Effective January 1, 2013, a new Medicare tax takes effect. The Additional Medicare Tax imposes a 0.9 percent tax on compensation and self-employment income above a threshold amount. Unlike regular Medicare tax, the Additional Medicare Tax has no employer match but employers have withholding obligations. The IRS issued proposed reliance regulations about the Additional Medicare Tax in December 2012.
Medicare is funded through payroll taxes. Employees and employers (and self-employed individuals) all pay into Medicare. Employees and employers each pay Medicare tax at a rate of 1.45 percent (self-employed individuals pay at a combined rate but are allowed to deduct half of the Medicare tax as an adjustment to income). The Additional Medicare Tax is a new tax that may apply to certain taxpayers in addition to regular Medicare tax. The new tax was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), which was passed by Congress in 2010. However, Congress delayed the start date of the new tax until 2013.
Generally, an individual is liable for Additional Medicare Tax if the individual’s wages, compensation, or self-employment income (together with that of his or her spouse if filing a joint return) exceed the threshold amount for the individual’s filing status. Only individuals with incomes above the threshold amount will be liable for the new tax and if their employer does not withhold it, they will have to pay it when then they file their returns.
The threshold amounts are: $250,000 for married couples filing jointly; $200,000 for single individuals, head of household (with qualifying person) and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child; and $125,000 for married couples filing separately.
An employer must withhold Additional Medicare Tax from wages it pays to an individual in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year, without regard to the individual’s filing status or wages paid by another employer. The IRS explained in its proposed reliance regulations that the employer has this withholding obligation even though an employee may not be liable for Additional Medicare Tax because, for example, the employee’s wages together with that of his or her spouse do not exceed the $250,000 threshold for married couples filing jointly.
Let’s look at an example from the IRS proposed reliance regulations:
Elena, who is married and files a joint return, receives $100,000 in wages from her employer for the calendar year. Caleb, Elena’s spouse, receives $300,000 in wages from his employer for the same calendar year. Elena’s wages are not in excess of $200,000, so her employer does not withhold Additional Medicare Tax. Caleb’s employer is required to collect Additional Medicare Tax only with respect to wages it pays which are in excess of the $200,000 threshold (that is, $100,000) for the calendar year.
Taxpayers who believe they may be liable for the Additional Medicare Tax in 2013 and beyond should carefully plan ahead. The IRS has cautioned that an individual may owe more than the amount withheld by the employer, depending on the individual’s filing status, wages, compensation, and self-employment income. All these factors come into play in planning for the Additional Medicare Tax.
One strategy may be to make estimated tax payments and/or request additional income tax withholding. Our office can help you determine which strategy would work best for you.
There is no employer match for the Additional Medicare Tax. However, the Affordable Care Act and the IRS proposed reliance regulations require employers to withhold Additional Medicare Tax on wages it pays to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year, beginning January 1, 2013. If an employer fails to withhold, the IRS may impose penalties on the employer and the employee would be liable for the tax.
The regulations issued by the IRS in December 2012 are proposed reliance regulations. The IRS explained that it intends to finalize the proposed regulations in 2013. Taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for tax period beginning before the date that the regulations are finalized.
If you have any questions about the Additional Medicare Tax, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.