NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Payroll Taxes Overtake Income Taxes

September 24, 1999

Most workers are hit harder by taxes for Social Security and Medicare than they are for income taxes. That includes the portion of payroll taxes paid by employers. Although many employees remain unaware that their own payroll taxes are matched by payments to their accounts by their employer, economists agree the share paid by employers ultimately comes out of workers' compensation.

  • Four out of five workers now pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes.
  • Even when the employer contribution is excluded, 40 percent of workers still pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes.
  • People who have retired since the mid-1980s paid more in Social Security taxes, on average, than they will receive as benefits, when adjusted for inflation.
  • While the average income tax rate for a median-income family of four has gone up and down over the past five decades, the payroll tax rate for Social Security and Medicare -- including the employer share -- has been on a nearly continuous climb.

Americans will soon have a chance to see what they can expect to receive in Social Security when they retire. The Social Security Administration will begin mailing out benefit statements to 125 million American workers beginning on October 1. The statements are supposed to arrive three months before the beneficiary's birth month. For example, someone born in January would be part of the October mailing.

It will constitute the biggest customized mailing ever by a federal agency and will cost $70 million for the first year alone.

Source: Christine Dugas and Owen Ullmann, "How Much Is Your Social Security Costing You?" USA Today, September 24, 1999.


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