medicare Savings Programs.”

  6. HealthCare.gov. “Income Levels & Savings.”

  7. IRS. “Tax Withholding for Individuals.”

Related Articles