We interrupt your holiday celebrations to bring you some bad news.
Come New Year's, Social Security taxes are going up again, this time a whooping 24 percent for those who pay the maximum.
Overall, the Social Security tax rate for 1981 is rising to 6.65 percent from 6.13 percent. The maximum payment will rise to $1,975.05 from $1,587.67. fThe maximum salary on which the tax will be levied will go to $29,700 from $25,900.
The $10,000-a-year wage earner will pay $52 a year more, and the $20,000-a year employee will pay $104 more, both 8percent higher than this year's contributions. For those who warn $29,700 a year or more, the $387.38 more in contributions represents a 24 percent boost.
The financial jolt for taxpayers comes at a trouble time for the Social Security system, which is collecting barley enough to meet obligations in retirement benefits. For 1980 and 1981, the system is actually diverting part of its disability account while Congress wrestles with a solution.
As Social Security tax hikes go into effect in January, the minimum wage will rise to $3.25 an hour from $3.10 an hour (it was $2.90 an hour in 1979). The minimum wage hike, which affects 5.6 million workers, could be the last of its kind, as Congress in 1981 is expected to take up the issue of a below-minimum wage for young workers.
The Social Security tax boost will be a burden to taxpayers in several ways. Those who pay the maximum often reach that level long before the end of the year, after which it is not withheld; when January comes, they find Social Security deducted again, and the effects of any pay raise are diminished.
According to the Social Security Administration, about 14.8 percent of all covered wage-earners paid the maximum contribution in 1977, and the percentage has hovered around 15 percent for a number of years.
Wage-earners in the $10,000 and $20,000 brackets didn't see a hike in their Social Security taxes last January, so this will be the first since January 1979.
Even though Social Security taxes are going up, there may be some relief in 1981 with a cut in income taxes. A spokesman for the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee said that "clearly there will be a tax cut in 1981" but that its dimensions are not known yet.
President-elect Ronald Reagan had backed the Kemp-Roth bill, which calls for a 10 percent, across-the-board cut for each of the three consecutive years. The Senate Finance Committeeearlier this year proposed a cut that would mainly benefit middle-income wage-earners.
Another measure would allow taxpayers to deduct a certain percentage of their total Social Security tax. That proposal most closely attempts to offset the higher Social Security taxes.
Another change in Socail Security effective in Jan. 1 involves retirees who continue to work. Recipents over age 65 now will be able to earn up to $5,500 a year (up from $5,000) without any decrease in their Social Security benefits.
Recipents under 65 can earn $4,080 (up from $3,720) without their monthly checks being reduced. Should recipents earn more than the maximum, their Social Security income will be reduced $1 for every $2 over the maximum they can earn.
The coming year also will be the last year the maximum wage subject to Social Security taxes will be set by law. In 1982, the Social Security Administration will set the limit at the average salary of all persons covered by the program which is 91 percent of the population.
Various projections put the maximum wage base at $31,800 to $32,000 in 1982, rising to between $42,600 and $47,100 in 1987.
The rate of taxation, however, already is fixed by law. It will rise from 6.65 percent to 6.7 percent in 1982, than to 7.05 percent in 1985, and 7.15 percent in 1986.
In 1979, the system took in $105.8 billion and paid out $104.2 billion. The projections for 1980 are income of $120.9 billion and payments of $121.2 billion, with the deficit made by shifting some disability fund contributions into the retirement fund.
Recipents of Social Security got a 14.3 percent increase in benefits last July, and they could get another hike if the average consumer price index for the first three months of 1981 exceeds the average for the three months of 1980 by at least 3 percent.