2022 Wage Cap Jumps to $147,000 for Social Security Payroll Taxes

By year-end, adjust payroll systems and notify affected employees

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS October 13, 2021
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2022 Wage Cap Jumps to $147,000 for Social Security Payroll Taxes

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the maximum earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase by $4,200 to $147,000—up from the $142,800 maximum for 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced Oct. 13. The SSA also posted a fact sheet summarizing the 2022 changes.

The taxable wage cap is subject to an automatic adjustment each year based on increases in the national average wage index (not the inflation rate), calculated annually by the SSA.


Payroll Taxes: Cap on Maximum Earnings

Type of Payroll Tax

2022 Maximum Earnings

2021 Maximum Earnings

Social Security

$147,000

$142,800

Medicare

No limit

No limit

Source: Social Security Administration.


The growth of the Social Security wage cap from $127,200 in 2017 to 147,000 in 2022 represents more than a 15.5 percent increase over the past five years.

The $4,200 increase for 2022, however, is smaller than the 2021 increase of $5,100, up from the $137,700 maximum for 2020, reflecting constraints on wage increases during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inflation Impacts Benefits Payments

Meanwhile, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 64 million people in the U.S. will increase by 5.9 percent in 2022—the biggest cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment since the 1980s—the SSA also announced, reflecting this year's inflation spike. The adjustment will boost the average monthly retirement benefit by $92 to roughly $1,657.

The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group, called the benefits increase "the highest COLA that most beneficiaries living today have ever seen," but added that "a high COLA means exceptionally high inflation is impacting consumers."

FICA Rates

Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes are collected together as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. FICA tax rates are statutorily set and can only be changed through new tax law.

Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent payroll tax on wages up to the taxable earnings cap, with half (6.2 percent) paid by workers and the other half paid by employers. Self-employed workers pay the entire 12.4 percent.

For employers and employees, the Medicare payroll tax rate is a matching 1.45 percent on all earnings (self-employed workers pay the full 2.9 percent), bringing the total Social Security and Medicare payroll withholding rate for employers and employees to 7.65 percent—with only the Social Security portion limited to the taxable maximum amount.

FICA Rate (Social Security + Medicare Withholding)
Employee7.65%
(6.2% + 1.45%)
​Employer
​7.65%
(6.2% + 1.45%)
​Self-Employed
​15.3%
(12.4% + 2.9%)
Note: For employed wage earners, their Social Security portion is 6.2% on earnings up to the taxable maximum. Their Medicare portion is 1.45% on all earnings.

The payroll tax rates shown above do not include an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes paid by highly compensated employees on earnings that exceed threshold amounts based on their filing status:

  • $250,000 for married taxpayers who file jointly.
  • $125,000 for married taxpayers who file separately.
  • $200,000 for single and all other taxpayers.

These wage thresholds, set by law, do not adjust for inflation and therefore apply to more employees each year.

Employers must withhold the additional Medicare tax from wages of employees earning more than $200,000 in a calendar year.

Adjust Systems, Notify Employees

Employees whose compensation exceeds the current 2021 taxable earnings cap of $142,800 may notice a slight decrease in net take-home pay beginning next January due to the payroll tax adjustment.

By the start of the new year, U.S. employers should:

  • Adjust their payroll systems to account for the higher taxable wage base under the Social Security payroll tax.
  • Notify affected employees that more of their pay will be subject to payroll withholding.

Social Security Earnings Test COLA

Workers can start to collect Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but their monthly payment will be lower than if they wait until their normal retirement age—age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954, for instance.

The full retirement age increases to 66 and 4 months in 2022 for people who were born in 1956.

Those who collect Social Security before their full retirement age but continue to earn income will have their monthly benefits reduced if their earnings exceed an annually adjusted earnings test limit. The SSA announced that:

  • For those collecting benefits in 2022 before their full retirement age, the SSA will deduct $1 from their monthly benefits for each $2 earned over $19,560 per year (or $1,630 per month)—up from $18,960 per year (or $1,580 per month) in 2021.
  • For those reaching their full retirement age in 2022, the SSA will deduct $1 from their monthly benefits for each $3 earned over $51,960 per year (or $4,330 per month) until the month in which the worker reaches full retirement age—up from $50,520 per year (or $4,210 per month) in 2021.

There is no limit on earnings under this test for workers who have reach or passed their full retirement age for the entire year.



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