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What are the FICA Taxes?

Written by Nickel - 35 Comments

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Have you ever wondered about those pesky FICA taxes that show up every paycheck? These are federal payroll taxes collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). These taxes are used to support Social Security and Medicare. My employer denotes them as FICA-OASDI (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) and FICA-HI (Hospital Insurance), respectively.

Calculating Your FICA Taxes

The Social Security portion of the FICA tax is a flat 6.2% of gross compensation for wage earners, whereas the Medicare portion of the tax is 1.45%. These taxes are levied on both the employee and employer so, for every dollar taken from your paycheck, your employer is also paying a dollar. Of course, if you’re self-employed, you are both employer and employee. As such, these tax rates are effectively doubled to 12.4% and 2.9% for Social Security and Medicare, respectively.

The good news here is that, if you make enough money, the Social Security tax goes away. In 2006, the Social Security threshold was $94,200. In 2007 it was $97,500, and in 2008 it was $102,000. Thus, every dollar over $102k that you earned in 2008 is free of the 6.2% (or 12.4%) FICA-OASDI tax, though it’s still subject to the 1.45% (or 2.9%) FICA-HI tax.

While your employer should be aware of this cutoff and automatically stop withholding FICA-OASDI when you pass the threshold, you should keep an eye on them just to be sure. Also, if you work multiple jobs, or change jobs mid-year, you have to be especially careful, as each employer has no idea what’s going one elsewhere. If you pass the threshold in aggregate, they’ll withhold too much. The good news is that you can claim the overage back when you file your income taxes.

FICA Exemptions

While nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes, it’s actually possible to get out of paying FICA taxes, but only under very specific circumstances. As it turns out, students that are enrolled half-time (or more) at a university and who are also working part-time for that university are exempt from FICA payroll taxes. Aside from that, you’re on the hook for these taxes.

Published on January 6th, 2009 - 35 Comments
Filed under: Taxes

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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Very thorough and informative explanation, especially pointing out the student/university employment relationship-I don’t think it is something that is widely known. One thing to add: cafeteria/Sec 125 plans are one way of reducing the tax liability since contributions to these plans are made pre-tax.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 9:24 am
  2. Another exception to FICA is working for the government. Not all government workers mind you, but some. I work for the state of Illinois, and I pay 8% of my wage into a retirement plan set up for state workers. This is not optional, but is in lieu of FICA and is a better deal (IMO).

    Regards,
    Erich

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 9:56 am
  3. Thanks for the explanation, I was attending and working at a university and saw that it was charged on one paycheck for some reason, but then never again so I did not worry about it. I just knew that generally I never paid all of it and my check was a little better each week.

    I actually thought that it was all university employees, not just ones that are students also, now I won’t sound like an idiot when talking to someone else about this.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 11:51 am
  4. philip: If you work over the summer and don’t take classes, you’re not exempt during that time period. Maybe your one aberrant check happened during a period when you weren’t taking classes?

    Comment by Nickel — Jan 6th 2009 @ 12:19 pm
  5. I believe I paid FICA when in the military. That’s a gov’t job.

    I never noticed the designation OASDIA until I saw it on my wife’s pay stub (she’s a teacher).

    Wouldn’t it be great to check a box that said “no thanks” and get to keep that money to invest on your own?

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 12:51 pm
  6. I always just look at it every pay check and see how much money is being taken out. Never had a real understanding behind it. Thanks for clarifying that in a simple manner for me and everyone.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 3:12 pm
  7. ‘These taxes are levied on both the employee and employer so, for every dollar taken from your paycheck, your employer is also paying a dollar. ‘

    :::

    No, the employee pays ALL that payroll tax (15.3%).

    Employer pays none of it, but merely with-holds that 15.3% from the workers paycheck… and hands it directly to the government taxman.

    An employer hiring an employee always calculates how much that new employee is gonna cost in total compensation. If the taxman demands 7.65% from the employer for each employee, the employer simply reduces the direct pay offered to the employee in hiring & promotions … by 7.65%. The worker never sees that money/tax — and is deceived in believing his employer is generously paying half his FICA/Medicare taxes.

    It’s pure FlimFlam.

    This issue comes up here periodically… thought we brought the truth to light previously ??

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 4:08 pm
  8. doug: Tomato, tomahto. It’s part of your total compensation, the same as the employer contribution to things like health benefits. In fact, you could further argue that the employee is paying their own share of the electric bill, rent, etc., since those sorts expenses arguably keep the employer from paying the employee a higher salary. If it makes you feel better to say it your way then, by all means, do so. The point here is that there’s an “invisible” contribution that doesn’t come out of your stated salary (or wages, as the case may be), but… If you’re self-employed, then you need to explicitly account for that additional amount out of the money that you’re taking in.

    Comment by Nickel — Jan 6th 2009 @ 4:40 pm
  9. Thanks for this information. My son just happens to be a full-time college student working at his college. I’ve passed the tip on to him.

    Unfortunately, as a self-employed person, I am aware of how much I pay, but I’m glad he’s getting a break!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 7:17 pm
  10. Also remember that even though you may be self-employed, the same limits apply to you as well.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 6th 2009 @ 9:29 pm
  11. You can also avoid that by using your health spending acccount and/or dependant care. So on top of your tax rate, you’re saving an additional 7.65% off your taxes. Please use your spending account if you have it, especially the dependant care if you haev kids in day care!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 8th 2009 @ 10:58 am
  12. What if you decide to take reduced benefits at 62 but continue to work… do you still pay into FICA-OASDI? It would seem nuts since you would get a rebate on those payments when you do you taxes!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jun 4th 2009 @ 4:11 pm
  13. I have a question about FICA and FICA-OASDI taxes. I am a graduate student, but working as an intern for a county (government). I am wondering if I am excempted for the above two tax deds. They always show up in my paycheck ?

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 31st 2009 @ 11:43 am
  14. My son attended a state college in MA. and also worked for the same college for two semesters, they did not take out these taxes and when I did his taxes I was unaware of this exemption and figured he owed taxes because they did not take them out, can he file an amendment to get his money back????

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 15th 2009 @ 8:59 pm
  15. Still the rich get richer while the poor get poorer! No way out. We live in America where the Gov. rules.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 14th 2010 @ 12:42 pm
  16. The article leaves out another way to get out of FICA entirely. If you can live entirely on Capital Gains and Dividends from buying and selling just about any asset, you don’t have to pay FICA at all. Only people that work JOBS pay FICA. The real rich (idle rich) don’t work JOBS and don’t pay in. Instead they collect assets, collect lease money, and buy and sell assets and don’t pay a dime.

    Comment by Anonymous — Feb 3rd 2010 @ 10:31 am
  17. You are also exempt from this if you are Amish. Seriously. It is against that religion to pay into any insurance program because it is an attempt to deny God’s will.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 18th 2010 @ 1:32 pm
  18. My wife works in Afghanistan for civilian contractor. The first 91,400.00 is exempt of fed. income tax. Does that also include FICA-OASDI & FICA-HI tax?

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2010 @ 10:34 am
  19. FICA is not Social Security, its just another income
    Tax – ponzi scheme – Read Income Tax: Shattering the myths by Dave Champion

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 7th 2011 @ 9:38 am
  20. Furthermore none of the income tax BS ever applied to
    the vast majority of people living and working in
    the 50 states – 99% plus – read the tax code you wont
    find any part that makes you liable- Non resident aliens and their withholding agents are liable but not
    you–read the tax code and then read Income Tax: Shattering the myths by Dave Champion.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 7th 2011 @ 9:56 am
  21. While I’m sure the Dave Champion book is entertaining anger fodder, I’d recommend reading this before deciding not to “volunteer” to pay your taxes:
    http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/article/0,,id=159932,00.html#_Toc224375578

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 31st 2011 @ 1:34 pm
  22. Good luck in finding anything in the Federal Tax code
    that would make a guy selling hot dogs in Boston Mass liable – You become liable when you open a bank account
    with a Federal tax ID – fill out forms etc…
    The government can only tax a privilaged activity like
    selling tobacco or beer-(thats in the constitution)
    Congress was never granted the power to tax the wages
    and earnings of state citizens.
    Screw the Irs, The UN, the Federal Reserve and the Queen of England.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 31st 2011 @ 6:50 pm
  23. Every single one of these oafs that rant against the government are the first to stand in line demanding they get the disability benefit owed to them — even if they made minimum wage their whole life and, between medicare and disability, will receive 100x more than they paid.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 25th 2011 @ 3:31 am
  24. since I’m retired [72] and still doing part time work should I be still paying fica and medicare since it doesnt add to my benefits? or should it be returned with my income tax?

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 21st 2012 @ 7:18 pm
  25. I am a single mother of two children, i do get a little help with my rent through gov. But I am denied of any futher help for where im employed I make to much and going by my gross income! With all taxes including this FICA I get well over $100 taken from me weekly. I am barely making it fica takes 22 dollars a week I could really use that to pay bills feed my children and or get them finer things but cant…my point is whats im trying to get across is single mothers that want to work for a living should also get a break from all this tax including fica taking from us. And one more things I tried to get help with food from signing up 45 to and hour wait then my 30 minute interview I was denied and was told my son he was getting cut off medicaid!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 25th 2012 @ 4:22 pm
  26. I love that statement. Why can’t single mothers be exempt well that’s probly because they get assistance with more than they should. I think its absurd that single fathers like myself fight for any type of help with our kids because were the wrong sex. I recive no help or assistance of any kind it requires me to work multipule jobs just to make sure my daughter is taken care of, so I’m sorry if i have no support to a sex that gets everything on a silver platter and feels its there right ill agree with helping single parents. But just single mothers that’s not equality wich there is no more.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 4th 2012 @ 10:47 pm
  27. The problem here is blaming others who read their pay stubs every week. The real boogeymen are the crap-shoot capitalists on wall-street who don’t clock in and out everyday for a wage or salary. The devils who lobby to have their capital gains taxed at nothing next to an honest days work. The fact that someone privileged enough to make more than $105k doesn’t chip in in times of economic uncertainty. Dont blame the single mother, disabled, retired…blame the man upstairs who doesn’t pay his fair share… Who knows when you might need it, too.
    EAT THE RICH!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 27th 2012 @ 8:46 pm
  28. I have a good question, why would this not be taken out of a truck driver paycheck? I am not an owner-operator (therefor independent) but am just a company driver. I worked in a payroll dept at one previous job, so when I noticed this not being taken out, I wondered, but have yet to call and ask.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 2nd 2012 @ 7:59 pm
  29. It this tax taken out every year?? My husband reached his amount so the last two checks did not have any amount taken out so does it start over at the beginning of next year?

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 9th 2012 @ 9:15 pm
  30. I am answering my own question: Yes you have to pay this every year even though it will not be their for me when I need it when I am old enough!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 10th 2012 @ 1:21 pm
  31. I retired from teaching this year, but was hired back on a contract basis for the new term.
    There are no taxes or OASDI being withheld from my paycheck – (I receive the gross pay).
    I know that I have to pay state and federal income taxes, but I am confused as to whether I have to pay OASDI, since I am retired; and if I do, what percentage? And also, what would be the payment schedule and where to send it?

    Thanks

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 14th 2012 @ 11:24 am
  32. Is there any way I can see any of the money I put in on FICA OASDI?

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 1st 2014 @ 5:08 am
  33. My neighbor is a clerk at the office of a small New England. The Town (read that as taxpayers) pays 100% of the premium for health insurance. If the employee does not need health insurance because they are covered by a spouse, they get the amount of the premium (currently $12,000)deposited to a 457 account (a government 401k/IRA program). The Town, however, requires the employee to pay 100% of the FICA…both the Town and employee portion. Is this legal?

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 27th 2015 @ 1:05 pm
  34. How do u check and see how much oasdi and medical taxes from all my jobs that I’ve had

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 2nd 2015 @ 10:34 am
  35. My neighbor, employed by a small Town, says that the Town he works for makes him pay 100% of the FICA. Is that legal?

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 10th 2015 @ 9:17 am

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