18% Of Workers Pay No Social Security Taxes On Earnings Over $128,400

18% Of Workers Pay No Social Security Taxes On Earnings Over $128,400

Most working people pay Social Security taxes on every dollar earned and many pay more in Social Security taxes than in federal income taxes.  Yet nearly one out of five workers — some 18% — pay no Social Security taxes on any earnings over the Social Security taxable maximum — which is $128,400 in 2018.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), wages are growing faster for people who earn more than the Social Security taxable maximum than for people earning less.  The CBO projects that this unequal growth in earnings will cause a decline in revenues received by the Social Security Trust Fund over the next decade.

TSCL is highly concerned that the projected decline in Social Security revenues, along with the expected $1.5 trillion drop in general revenues caused by recent tax cuts, will create growing pressures to cut federal spending on benefits.  The most frequently discussed changes include raising the eligibility age for benefits, imposing means testing, and slowing the growth of the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by tying the annual boost to the more slowly-growing chained consumer price index.

Surveys have found that public opposition to cutting benefits is widespread, but there is support for changes that would make Social Security payroll taxes more equitable.  According to TSCL’s 2017 Senior Survey, 73% of survey participants support abolishing the taxable maximum cap and to apply the full 12.4% payroll tax to all earnings.

TSCL supports legislation that would lift or eliminate the Social Security taxable maximum.  Such a change is estimated by Social Security Trustees to eliminate 67% of Social Security’s long-term shortfall over 75 years while improving retirement security.

Do you think Social Security’s funding should be strengthened?  Consider attending a local town hall in your area.  Sign up to ask questions, or approach a staffer of your Member of Congress to relay your ideas. Together, we can make the case that better retirement security can’t be achieved through cutting the benefits that more than 61 million people depend on, but rather by everyone paying their fair share during their working years.


Sources:  “Distributional Effects Of Raising The Social Security Taxable Maximum,” Kevin Whitman, Social Security Policy Brief, July 2009, No.2009-01.  Lifting the Taxable Maximum Wage, Description of Proposed Provision: E2.2, Social Security Administration Office of the Actuary.