Pursuant to President Trump’s Memorandum issued on August 8, 2020 and IRS Notice 2020-65 implemented on August 28, 2020, withholding and payment of the employee’s portion of Social Security taxes for the time period beginning on September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 is postponed if the employee’s wage is below a threshold amount.
Specifically, the deferral applies to any employee whose taxable wage is generally less than $4,000 during any bi-weekly pay period, calculated on a pre-tax basis. No deferral is available for any payment to an employee whose taxable wage is $4,000 or above for a bi-weekly pay period.
It is important to understand that the tax deferral is not tax forgiveness. The employer must withhold and pay back the deferred taxes ratably from wages and compensation paid between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021, or interest, penalties and additions to tax will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021.
Although the Memorandum and the Notice intend to provide relief to American workers, they left many questions unanswered. For example:
- What if the employee refuses to pay at repayment?
- What if the employee leaves the company?
- What if the employee does not make enough money to repay the deferred taxes?
- How exactly are the employers obligated to pay in the deferred amount?
These questions are not addressed. However, the Notice clearly defines the employer as the Applicable Taxpayer, and imposes the repayment obligations onto the employer. The Notice does note that the employer may make arrangements to otherwise collect the total deferred taxes from the employee.