By Deborah Banikowski
Seeing taxes taken out of your paycheck can be confusing when you get your first paycheck. But understanding how important your contribution is can help. Your taxes are helping millions of Americans — wounded warriors, the chronically ill and people with disabilities — as well as protecting you and your family for life. You can take pride in knowing you’re making an important impact with each paycheck.
By law, employers must withhold Social Security taxes from a worker’s paycheck. While often referred to as “Social Security taxes” on an employee’s pay statement, sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. In some cases, you will see “OASDI” which stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance.
The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection — for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And if you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well.
Because you may be a long way from retirement, you might have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. But keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors benefits now in the event the unexpected happens. Studies show that of today’s 20 year olds, about one in four will become disabled, and about one in eight will die before reaching retirement.
If you’d like to learn a little more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html.
If you have a friend who lost a parent when they were a child, they probably got Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. And Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more at www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/.
Do you prefer videos to reading? Check out the webinar, “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” The webinar explains what you need to know about Social Security. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/multimedia/webinars/social_security_101.html as well as on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hkLaBiavqQ.
Social Security is with you through life’s journey. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: Now that my husband and I have a large family, we’ve hired a housekeeper that comes once a week. Do we have to withhold Social Security taxes from our housekeeper’s earnings?
A: It depends on how much you’re paying the housekeeper. If you pay a housekeeper or other household worker $1,900 or more in cash wages throughout the year, you must deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes. This holds true for a cleaning person, cook, gardener, babysitter or anyone else who provides services for you. In addition, you must report these wages once a year. There are exceptions, for example, when you are hiring a company or independent contractor and paying them a fee for services instead of wages to an individual. You can learn more about household workers and tax deductions by reading our publication, “Household Workers,” at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
Q: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?
A: It depends on your date of birth. If you were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits on your spouse’s record as long as you are at your full retirement age. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise. If your spouse is also full retirement age and does not receive benefits, your spouse will have to apply for benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then you can receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record.
If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1954, and you wish to receive benefits, you must file for all benefits for which you are eligible. The Social Security Administration will determine the benefits you are eligible for and pay you accordingly. For individuals born on or after Jan. 2, 1954, there is no longer an option to select which benefit you would like to receive, even beyond your full retirement age. Widows are an exception, as they can choose to take their deceased spouse’s benefit without filing for their own. For more information, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.