Payroll Tax Holiday – To opt in or to opt out?

It’s only fitting for a year like 2020 to have an unorthodox holiday come early… the payroll tax holiday! May not sound very exciting but it’s an important one with some grey area that everyone should understand fully.

Here’s a quick back story: On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a proposal to stop withholding the 6.2% employee share of the Social Security tax. It would be for pay periods from September 1 – December 31, 2020 and only applicable to those that earn less than $104,000 annual salary ($4,000 bi-weekly). The intent behind this was to be yet another relief effort for those affected by COVID-19 and professional changes that may have caused financial strain, especially the last quarter of the year.

Sound too good to be true? Although it’s a very generous plan to help put more money in employee’s pockets, it does have to be paid back. The payback period starts January 1, 2021 and runs through April 30, 2021. That bill would most likely be in the form of a higher deduction from those paychecks, resulting in less take-home pay for those 4 months.

It’s been advised by many HR professionals to NOT elect for this as an employer or an employee. And here is why… As an employer, it is unclear if you will get stuck with the payback bill if the employee is no longer with your company during that first quarter of 2021. And as an employee, you could be charged penalties and interest if you’re unable to pay it back on time.

The White House is currently stating that they will TRY to get the deferred taxes forgiven but there is no guarantee at this time. That doesn’t seem likely as it would require new legislation and support that isn’t there since it would under fund Social Security.

The good news is that this is optional for those that think it’s a good fit and not required for the majority that will choose to pass up the offer. The only mandatory employers, as of now, are federal workers in the US government.

As always, if you have questions relating to HR and compliance for things such as this payroll tax holiday, we are happy to help find the answer for you.

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