The Carter administration wants a partial rollback of the sharp increases in Social Security taxes scheduled for 1981, but may insist that any reductions be tied to further cuts in Social Security benefits.
According to a high administration official, President Carter, in his Jan. 22 budget message, will say the administration "will consider Social Security tax reductions in years subsequent to 1980."
However, the official said, the administration "is not proposing to reduce the payroll tax in 1980."
In his budget message. the president will not specify the size of the proposed tax reductions, and officials said it has not been decided whether Carter will call at the same time for further benefit reductions.
The administration has already indicated that it will ask Congress to lop off some Social Security benefits in 1980 to save the government $600 million.
In 1977, Congress scheduled a series of increases in the Social Security tax that employers and employes must pay and in the base salary on which the tax is applied.
Workers and employers currently pay 6.13 percent on the first $22,900 in salary, up from 6.05 percent on the first $17,700 of income last year.In 1980, the wage base will rise to $25,900, but the tax rate will remain at 6.13 percent.
But in 1981 the law prescribes a steep increase in the tax rate to 6.65 percent, as well as another increase in the base salary to $29,700.
So, a worker getting $15,000 a year would pay Social Security taxes of $950.15 in 1979 and 1980, but would pay $997.50 in 1981.
However, a worker getting $3,000 a year would pay $1,403.77 in 1979 and $1,975.05 in 1981.
Employers pay the same aomunt as employes.
Pressure from the public and business has been building to reduce the payroll tax burden.
"It is a formidable problem," said one administration official. "The size of the numbers is staggering."
But the Carter administration is wary of cutting back Social Security taxes because it hopes to balance the federal budget by fiscal 1981 (which starts Oct. 1 next year) as well. That is why many officials want the president to propose Social Security tax cuts and benefit reductions as a package.
Officials already concede that a balanced budget in fiscal 1981 is probably impossible.
The fiscal 1980 budget that Carter will present to Congress on Jan. 22 will show a deficit of about $30 billion and project a "slight deficit" for 1981, according to a high official.
But the 1981 deficit projection does not take account of any income tax cust the administrration and Congress may want to enact to counteract an increasingly sluggish economy and inflation.
The spending projections the Carter budget will contain for fiscal 1981 are firm, however, the official said, and will constitute the spending levels agencies must use next spring when they submit their initial 1981 programs to the Office of Management and Budget.
The administration this year will propose to eliminate minimum benefits for retired workers who have other sources of retirement income (such as an individual who worked in the federal Civil Service, retired, then worked in a private-sector job long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits). The administration does not want to eliminate the special minimum benefit for individuals who have worked in low-paying jobs for most of their lives, such as maids or janitors.
President Carter will also ask Congress to eliminate benefits for children of deceased workers after the dependents pass age 16 and to eliminate the lump-sum death benefit the system now pays.