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Publication 51

4. Social Security and Medicare Taxes(p10)

Generally, you must withhold social security and Medicare taxes on all cash wage payments that you make to your employees. You may also be required to withhold Additional Medicare Tax. For more information, see Additional Medicare Tax withholding, later.

The $150 Test or the $2,500 Test(p10)

All cash wages that you pay to an employee during the year for farmwork are subject to social security and Medicare taxes and federal income tax withholding if either of the two tests below is met.


The $150 and $2,500 tests do not apply to wages that you pay to a farmworker who receives less than $150 in annual cash wages and the wages are not subject to social security and Medicare taxes, or federal income tax withholding, even if you pay $2,500 or more in that year to all of your farmworkers if the farmworker:
Amounts that you pay to these seasonal farmworkers, however, count toward the $2,500-or-more test to determine whether wages that you pay to other farmworkers are subject to social security and Medicare taxes.

Social Security and Medicare Tax Withholding(p10)

The social security tax rate is 6.2%, for both the employee and employer, on the first $118,500 paid to each employee. You must withhold at this rate from each employee and pay a matching amount. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer on all wages. You must withhold at this rate from each employee and pay a matching amount. There is no wage base limit for Medicare tax; all covered wages are subject to Medicare tax.
Social security and Medicare taxes apply to most payments of sick pay, including payments made by third parties such as insurance companies. For details, see Publication 15-A.

Additional Medicare Tax withholding.(p10)

In addition to withholding Medicare tax at 1.45%, you must withhold a 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax from wages you pay to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. You are required to begin withholding Additional Medicare Tax in the pay period in which you pay wages in excess of $200,000 to an employee and continue to withhold it each pay period until the end of the calendar year. Additional Medicare Tax is only imposed on the employee. There is no employer share of Additional Medicare Tax. All wages that are subject to Medicare tax are subject to Additional Medicare Tax withholding if paid in excess of the $200,000 withholding threshold.
For more information on what wages are subject to Medicare tax, see the chart, Special Rules for Various Types of Services and Payments, in section 15 of Publication 15 (Circular E). For more information on Additional Medicare Tax, visit and enter "Additional Medicare Tax" in the search box.

Employee share paid by employer.(p10)

If you would rather pay a household or agricultural employee's share of the social security and Medicare taxes without withholding them from his or her wages, you may do so. If you do not withhold the taxes, however, you must still pay them. Any employee social security and Medicare taxes that you pay is additional income to the employee. Include it in box 1 of the employee's Form W-2, but do not count it as social security and Medicare wages and do not include it in boxes 3 and 5. Also, do not count the additional income as wages for FUTA tax purposes. Different rules apply to employer payments of social security and Medicare taxes for non-household and non-agricultural employees. See section 7 of Publication 15-A.

Withholding social security and Medicare taxes on nonresident alien employees.(p11)

In general, if you pay wages to nonresident alien employees, you must withhold social security and Medicare taxes as you would for a U.S. citizen or resident alien. However, see Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities, for exceptions to this general rule. Also see Compensation paid to H-2A visa holders in section 3.

Religious exemption.(p11)

An exemption from social security and Medicare taxes is available to members of a recognized religious sect opposed to public insurance. This exemption is available only if both the employee and the employer are members of the sect.
For more information, see Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers.