Employees will continue to see a reduction of their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages paid through Feb. 29, 2012. The two percentage point payroll tax cut, in effect for 2011, was temporarily extended by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011. This reduced Social Security withholding will have no effect on employees' future Social Security benefits.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employers should implement the new payroll tax rate as soon as possible in 2012 but not later than Jan. 31, 2012. For any Social Security tax over-withheld during January, employers should make an offsetting adjustment in workers' pay as soon as possible but not later than March 31, 2012.
Additional Income Tax for Certain Higher Income Employees
Employers should note that the law includes a new "recapture" provision, which applies only to those employees who receive more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month extension period (the Social Security wage base for 2012 is $110,100, and $18,350 represents two months of the full-year amount).
- This provision imposes an additional income tax on these higher-income employees in an amount equal to 2 percent of the amount of wages they receive during the two-month period in excess of $18,350 (and not greater than $110,100).
- This additional recapture tax is an add-on to income tax liability that the employee would otherwise pay for 2012 and is not subject to reduction by credits or deductions. The recapture tax would be payable in 2013 when the employee files his or her income tax return for the 2012 tax year.
- With the possibility of a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut being discussed for 2012, the IRS will closely monitor the situation in case future legislation changes the recapture provision.
The IRS will issue additional guidance as needed to implement the provisions of this new two-month extension, including revised employment tax forms and instructions and information for employees who may be subject to the new "recapture" provision. For most employers, the quarterly employment tax return for the quarter ending March 31, 2012, is due April 30, 2012.
The payroll tax cut extension is explained in the IRS news release. To read more about the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, please visit our section on the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).
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