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Howard Kossover: Taxes are not normally withheld from Social Security benefits

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Q: How many people work and pay into Social Security?

A:  In 2010, about 157 million workers had earnings taxable under the Social Security program. Of these about 140.4 million had only wages, 10.4 million had only self-employment income, and 6.2 million had both. 

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Combined these earnings totaled $5.32 trillion, which includes earnings up to the SSA annual taxable wage base at the time of $106,800. Earnings above this amount were not subject to SSA tax.

Social Security employment taxes totaled about $660 billion.  This includes earnings of people receiving Social Security benefits if still working.

The number of people with taxable earnings for Medicare is different because some employees, usually in local, state or Federal government employment, are not covered by Social Security even though covered by Medicare. 

About 161 million workers had earnings taxable under the Medicare program in 2010. Of these, 143.8 million of these workers had only wages, 10.2 million had only selfemployment income, and 7.1 million had both. Medicare taxable earnings totaled $6.56 trillion and Medicare taxes totaled about $190 billion.

Unlike Social Security, Medicare does not have a maximum taxable wage base. Detailed 2010 earnings and employment data by state and county is in the research and statistics section of the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/eedata_sc/2010/index.html

Did You Know?  Updated through 2012, the newest release of SSA Congressional Statistics is at www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/factsheets/cong_stats/2012/index.html.

These annual fact sheets present data on the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs, including the number of people receiving benefits and the amount of total monthly payments made in the United States, in each state, and in each congressional district within the state.

Information is also provided for the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at howard.kossover@ssa.gov. Read his online articles at socialsecurityinfo.areavoices.com.

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