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Additional Medicare Tax

January 20, 2015

An employment tax that higher-income taxpayers must be aware of is the additional 0.9% Medicare tax. Under the Affordable Care Act, since 2013, taxpayers have had to pay this tax on FICA wages and self-employment income exceeding $200,000 per year ($250,000 for married filing jointly and $125,000 for married filing separately).

Note that there’s no employer portion of this tax. So unlike the Social Security tax and the regular Medicare tax, the additional Medicare tax doesn’t double for the self-employed. But this also means that no portion of the tax is deductible above the line against self-employment income.

If your wages or self-employment income varies significantly from year to year or you’re close to the threshold for triggering the additional Medicare tax, income timing strategies may help you avoid or minimize it. For example, if you’re an employee, perhaps you can time when you receive a bonus, or you can defer or accelerate the exercise of stock options. If you’re self-employed, you may have flexibility on when you purchase new equipment or invoice customers. If you’re a shareholder-employee of an S corporation, you might save tax by adjusting how much you receive as salary vs. distributions. (See “Employment taxes for owner-employees.”)

Also consider the withholding rules. Employers are obligated to withhold the additional tax beginning in the pay period when wages exceed $200,000 for the calendar year — without regard to an employee’s filing status or income from other sources. So your employer might withhold the tax even if you aren’t liable for it — or it might not withhold the tax even though you are liable for it.

If you don’t owe the tax but your employer is withholding it, you can claim a credit on your 2014 income tax return. If you do owe the tax but your employer isn’t withholding it, consider filing a W-4 form to request additional income tax with­holding, which can be used to cover the shortfall and avoid interest and penalties. Or you can make estimated tax payments.

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From → Accounting Tips

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