Two years ago, the government cut the Social Security tax by 2 percentage points. It gave the average taxpayer around $1,000 more to spend, which helped the economy recover.
You still get the tax cut on the returns you’re filing now, for 2012. Employees owe 4.2 percent of their wages up to $110,100 (it was deducted from your paycheck automatically). The self-employed owe 10.4 percent.
But starting January 1, this payroll-tax holiday came to an end. You’ve probably seen the result in your paycheck already. For 2013, employees are back to paying the full rate of 6.2 percent, on wages up to $113,700 (the wage base rises with inflation every year). The self-employed owe 12.4 percent. Unless you got a raise, you now have an average of $1,000 less to spend.
Cutting the payroll tax didn’t hurt the Social Security trust fund or affect your future benefits. Congress replaced the missing money with funds from general revenues. But your budget will be a little tighter and economic growth might be a little slower, without that extra money available for spending.
Almost all the tax changes passed at the start of the year affect only higher income people. This is the only change that hits workers at all levels.
Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. In her long career, she has established herself as America’s most reliable voice for people trying to manage their money well. Read more of Jane's articles here.