How withholding works.
Payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare benefits are collected under the authority of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), and are often referred to as the FICA tax. For 2016, Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, or OASDI) withholding is 6.2% on a wage base limit of $118,500. That means a maximum of $7,347 per employee will be withheld in 2016 ($118,500 × 0.062).
The wage base for Medicare withholding remains unlimited (employee tax rate of 1.45%), but health care reform legislation in 2013 increased Medicare payroll withholding by 0.9% to 2.35% for amounts over $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (married filing jointly). Also, an additional 3.8% surtax applies to net investment income for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (married filing jointly).
Medicare tax on investment income.
Health care reform legislation also imposed an additional 3.8% surtax on net investment income for taxpayers with an AGI over $200,000 (for single filers) or $250,000 (for married couples filing jointly). The tax is based on your total net investment income, or on the amount by which your income exceeds the AGI thresholds—whichever is less. The surtax applies only to the amount of investment income or AGI that exceeds the thresholds.
When preparing for the Medicare tax, it’s helpful to understand what’s considered unearned investment income under the law.
Unearned income for purposes of the surtax includes:
For purposes of the surtax, unearned investment income does not include:
- Tax-exempt interest from municipal bonds or funds
- Withdrawals from a retirement plan such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or 401(k)
- Payouts from traditional defined benefit pension plans or annuities that are part of retirement plans
- Life insurance proceeds
- Veterans’ benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Income from businesses in which you’re an active participant, such as S corporations or partnerships
Figuring out your modified AGI and determining the amount of your unearned investment income can be a bit complex. It’s a good idea to consult with your tax advisor if you think you may be subject to the net investment income surtax.
Income taxes and your Social Security benefits.
If your income exceeds certain thresholds set by the IRS, you may have to pay federal income tax on a portion of your Social Security benefits.
|Between $25,000 and $34,000||you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits.|
|More than $34,000||up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.|
|Between $32,000 and $44,000||you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits.|
|More than $44,000||up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.|
If you have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits, you can make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS or choose to have federal taxes withheld from your benefits. Requests to have federal taxes withheld from your benefits can be made using Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request.
*Your “combined income” is calculated as follows:
Your adjusted gross income
+ Nontaxable interest
+ Half of your Social Security benefits
= Your combined income
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