What Is FICA?

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act governs Social Security and Medicare taxes, also referred to as FICA taxes.

What is FICA? FICA also stands for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is a United States law that makes it compulsory for a payroll tax to be charged on the paychecks of employees, along with contributions from employers, to fund the Social Security and Medicare programs. For self-employed persons, there is a similar law called the Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA).

What is FICA?

The law that made the FICA tax was passed in 1935. The funds are utilized to give a retirement savings and insurance program for working Americans. According to Ben Dobler, a licensed financial planner and originator of Stewardship Financial Counsel in Cincinnati, “FICA taxes are the primary funding source for Social Security benefits”. Notwithstanding Social Security, FICA taxes are piped into the Medicare program.

The FICA tax is intended to offer help for retirees who fit the bill for benefits. As you work and earn, and later cover your FICA taxes, you earn credits for Social Security benefits. To acquire a Social Security credit in 2021, you will need to earn essentially $1,470 and pay FICA taxes on that sum. Each year, you can get up to four credits. When you have acquired at least 40 credits, you will be qualified to get Social Security retirement benefits starting at the age of 62.

Paying FICA taxes additionally qualifies you for disability and life insurance benefits. In the event that you become disabled, you might be qualified for Social Security disability benefits if you meet certain measures and fulfill the minimum number of Social Security credits for your age. On the off chance that you pass away, Social Security survivor benefits may likewise be available for your qualified family members, for example, minor kids and a surviving spouse with small kids or is 60 years old or more.

FICA contributions are necessary, and rates are set every year, albeit not really changed each year —  for instance, they stay stable between 2020 and 2021. The amount of the FICA payment relies upon the income of the employee: the higher the income, the higher the FICA payment. Nonetheless, for Social Security contributions there is a maximum wage base, after which no contributions are imposed on extra income. The federal government retains Social Security taxes up to the yearly wage base, which was set at $137,700 in 2020 and $142,800 in 2021.

The Social Security tax rate is 6.2%, and the Medicare tax rate is 1.45% for 2020 and 2021. The employer pays a tax equivalent to the sums retained from employee earnings. While there is no maximum to the Medicare contribution, there is an extra 0.9% tax on wages more than $200,000 for people ($250,000 for wedded couples filing together) paid by employees. Altogether, the Additional Medicare Tax is 2.35% (1.45% in addition to 0.9%). Employers are not needed to coordinate with the extra Medicare levy.

Example of the FICA Calculations

A person earning $50,000 will pay $3,825 of FICA contributions in 2021, split as $3,100 of Social Security tax, and $725 of Medicare. The person’s employer would also pay the same amount. On the other hand, a single individual earning $250,000 will pay $12,929. This calculation is a little more complex. The person will pay 6.2% of the first $142,800 earned for Social Security ($8,854), then 1.45% of the first $200,000 earned for Medicare ($2,900) and finally 2.35% of the $50,000 in income more than $200,000 for Medicare ($1,175). In this last situation, the employer would pay only $12,479, as it is not responsible for the extra 0.9% tax for an income of more than $200,000. You can also calculate contributions with a calculator, or turn to online tools to do the work for you. However, keep in mind that these tools are not always guaranteed to be accurate.

What is FICA Med?

The Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) gives a system of Social Security and Medicare benefits financed through taxes on employers and employees. FICA taxes and benefits comprise of two sections: Social Security or Old Age Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), and Hospital Insurance for senior citizens and the disabled otherwise called Medicare (Med). The sums deducted are set Annually by the Social Security Administration (SSA). OASDI is as of now 6.2% of Taxable Gross and MED is 1.45% of Taxable Gross. Every year the SSA draws certain lines on the Taxable Gross amount to be taxed for OASDI. Extra data is available from the Social Security Administration.

For the Medicare part of FICA, both the employer and the employee pay 1.45 percent of the employee’s gross compensation, adding up to 2.9 percent. Medicare does not have a wage base like Social Security. For instance, in the event that an employee makes $2,000 per finance period, the business retains 1.45 percent in the interest of the employee, adding up to $29, and afterward pays an extra 1.45 percent as the employers’ share, adding up to $29. Accordingly, this employee will have a sum of $58 paid into the Medicare trust from his withholding and his employers’ matched payment.

Who pays FICA?

By law, FICA tax payments are divided between an employer and the employee. Each pays an equal portion of the taxes. A few employers might submit FICA taxes on a monthly basis rather than semi-weekly. Your total tax responsibility for the past four quarters will decide whether you file monthly or semi-weekly.

In the event that you have a regular job (where your employer gives you a W-2 toward the year’s end), your employer will automatically deduct a lot of the FICA taxes from your check. It will directly send that share to the IRS for you. Furthermore, your employer will directly pay its half of the tax to the IRS. Self-employed individuals (counting side-hustlers) should pay both the employer side and the employee side of the FICA tax.

At this moment, the FICA tax is set at 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare. Both the employee and the employer should pay the 6.2% Social Security tax and the 1.45% Medicare tax. Together the FICA tax is 15.3% of all wages that you procure.

The social security tax is paid only on the first $142,800 of your income. This implies that if you earn $150,000, you will not pay the 6.2% tax on the last $7,200 of your income. Your employer does not have to pay its half of the Social Security tax on the last $7,200 of your income either. That is an excellent tax break for high income earners.

However, the tax break does not extend to the 1.45% Medicare portion of the tax. Individuals with a high income have to pay an extra 0.9% Medicare tax if their income crosses certain thresholds. In 2021, the thresholds were:

  • $200,000 for a single filer (or head of household)
  • $125,000 for married filing separately
  • $250,000 for married filing jointly

Is all income subject to FICA taxes?

FICA taxes are paid on all earned income (up to the $142,800 wage base). Income from rent, specific sorts of royalties, capital gains and dividends are not dependent upon FICA taxes. In any case, you need to pay the tax on all earned income including your salary, tips, commissions and anything else that is considered wages. Contributing cash to your 401(k), and different deductions permit you to stay away from Federal income taxes, however you will in any case still need to pay payroll taxes (FICA) on that wage income.

There are a couple of approaches to try not to pay FICA on wage income. To begin with, you can contribute to an HSA. You can likewise add to a Flexible Savings Account (FSA) for childcare, clinical care or both. In the event that you pay legitimate costs of doing business for a business you own, you do not need to pay FICA taxes for those costs. The only other exemptions for this rule incorporate individuals who earn income in unique conditions.

A few students, particularly those working as Research Assistants or Teaching Assistants will not need to pay FICA on their payments. In the same manner, in the event that you work for a foreign employer, and you live outside of the United States, you do not need to pay FICA on that income. At long last, ministers and other clergymen who choose to do as such can choose not to pay payroll taxes on their ministry income.

How does FICA impact self-employed workers?

Self-employed laborers should pay both the employee and the employer part of the FICA tax. Subsequently, entrepreneurs and other self- employed people should pay the full 15.3 percent of FICA taxes. This is alluded to as the self-employment tax. For self-employment tax, the amounts due are determined the same way as FICA tax for employed workers, including the extra Medicare tax for high-income workers.

This sounds overwhelming right away. Be that as it may, self-employed people can deduct half of their self-employment tax on their tax returns. This assists with balancing the FICA tax weight on entrepreneurs and other independent workers.

The employers’ responsibility for FICA payroll taxes

In case you are an employer and you reported under $50,000 in taxes in the past four quarters, then, you might file your FICA taxes monthly. Hence, for monthly recording, your FICA taxes are because of the IRS by the 15th of the month following payroll. In the event that you reported above $50,000 in taxes in the past four quarters, then you should make semi-weekly installments to the IRS. For instance, on the off chance that you pay your employees on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, you should store your FICA taxes by the next Wednesday. Assuming you pay your employees on Monday, Tuesday, or the end of the week, you should record your taxes by the next Friday.

Also, you should file Form 941 quarterly. Your quarterly structure will report your payroll amounts, and your tax withholding sums for every three months. For the first quarter, your Form 941 is expected on April 30th. For the second quarter, your Form 941 is expected on July 31st. For the third quarter, your Form 941 is expected on October 31st. Lastly, for the final quarter, your Form 941 is expected on January 31st.

What if an employer withholds too much FICA tax from an employee’s pay?

If you over-withhold FICA from an employee’s pay, you need to take certain steps to correct the problem. Here is what you can do:

  • Refund the excess withholding to the employee. You can do this by subtracting a lesser from the employee’s paycheck in order to offset the excess withholding. This is usually a good option.
  • File a claim with the IRS to recoup the excess payment. This may be important if the employee is not on your payroll anymore and there are no other options to adjust future withholding.

You can use Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund, or Form 944-X, Adjusted Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund to make an adjustment in withholding or a claim for refund. If you do not do anything, the employee can claim the excess payment as a tax credit on an income tax return.

What is FICA withholding?

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is a federal law that expects employers to withhold three unique sorts of employment taxes from their employees’ checks. These taxes include 12.4 percent of compensation for Social Security taxes, 2.9 percent of pay in Medicare taxes, adding up to 15.3 percent of every check. Furthermore, employers should retain 0.9 percent of salary in a Medicare surtax for certain high-paid employees.

The following inquiry you might have is, who needs to pay FICA? Both employees and employers share in paying FICA taxes. Employers should withhold the employees’ share of these taxes and also pay the employer’s part. These taxes are directed first to the Internal Revenue Service and later given to the Social Security Administration for retirement and disability payments. Furthermore, the Medicare tax funds the federal government’s Medicare trust, for clinical costs for people 65 years old or more, or for the individuals who fit the bill for disability.

Is FICA tax the same as Social Security?

FICA and Social Security are not interchangeable, however they are closely associated. FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, alludes to the taxes that to a great extent fund Social Security retirement, disability, survivors, spousal and kids’ benefits. FICA taxes additionally give a piece of Medicare’s budget. FICA incorporates the consolidated taxes withheld for Social Security and Medicare. FICA taxes gathered by the government assist with subsidizing Social Security and Medicare programs.

Most workers directly have FICA taxes withheld from their checks. These deductions guarantee 6.2 percent of an employee’s gross pay for Social Security, up to an income limit commonly named “maximum taxable profit.” In 2021, the threshold is $142,800; any profit above that is not dependent upon Social Security taxes. The limit is adjusted every year depending on public changes in wage levels.

There is no equivalent profit maximum for Medicare; the 1.45 percent Medicare tax included for FICA is imposed on all of your work income. Employers match workers’ Social Security and Medicare contributions.

Remember that independently employed individuals pay into Social Security and Medicare through an alternate tax, called SECA (Self-Employment Contributions Act) and gathered by means of their yearly federal tax returns. They pay both the employer and employee shares. FICA and SECA taxes do not fund Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Those are paid out of general tax revenues (albeit the program is managed by the Social Security Administration).

FICA tax limits

The Social Security wage base is set at $142,800 in 2021. This implies that you will pay the Social Security tax on 6.2% on your earnings up to $142,800. Your income above that limit will not be taxed for Social Security.

On the other hand, Medicare tax does not have an earnings limit. Therefore, you will be required to pay the 1.45% tax on all your earnings. If you document taxes as a single person and your income is over $200,000 a year, you have to pay an extra Medicare tax. This tax is calculated at 0.9% of your wages above the $200,000 mark. If you are married and file jointly, that extra tax will apply to earnings above $250,000.

While the FICA tax is paid by most workers, it does not apply to all paychecks. Payments that are not subject to FICA taxes include:

  • Children under age 18 who are employed by their parents.
  • Qualified retirement plan contributions from employers.
  • Some church and qualified church-controlled organization wages.
  • Service performed by students employed by a school, college or university.
  • Some state and local government salaries.

State and local government employees in certain states who are entitled to a pension may only be required to pay the Medicare portion of FICA taxes. If you are a religious employee, your company could opt to claim an exemption from the FICA tax. Employees who are exempt from FICA will not have to pay Social Security or Medicare tax. However, they will not receive the benefits of the FICA system, either.

How to calculate the FICA tax rate?

FICA tax is an unchanging percentage applied to income that is subject to this tax. The following steps show how to calculate FICA taxes:

Step 1: Figure out the income to which FICA is applied

Normally, FICA is applicable to all taxable income (salary, wages, commissions, bonuses, tips), being inclusive of taxable fringe benefits (e.g., reimbursement for moving expenses, taxable prizes and awards) and salary reduction amounts for contributions to 401(k)s and similar plans.

Step 2: Assess whether the income exceeds the yearly Social Security wage base

If it is less than the wage base for a particular employee, then the applicable FICA tax rate is 7.65%. If it is more than the wage base, then you need to apply the Social Security tax rate to wages up to the wage base and the Medicare tax rate to all income.

Step 3: Double the employee FICA tax withholdings

Regardless of what the tax is on employee income, make sure to apply an equal amount to the employer obligation for the FICA tax deductions.

Does everyone pay FICA tax?

Pretty much everybody makes good on FICA taxes, including resident foreigners and numerous non-resident foreigners. It does not make any difference whether you work part-time or full-time. However, there are a few special cases. For instance, students are absolved from paying FICA taxes on the income they procure from an on-campus work. Exceptions additionally apply to some non-resident aliens, including foreign government employees and teachers. Certain religious groups (like the Amish) may apply for an exemption from FICA taxes by filing IRS Form 4029. However, by not paying these payroll taxes, they waive the option to get Medicare and Social Security benefits.

How do you pay and report FICA taxes?

As an employer, you need to deposit FICA and make reports about these taxes to the IRS.

  • Depositing FICA. You should deposit all of your payroll taxes electronically, including FICA. There is a small limitation on a few employers with total yearly payroll taxes — FICA and income tax withholding — of $1,000 or less for the whole year. These employers can pay by check. The deposit schedule is based on the size of your payroll.
  • Reporting FICA to the IRS. Normally you report FICA payments — withholding from your employees as well as your own — four times a year on Form 941. Again, small employees might be allowed by the IRS to file yearly on Form 944.
  • Reporting FICA to employees. The amount of FICA withheld from a paycheck should be reported to the employee on the pay stub. It should also be reported on the employee’s Form W-2.

What is the FICA common paymaster rule?

To use the common paymaster rule, the parties must be related. Keeping this rule in mind, these parties are related if any of the following four conditions are met:

  • Fifty percent of the officers of one corporation are also officers of the other; or
  • If the corporation does not issue stock, then at least 50% of the board of directors of one corporation is part of the board of directors of another corporation, or at least 50% of the voting power to opt for such members are concurrently held by holders of more than 50% respect to the other corporation;
  • The corporations are part of a controlled group of corporations (this is dependent upon stock ownership);
  • Thirty percent of employees of one corporation work concurrently for the other(s). If the related corporations agree, they can assign which one should be the employer, referred to as the “common paymaster,” for reasons of FICA withholding. This common paymaster is liable for FICA on the employee’s wages, regardless of whether the employee gets one single payment at multiple corporations or several paychecks for this work. However, all corporations in the group remain jointly and individually responsible for this payroll tax.

Is FICA compulsory?

FICA taxes are compulsory business taxes that should be both withheld and paid in the interest of every employee. At the end of the day, the employer coordinates with the FICA tax share that the employees have withheld from their checks. Employers should pay FICA taxes semi-weekly or monthly. These taxes are accounted for on IRS Form 941.

If an employer pays or reports FICA taxes late, the IRS will charge the employer a late fee, contingent upon the date the taxes were documented. For instance, the employer could confront a 2 percent late fee if the payroll taxes are recorded 1-5 days late. This late fee increments up to 10 percent for filings over 16 days late.

On the off chance that the employer neglects to pay or report FICA taxes, the employer’s owner or officials can be held personally liable for the amount of the taxes. Ensuring that your business taxes are documented at the correct time is fundamental.


Similar to federal income tax, FICA taxes are compulsory – and most of the time, you cannot get around them. However, since they go toward Medicare and Social Security, you will, in a way, get the cash back, at least indirectly, when you retire. (Therefore, a few people would say that FICA taxes are not really taxes.)

While FICA taxes are consequently removed from your check, you will need to give close consideration in the event that you change jobs or have multiple. You need to be certain that you are not paying more than what you are needed to. Furthermore, in case you are self-employed, you will need to use the IRS worksheets to ensure that you are paying the right amounts.

There is always a possibility that FICA tax rates could vary, or potentially other changes could be made, which we saw last year when the government gave payroll tax relief to employers affected by COVID-19. Despite what occurs in the future, consider working with a payroll provider for help with your present payroll tax liabilities.

Charles Bains

Charles Bains

Charles Bains started his insurance career as a marketing intern before pounding the pavement as a commercial lines agent in Orlando, FL. As an industry journalist, his articles have appeared in a variety of trade publications. His insurance television career, short-lived but glorious, once saw him serve as the expert adviser on an insurance-themed infomercial (yes, you read that correctly). Having recently worked for various organizations, coupled with his broader insurance knowledge, Charles is able to understand our client’s needs and guide them accordingly. He is a gem for Insurance Noon as his wide area of expertise and experience have been beneficial in conducting further researches to come up with solutions and writing them in a manner which is easy for everyone including beginners to comprehend.

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