The percentage of income for FICA tax that workers pay is determined by federal law and is the same for everyone. The only way to pay less FICA tax (as a dollar amount, not a percentage of pay) is to earn less income. FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. FICA consists of two separate payroll taxes: Social Security (6.2% of pay) and Medicare (1.45% of pay), for a total of 7.65% of pay.
FICA tax is paid by workers and their employers. In the case of self-employed workers and independent contractors, they pay 15.3% tax as self-employment taxes on Schedule SE that is filed with their tax return. However, they also get to deduct 50% of what they pay in self-employment tax as an income tax deduction on IRS Form 1040 (see IRS Pub 334).
Almost all employed and self-employed workers are covered by Social Security and are expected to pay FICA tax or self-employment taxes. The major exceptions are most civilian federal government employees hired before 1984 (they are covered by, and pay the 1.45% tax for, Medicare but not for Social Security retirement benefits) and about 25% of state and local government employees with a pension plan. Some other exceptions apply to ministers and members of religious orders and certain college students who work at on-campus jobs.
For additional information about FICA tax exemptions, check www.socialsecurity.gov.