The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced that the taxable wage base for purposes of computing the Social Security portion of the FICA payroll tax will increase to $118,500 in 2015. The SSA also announced that Social Security benefits will rise by 1.7 percent.

A Few Details

Social security taxable wages are subject to a 6.2 percent tax. The tax is payable by both the employee and the employer, making the total tax rate 12.4 percent.

The amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax for the year is limited to a taxable wage base. The $118,500 wage base for 2015 is $1,500 higher than the 2014 wage base of $117,000, a 1.28 percent increase.

The following example illustrates how the taxable wage base is applied:

  • In 2015, John makes $100,000 and Mark makes $125,000. John will pay $6,200 of Social Security tax (6.2 percent) on his wages, and his employer will pay an additional $6,200, for a total of $12,400. Mark will pay 6.2 percent on $118,500 of his wTaages ($7,347), and his employer will pay an equivalent amount, for a total of $14,694. The remaining $6,500 of Mark’s wages will not be subject to the Social Security tax.

For 2015, self-employed individuals will pay 12.4 percent on the first $118,500 of their self-employment income, for a maximum Social Security tax of $14,694.

Medicare Tax

Employees and their employers are also obligated to pay a 1.45 percent Medicare tax. There is no ceiling on the amount of wages subject to the 1.45 percent Medicare tax. Returning to the example, Mark will pay a Medicare tax of $1,812.50, or 1.45 percent of his full $125,000 in earnings, and his employer will pay an equivalent amount. The rate for self-employed individuals is 2.9 percent, double the 1.45 percent rate.

High earners must pay an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on wages exceeding a threshold amount:

  • $200,000 for individuals
  • $250,000 for joint filers
  • $125,000 for married persons filing separately

However, this increase is paid by the employee only, with the employer having no further Medicare tax obligation beyond the base rate of 1.45 percent. For self-employed individuals, the additional Medicare tax rate is 0.9 percent on earnings over the threshold.


The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries is only slightly higher than 2014’s 1.5 percent increase. According to the SSA, the maximum monthly Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at full retirement age in 2015 will be $2,663. The average monthly Social Security retirement benefit payable in January 2015 is expected to be $1,328.

For more information on how this tax increase will affect you and your business, contact our tax advisors in Michigan, Houston or Ft. Lauderdale today.