Am I Exempt from Social Security Tax Withholding?

Broadly speaking, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), a law concerning Social Security tax withholding, requires that employers pay Social Security taxes for all of their employees, regardless of US resident status.

Am I Exempt from Social Security Tax Withholding?

The federal government allows several categories of employment and employee status to be exempt from FICA, and the specific details that define which employers and employees fit these categories may be determined slightly differently by state. If you think you may qualify as exempt from Social Security tax withholding, check with the state where you are employed.

Nonresident Aliens and FICA Exemption

Nonresident aliens are not taxed in the same manner as resident aliens. Resident aliens are taxed as US citizens. Nonresident aliens may not be required to pay Social Security withholding tax, depending on their reasons for being in this country. For example, nonresident alien students who meet a threshold academic credit standard of at least part-time student status often do not have to pay this tax.

You do not qualify for a FICA exemption if you are a nonresident alien primarily for tax purposes.

Students and FICA Exemption

Student employees may be exempt if their primary relationship with their academic institution is that of student.

Graduate students working on their dissertations are generally exempt from FICA contributions.

Although the IRS went to court to argue to exclude medical residents from the student FICA exemption, its argument was disallowed. If you are a medical resident, you may qualify as exempt from the tax withholding.

Tax Obligations: Schools, Nonprofits and Their Employees

Non-student
employees of academic institutions are generally subject to Social Security tax withholding.

Employees of nonprofits and charities are also subject to FICA contributions, and nonprofits and charities themselves must make FICA contributions for their employees.


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