Who is exempt from paying the FICA tax in the United States?

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%. This is paid equally by workers and their employers, for a total of 15.3% of pay (7.65% x 2).

In the case of self-employed workers and independent contractors, they pay the full 15.3% tax as self-employment taxes on Schedule SE that is filed with their tax return. 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. There are also other limited exceptions that apply (e.g., some on-campus college student employment).

For additional information about FICA tax exemptions, check with your employer or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

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