Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The Payroll Tax Two-Month Holiday (Continued)
Here is the IRS announcement last Friday (December 23) about the two-month payroll tax holiday.
IR-2011-124, Dec. 23, 2011
WASHINGTON — Nearly 160 million workers will benefit from the extension of the educed payroll tax rate that has been in effect for 2011. The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 temporarily extends the two percentage point payroll tax cut for employees, continuing the reduction of their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages paid through Feb. 29, 2012. This reduced Social Security withholding will have no effect on employees’ future Social Security benefits.
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.
Employers and payroll companies will handle the withholding changes, so workers should not need to take any additional action.
OBSERVATION: Kruse & Crawford CPAs is one of the “employers and payroll companies” that will handle the withholding changes. So, we have a payroll tax holiday that does not last all the months in a quarter. Apparently Congress realized that the servicers may not have been prepared for this, so Congress decreed that we have an additional month to get it right.
Under the terms negotiated by Congress, the law also includes a new “recapture” provision, which applies only to those employees who receive more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month 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.
OBSERVATION: If you think about this, there is a certain amount of sense. The FICA wage base for 2012 is $110,100. Since the holiday is for less than the entire year, Congress felt it necessary to prorate the wage base, as otherwise one could “game” the system. One would do that by taking his/her first $110,100 of payroll in the first two months of the year. That would require noncommon fact patterns, but it could and would happen. I know that we – as tax planners - would have taken advantage of it where possible for our clients.
OBSERVATION: How is the tax preparer to know if someone received more than $18,350 of payroll in the first two months? Will there be yet another “box” on the 2012 W-2 for this?
COMMENT: I suspect that Congress will extend the holiday for the full year, and the clawback provision will be deleted at that time.