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FICA Limit in 2013 – What’s Changing and Why

by Darwin on December 21, 2012

The FICA Tax that most Americans pay either through our routine W-2 paychecks or through self-employment taxes is set to change in 2013 in a few ways, so I thought I’d get you thinking about what’s coming and how it may impact your personal finances next year.  But first, a few basics:

What is the FICA Tax?

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax is levied by the federal government upon employees to fund the Medicare and Social Security systems; initially, in the 1930s, the US government instituted the FICA tax to fund Social Security as part of the new deal; subsequently, in the 1960s, Medicare was introduced and the tax rate increased accordingly.  The full tax is paid by both employees and employers in equal share as outlined below.

What is the FICA Tax Rate?

Under normal circumstances, over the prior several years before the recent payroll tax holidays Congress started enacting over the past few years (reducing the amount owed by 2%), both employee and employer had paid 7.65% of the employee’s salary (15.3%) up to an annual cap for the Social Security piece; at that point, the Social Security piece is no longer paid, but you continue to pay the Medicare portion since there is no cap for that.  If this is confusing, think of it as getting a 6.2% tax break (Social Security portion only) once you surpass the FICA income limit, so for every $1000 earned past the cap, you keep an extra $62 in that paycheck compared to the prior month’s paycheck when you were within the limit.

FICA Income Limit Explained:

The FICA income limit tends to increase each year based on annual inflation rates as determined by government inflation benchmark measures.  There was a period of no increases where 2009, 2010 and 2011 all saw the same $106,800 limit, which was an anomaly.  Years prior saw increases, with the 2008 limit being $102,000, 2007 having a limit of $97,500 and so on.  For 2012, the limit was set as $110,100.

Update December 2012: This Just In… For 2013, the FICA Limit will be $113,700. Based on my initial estimate below, this actually is a bit higher than the $112,500 I had predicted, but since we had a few years where the cap was flat and didn’t increase at all, I suppose higher earning Americans shouldn’t complain too much.  I say “high earning”, because once your income passes this cap, it’s almost like free money in each paycheck since you’re no longer paying a sizable portion of the total tax.  All 6 Figure earners should be subscribed to TheLadders of course, (I use the Free service option, it’s great) for email updates of 6-Figure jobs in their area delivered weekly.  It’s a great way to keep on top of what’s out there and what people are earning in the field.

As an example of the benefit to higher earning employees, let’s say you made $120,100 in 2012.  The final $10,000 would be untaxed, so 6.2% of $10,000 is an extra $620 in your pocket in your December paycheck.  Some people like to just increase their 401(k) contribution by a similar amount once they surpass the limit, put it into a Roth IRA, or simply use those funds for holiday gift season.  While many things are uncertain when it comes to trying to nail down your tax liability each year, at least you can predict what’s going to happen with your FICA tax portion each year, as the limit is normally announced in the Fall prior to the start of each calendar year.

 

What Will Likely Happen to the FICA Tax and Limit for 2013

The FICA income limit for 2013 has yet to be announced, but here are some predictions on both the limit and the tax rate to be paid:

2013 FICA Income Limit Estimate: I would anticipate a slight inflationary increase in 2013, so we might see a new limit in the $112,500 range.

2013 FICA Tax Rate: Normally, the rate is 7.65% in total, and 6.2% for the Social Security portion but it has been reduced by 2% to 4.2% over the past few years as part of what was supposed to be a payroll tax holiday to help with the economic recovery following the Great Recession.  However, once politicians give their constituents something, it’s hard to take away (like how the Bush tax cuts were set to expire but keep being renewed and then called a “tax hike” if they are allowed to lapse).  Therefore, I envision as part of the preparation for the “Fiscal Cliff” coming up at the end of 2012, there will probably be calls to further extend the payroll tax holiday for another year.  If nothing happens, the rate will revert to 6.2% and everyone will see an increase of 2% over what they paid this year up to the cap, but I’d put decent odds on holding the 4.2% rate, especially to be timed prior to the election.

Once the IRS publishes the confirmed FICA tax cap for 2013, I’ll be sure to go back and update this article with, so be sure to subscribe to email or various social media platforms in the sidebar or below.

 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents September 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm

This is one way to help make Social Security solvent. The next is to raise the retirement age.

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Darwin September 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Well, cutting 2% out of the required payments for a few years with no way to pay for it in the future certainly isn’t helping the solvency of the trust. Then add in that Congress borrows from it like a piggybank with no means to pay it back. It’s a total cluster.

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Joe @ Retire By 40 September 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

They really need to raise the FICA limit to $250,000 or something like that. A little raise isn’t going to help much.

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Darwin September 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm

That would just mean those people get screwed even more and get a -60% return instead of an even return. The intent of the system is to match the cap during paying years with what your distributions will be in retirement, but since there is a cap on your benefit, there must be a cap on payments in

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joe dagostino February 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

A LITTLE raise!??! The limit was 76,000 in the year 2000??!! That’s almost 50% in 13 years.

They should just do away with the limit or do away with SS.

It’s not a savings account and steals 15% of everyone’s wages.

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Darwin February 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Well, that’s not as crazy as it sounds; a bit over 3% annualized which equates to inflation.

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Andrew March 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm

You do realize that 50% over 13 years is roughly than 3% per year…which is historically close to inflation and also similar to the average raise people get over their lifetime. Essentially, you are complaining prices arent what they were 15 years ago.

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Sandra Harvey July 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Of course! Raise the cap or better still, start at $250,000 and take it to the limit so only those people pay. That’s the least they can do. They never pay their fair share anyway!

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101 Centavos September 12, 2012 at 5:46 am

Sure is nice having that little bump towards year end. It always amused me about that 2% “cut”. If it was enacted to goose the economy, why not do more of it? Hong Kong did precisely that, enacting tax cuts in 2009 to stimulate the economy. But then again, that’s a more economically competitive economy than tired ol’ US of A.

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Darwin September 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Yeah, the 2% was totally arbitrary. But it’s borrowing now to have to increase someone’s taxes later. The politicians don’t mention the latter part. This generation is screwing today’s young Americans so bad and they don’t even know it. There is no outrage. They are going to pay these debts with interest decades from now.

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Terry December 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

My employer has already assessed my paycheck to be paid on 1/1/13 the additional 2%. Do you think I’ll get a rebate if the increase doesn’t occur?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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Darwin December 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Nobody thinks they’ll extend the payroll tax cut so I wouldn’t worry about it. We’ll be back to the old rates by next year.

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Jennifer January 3, 2013 at 10:10 am

As an employer we did our first payroll with the lower tax rate because it had not been determined. Do we have to go back and hold the addtional 2% the following week?

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Marty January 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Jenifer: Refer to IRS Notice 1036….
An employer is not required to impliment the increase to 6.2% until February 15th, however when you do impliment the employer should make an adjustment to correct any underwithholding as son as possible, but no later than March 31st.

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Chief K January 3, 2013 at 7:05 am

“…but I’d put decent odds on holding the 4.2% rate, especially to be timed prior to the election.

Wrong.

And your statement, ” …everyone will see an increase of 2% over what they paid this year…” is inaccurate as well. A jump from 4.2% of salary to 6.2% of salary is a jump of nearly 33% “over what they paid this year”.

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Darwin January 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Well, predictions are not always right. All the liberal rags are giving obama a hard time (which I actually don’t agree with for once) since he claimed nobody under 250K would see a tax increase and they consider the old 6.2% rate an “increase”. I just call it reversion to the existing limit which had been in place prior. But it does demonstrate that many on the left and in the media expected this to be renewed at 4.2%.

And your second point is foolish. This is semantics. If you were paid 100K last year and paid $4200 last year and $6200 this year, it’s an increase of $2000 which is 2% of $100K. Most Americans with common sense in this bucket would say their taxes rates went back up by 2% this year.

Evidently, you have some sort of agenda and focus your efforts on nitpicking. Try something more productive.

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Iago Yugo January 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm

From 4.2% to 6.2% is actually a 48% increase…, (from 4 to 6 is a 50% increase), do you see that? A 33% increase from 4.2% would get you to 5.6%. But what Lib would correct you…, again?

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Lex January 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm

You left out the word “to” in the sentence below.
The Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax is levied by the federal government upon employees (to) fund the Medicare and Social Security systems

Other minor typos
Years prior saw increases, which (with) the 2008 limit being $102,000, 2007 having a limit of $97,500 and

For 2013, the FICA Limit will be $113,700. Based on my initial estimate below, this actual (actually) is a bit higher than the $112,500 I had predicted

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Darwin January 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Thanks for the note! My attention to detail was horrible that post!

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Patricia Stajin January 4, 2013 at 10:58 pm

my employer took out the 2% increase out of my payroll check this week dated 1-3-13 how do i handle this because if i am to understand this all right, with the cliff, i should have not seen a increase come out of my payroll check at all, is that correct
Patty

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Darwin January 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm

It turns out they did not renew the payroll tax break so you should see the full amount we’ve seen historically. This article was initially written prior to recent legislation and was updated w new FICA cap.

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Steve January 5, 2013 at 11:28 am

I received my paycheck yesterday but it is for the 2 week pay period ending 12/22/12, so should my employer already be withholding the additional 2% FICA on income that was earned prior to the 12/31/12 expiration of the FICA tax break? Thanks.

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dave January 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm

in most cases it does not matter about the pay period ending date being in 2012. The deductions are based on the rates in effect when you are PAID (cash or check.)
Look at the date on the check. If the date is Jan 2013, you will pay the extra 2%. This gets tricky if you have direct deposit. Look for a date on any payment advise you may have.

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jim keller January 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Wife and I lost $190.00 this month thats alot. But her dad and mine have got a raise.But thats ok .LOL

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peb January 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

My 1st ck of the yr 1-5-13 was $20 less. when I enquired about this
I was told that FICA increased for employees on salary instead of hourly
I only make apprx. $30k a yr
Is this correct?

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Mike January 11, 2013 at 5:53 am

The part about salary employees only being impacted is incorrect. This affected hourly employees as well. The government doesn’t care how you’re income is determined, just what your total income is.

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lb January 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Please advise. I own my own home. Single female. No children. Another huge decrease in pay. Should I sell my house, become albad employee. Get fired. And collect? Would this be better for my sanity? Please advise. Thank you.

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lb January 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Go for it!

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nell January 12, 2013 at 4:32 am

i do not know alot about taxes are they the employers supposed to take fica ss
and fica medicare

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Lance January 28, 2013 at 1:20 am

Darwin was wrong, they let the 2% expire.

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Darwin January 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

It wasn’t the most outlandish prediction. But yes, I own it. Made a contrarian call and well, they just kicked the can down the road in so many other aspects and they’re about to do it again.

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