The Payroll department is responsible for processing salary, wage, fellowship and special payments for all Virginia Tech employees. Payroll department responsibilities include, but are not limited to, all payroll related tax deposits and related reporting, administration of the timekeeping system, W2 processing & filing, administration of unemployment reporting and claims processing, payroll retroactive funding changes, payments to third party benefit providers, review of all payments to foreign national employees and vendors, 1042s reporting, and collecting and disbursing income withholding orders, garnishments, and liens. 

Unemployment Compensation Overview

If an employee becomes unemployed through no fault of his or her own, they may qualify for unemployment compensation. This procedure explains how departments should handle unemployment claims received, and gives a brief overview for employees and departments of how the process is handled by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).

All determinations of eligibility are made by the Virginia Employment Commission, not Virginia Tech.  Even though employees are eligible to file a claim, this does not guarantee they will receive benefits. 

  •  All employees of the University other than students are covered under State unemployment regulations. 
  •  Students employed on a nonstudent basis are treated like any other non-student employee, and are entitled to file unemployment claims. 
  •  Any department receiving a VEC Employer's Report of Separation and Wage Information form, or other communication from the VEC, should immediately email the form to the Payroll Department in the Controller's Office to  
  •  Upon receiving a form/claim notice/request for separation information from the VEC or from the department, the Payroll department will request separation information from the department and gather information from HR if a salary employee and we will then complete the form(s), and submit the completed form(s) to the VEC. 
  •  Any further communication received will be shared with the department and we will coordinate any requests for fact finding interviews between the VEC and the employing department.     If we do not participate in scheduled fact finding interviews we could receive a fine.  Payroll will request a contact from the department who will participate in the call. 
  • Employees can file an appeal from determination notices where they have been determined to be ineligible or denied for benefits. This appeal notice with will be shared with the department once received from the VEC.   There are two levels of appeal for their claim. 
  • As the employer, Virginia Tech also has appeal rights on determinations. If you choose to do so, follow the instructions for appeal included on the determination. The appeal must be made by the deadline listed. If an appeal hearing is scheduled and the Payroll office is notified, the information will be forwarded to the department. The department must follow the instructions on the appeal packet to participate. Once a determination from the appeal is received, this will be forwarded to the department.
  • Virginia Tech is a reimbursable employer, which means we are billed quarterly for our total unemployment payments made to claimants. The Payroll Department receives the bill and submits a PO through Hokie Mart to be paid, along with a notice of the breakdown of charges for review. 
  • Fraudulent claims have become more commonplace over the last couple of years; if a claim is received that is believed to be fraudulent, the Payroll Department will reach out to the employee to verify whether the employee has filed for benefits and if they have not what steps to take next.  The employee should follow the instructions in the email.  The department will be copied. Virginia Tech will also file a report of fraud with the VEC.   If you have an employee that has received a notice from the VEC that you have filed for unemployment and they have not made a claim for unemployment benefits, please notify us at

**If you are filing a claim for unemployment benefits and have been separated from your most recent job because your employer is reducing staff or has closed you should select  Lack of Work/Laid Off/ Reduction in Force as your reason for separation from this company/institution.** 

• IF TOTALLY UNEMPLOYED, ON A TEMPORARY LAYOFF, OR IF WORKING REDUCED HOURS:  The first week you are unemployed or reduced hours, file the initial claim for benefits.   

• Use this link to the Claimant Self Service System where you can initiate a claim. 

• The earliest a weekly claim (the first full week you are unemployed) can be filed is on Sunday of the week being claimed.  i.e. claimant wishes to file for benefit week ending 06/27/2020, they need to file on Sunday 06/28/2020 at the earliest.

• Student employees (UG or GR) are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits in normal circumstances and we do not report their earnings for unemployment benefits. 

• Once a claimant/employee files with the VEC, the VEC will check their earnings that were reported each quarter that they were employed, and they will send a request for separation information to their last 30 day or other employers. 

• Benefits are based on the claimants wages earned in their base period. The ‘base period” is comprised of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding a claim’s effective date.

• A claimant’s determination for eligibility is also based on their separation details from the last 30 day employer (which in some cases is not VT). 

• For an employee/claimant to qualify for benefits, an individual must have earned at least a total of $3,000 in two quarters in the base period (see above).** 

• The Weekly Benefit Amount is determined by the two quarters with the highest earnings during the base period (which could include earnings from another/other employer).  Total wages reported during the base period determine the maximum benefit amount.  Once the claim is established and reflects all earnings during their base period, the amount they qualify for remains the same for one year and is available until the maximum benefit amount or the benefit year is exhausted, whichever comes first.  Currently the maximum weekly benefit amount is $378** and the minimum is $60**.  Individuals must have earned at least $18,900.01** in two quarters during the base period to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount.  Benefit duration varies from 12 to 26 weeks**, also depending on wages earned in the base period.   Also, wages earned in other states, in their base period, can be used to establish a claim.    

• For information pertaining to unemployment benefits and the 2020 CARES act, the PUA program, or the 2021 American Rescue Plan, please contact the VEC or visit the U.S. Department of Treasury Website. 

• If you filed a claim in 2020 and have since received a notice of re-payment or a determination notice of denied benefits, questions should be directed to the VEC.  Although we reported the reason for separation as Lack of Work due to COVID19 affecting operations on campus and not due to a break in semesters, the determination by the VEC is made according to this state code.  You can file an appeal from this determination. 

• If you have received a notice from the VEC that you have filed for unemployment and you have not made a claim for unemployment benefits, please notify us at and also report the fraud using the VEC Reporting Unemployment Insurance Fraud page. The VT payroll department will also file a report of a fraudulent claim but it would be in your best interest to monitor your credit to ensure you do not see any other fraudulent activity.

• For questions about tax reporting on unemployment benefits, please contact the VEC Customer Contact Center at 1-866-832-2363.

Basic Steps to Qualify for State Unemployment Benefits per the VEC

• Claimants must file for unemployment benefits online or with the call center

• Claimants must meet the monetary qualification requirement

• Claimants must meet the separation qualification requirement

• Claimants must meet the weekly eligibility requirement

**Visit the VEC website for the most recent updates on filing, eligibility, determinations, the maximum weekly benefit periods and other questions related to the unemployment process. 

Frequently asked questions of unemployment benefit charges– Things to know when you receive a requisition from the Payroll office to pay unemployment benefits.

The claimant has filed and has been declared eligible for unemployment benefits based on their separation from another 30 day employer. If his/her employment and wages with Virginia Tech fall within the base Period wages, we will receive a bill for our portion of those benefits.

The Base Period wages establish monetary eligibility for Unemployment Compensation. The “Regular Base Period” comprises the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding a claim’s effective date.    i .e. Claimant filed and is eligible for benefits effective 2/28/12 so the based period for that claim is any eligible (non-student) employment  during October 2010 through September 2011. 

The percentage of the claim Virginia Tech will be responsible for is based on how many months the claimant was employed with Virginia Tech during the base period. If Virginia Tech is the only 30 day employer within the 12 month base period, Virginia Tech will pay 100% of the benefits.  If the claimant was only employed with Virginia Tech during six of the twelve months, then we will be liable for 50% of the total benefit amount.  

A claimant must have worked for at least 30 days with the employer or 240 hours. 

Currently the claimant can file for an extension of benefits.

Currently (as of 4/10/13, per the VEC website) the maximum weekly benefit amount is $378 and the minimum is $54. Individuals must have earned at least $18,900.01 in two quarters during the base period to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount. Benefit duration varies from 12 to 26 weeks, also depending on wages earned in the base period.

No. We are a reimbursable employer.  We are responsible to pay 100% of the bill received from the Virginia Employment Commission.    If you question a charge, you may contact our office at and the charge will be researched.  If found that the charge is not legitimate the VEC will be contacted and if it is found that we are not responsible for the charge the VEC will issue a credit, once the money has been reimbursed to the VEC from the claimant. 

When you receive the quarterly request to approve charges via Hokie Mart for Unemployment benefits, please approve within the requested timeframe.  As mentioned above, if you dispute a charge, please let our office know and the dispute will be researched. 

Eligibility is determined by the Virginia Employment Commission.  We have no way of knowing if a claimant will be eligible or not eligible for benefits based on their reason for separation.

It is very important that all requests for information on claims that the payroll office has received are returned in a timely manner, especially if there is a telephonic fact finding interview scheduled.   

Generally speaking, the information provided from you and then returned to the VEC from the payroll office via the forms submitted assist the VEC deputy in determining eligibility.     This will in turn hopefully prevent Virginia Tech from paying benefits for someone who should not be eligible based on the regulations regarding their separation. 

Federal and State Withholdings – Non-US Tax Residents

Foreign National Employees are considered non-residents for tax purposes unless they meet either the green card test or the substantial presence test for the calendar year January 1-December 31. Employees can have both statuses in the same year depending on when they arrive in or exit from the U.S. 

Foreign Nationals in a non-resident tax status should contact the Payroll Office for Non-Resident Alien (NRA) specific tax forms. NRAs may be eligible to claim tax treaty benefits. The Payroll Office will assist employees in determining tax residency status and tax treaty eligibility.  Please note, Foreign National employees in a non-resident tax status cannot change their withholding that is deemed by the IRS regardless of circumstances.  


Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)

Student FICA Tax Exemption

Virginia Tech follows the safe harbor outlined in Revenue Procedure 2005-11 which states that an individual who is a half-time undergraduate student, a half-time graduate or a professional student qualifies for the student FICA exception with respect to services performed for an institution of higher education.  All students employed by and enrolled at VT and who meet these safe harbor guidelines will be treated as exempt from FICA taxes, while those student employees who do not meet the guidelines will be subject to FICA taxes on their wages. 

Any student worker that has an active Faculty or Staff assignment is not eligible for the FICA exemption on any assignment, no exceptions.

Students who work during breaks and are not enrolled in additional classes will have Social Security and Medicare withheld from their pay over the break.


FICA Status of Foreign Nationals 

Both the Internal Revenue Code (26 USC 3121 (b) (19)) and the Social Security Act (42 USC 410 (a) (19)) allow an exemption from Social Security/Medicare taxes to alien students, scholars, teachers, researchers, trainees, physicians, and other non-immigrants who have temporarily entered the country on F-1, J-1, M-1, Q-1, or Q-2 visas and who are classed as nonresident aliens under the residency rule.

This means that foreign students in F-1, J-1, or M-1 non-immigrant status who have been in the U.S. less than 5 calendar years are considered Non-Resident Aliens (NRA) and are exempt from FICA taxes.

Foreign students who have been in the U.S. longer than  5 calendar years are deemed Resident Aliens and are liable for FICA taxes unless qualifying for the student FICA exemption under IRC section 3121 (b) (10) previously discussed in this policy.

It is the responsibility of the hiring department and/or employee to notify the Payroll Office if they are in the US on a qualifying Visa in order to ensure they receive the proper tax treatment.


Over withheld Income Taxes

As an employer, VT is required to withhold income taxes from an employee’s pay according to the employee’s W-4 and VA-4 forms that are on record at the time of payment. It is the employee’s responsibility to complete these tax forms and to do so correctly. If an employee fails to complete the forms, and if income taxes are over withheld as a result, the Payroll Department will not refund any of the taxes withheld. If eligible, the employee can obtain a refund of any over withheld income taxes when filing a personal income tax return for that year.


Changing Tax Information

If an employee wants to change their current tax withholding rate, a new W-4 and/or VA-4 Form must be completed in Employee Self-Service (ESS). Changes may be made at any time throughout the year. A W-4 or VA-4 form remains in effect until the employee submits a new form. When an employee submits a W-4 or VA-4 form that replaces an existing form, the Payroll Department must implement the withholding change no later than 30 days from the date the form is received. The withholding change cannot be implemented for a payroll period that ends prior to receipt of the new form.


Exemption from Withholding

Employees can claim exempt from income tax withholding, if they meet IRS guidelines, or State  guidelines. Information on claiming exemption from withholding can be found on the requisite tax forms. By claiming exempt status, no federal and/or state taxes will be withheld.


Mandatory Renewal of Exemption from Withholding

The exempt status expires at the end of the every calendar year. Each calendar year, employees must complete new tax forms to claim exempt status for both the Federal and State.

If an employee’s exempt status is not renewed annually, VT must begin withholding income taxes during the next pay period at the last applicable withholding status or the default maximum withholding amount, single with zero exemptions. No refunds will be given by the Payroll Department due to an employee’s failure to update tax documents timely.

If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.   


If you have a PSLF form to be completed, please submit it to the HR Service Center. 

For more information or if you have questions related to Payroll Office visit our Contact Information.