Defer Social Security Tax: Efficient Strategies for Financial Stability


Deferment of Social Security taxes has been an important relief measure for employers and self-employed individuals grappling with the financial uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic. Under Section 2302 of the CARES Act, the deposit and payment of the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes and certain railroad retirement taxes can be deferred, offering temporary financial relief during these challenging times.

Eligibility for the Social Security tax deferral varies, with different criteria laid out for employers, self-employed individuals, and governmental entities. It is crucial for eligible parties to understand the specific regulations and guidelines associated with calculating deferral amounts and repayment terms to ensure full compliance and to avoid any penalties or issues down the road.

Key Takeaways

  • Deferral of Social Security taxes under the CARES Act provides temporary financial relief to eligible employers and self-employed individuals.
  • Understanding eligibility criteria and deferral regulations is essential for proper compliance.
  • Repayment strategies and reporting requirements must be carefully adhered to in order to avoid penalties.

Overview of Defer Social Security Tax

Understanding Social Security Taxes

Social Security Tax is a key component of payroll taxes in the United States. It is imposed on both employers and employees to fund the Social Security program, providing benefits to retirees, disabled individuals, and their dependents. The tax is shared between the employer and the employee, with each paying a certain percentage of the employee’s wages.

In general, Social Security tax is calculated based on a fixed rate, applied to the employee’s gross income up to a certain limit, known as the Social Security Wage Base. The rates and limits can vary over time, depending on the legislation and adjustments made by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The CARES Act and Social Security Tax Deferral

In response to the financial difficulties imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was enacted in March 2020. This legislation offered various forms of relief to businesses and individuals alike. One of the provisions under the CARES Act allowed deferment of certain employment taxes, including Social Security taxes.

Employers and self-employed individuals who opted for this relief were granted the ability to defer payment of their portion of Social Security tax for the tax year 2020, as outlined in the IRS Notice 2020-65. The deferred amounts were to be paid in two equal installments: firstly, by December 31, 2021, and secondly, by December 31, 2022.

It’s important to note that this deferral option was meant to provide short-term relief during the pandemic and has specific repayment requirements. Employers and self-employed individuals should be diligent in ensuring that their deferred Social Security tax payments comply with the deadlines established by the IRS to avoid penalties and interest charges.

Eligibility for Social Security Tax Deferral

Employers and Self-Employed Individuals

Eligible employers and self-employed individuals were given the opportunity to defer payment of their share of the Social Security tax in 2020. This option was provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, offering relief from the 6.2% tax typically imposed on wages, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is essential to point out that this deferral was specifically designed for the employer portion of the Social Security tax. For eligible employers and self-employed individuals, the repayment period has been divided into two annual installments: 50% due on January 3, 2022, and the remaining 50% due on January 3, 2023.

Conditions Under the CARES Act

The CARES Act outlined a few specific conditions for the deferral of Social Security taxes. Here are the crucial points to note:

  • This deferral applied to the employer portion of eligible Social Security tax liability. It was not an option for the employees’ share of the tax.
  • The deferral was available for wages paid between September 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. For self-employed individuals, a similar deferral was offered for the same period.
  • During the repayment period for deferred taxes (January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021), the amounts were to be withheld and paid evenly throughout the year.

In conclusion, the eligibility for Social Security tax deferral was primarily aimed at providing financial relief to employers and self-employed individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conditions under the CARES Act provided a regulated framework for those opting to defer their Social Security tax liability.

Calculating the Deferral Amount

Determining Employer Portion

To calculate the deferral amount of an employer’s share of Social Security tax, employers have the option to reduce their required deposits or payments for a calendar quarter (or other employment tax return period) by an amount up to the maximum amount of the employer’s share of Social Security tax for the return period. This deferral affects the portion of Social Security tax that falls within the payroll tax deferral period.

For example, an employer with a total of $50,000 in wages for a quarter with an employer share of Social Security tax of 6.2% would have the option to defer up to $3,100 (50,000 * 0.062).

The deferred amounts should be paid as follows:

  1. 50% of the deferred amount by December 31, 2021
  2. The remaining 50% by December 31, 2022

Impact on Self-Employment Taxes

For self-employed individuals, the deferral opportunity also impacts self-employment taxes. Self-employed individuals pay both the employer and employee portions of Social Security taxes, which are calculated based on their net earnings. The employer portion of Social Security tax is 6.2%, while the employee portion is also 6.2%.

To determine the deferral amount for a self-employed individual, they must use a reasonable method to allocate the Social Security tax between the covered period (e.g., up to December 31, 2020) and the non-covered period. The portion that falls within the covered period can then be deferred.

The deferred amount must be deposited in two equal installments:

  1. 50% of the deferred amount by December 31, 2021
  2. The remaining 50% by December 31, 2022

Remember that deferring the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes or self-employment taxes is an option, not a requirement. It is important to consider the long-term implications of deferral, including the need to repay the deferred taxes in the future.

Payment and Reporting Requirements

Using Form 941

Employers are generally required to report wages, tips, and other compensation paid to employees by filing the proper forms with the IRS. One such form is Form 941, which is utilized to report federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax withheld from employees’ paychecks. This form is filed on a quarterly basis, and the due dates for these filings are as follows:

  • Quarter 1 (January – March): April 30
  • Quarter 2 (April – June): July 31
  • Quarter 3 (July – September): October 31
  • Quarter 4 (October – December): January 31

In the case of deferred Social Security taxes, employers who chose to defer taxes for their employees in 2020 are allowed to withhold and pay the deferred taxes throughout 2021, rather than just the first four months of the year.

Payment Methods

There are various methods available for employers to remit these tax payments, including the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), which allows employers to make tax payments electronically. Using EFTPS, employers can schedule payments in advance, track payment history, and obtain payment confirmations. To use EFTPS, employers must enroll in the system and receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) via mail.

In addition to EFTPS, employers can also make tax payments using:

  • Debit cards: Payments can be made using debit cards through authorized payment processors, which may charge a fee for the service.
  • Credit cards: Similarly, credit card payments can be made through authorized payment processors, but fees may apply.
  • Money orders: Employers may also choose to pay using money orders, payable to the United States Treasury.

It is crucial for employers to be aware of the payment and reporting requirements when dealing with deferred Social Security taxes, ensuring that all obligations are met in a timely and accurate manner.

Implications of Not Complying

When deferring Social Security taxes, employers must adhere to IRS regulations, or they may face penalties and interest. This section discusses the potential consequences of non-compliance.

Penalties and Interest

Failure to comply with the requirements stated in the Notice 2020-65 and Notice 2021-11 can result in penalties and interest charged by the IRS. Employers must understand the specific dates and conditions under which they can defer and withhold employees’ Social Security taxes. If the required payments are not made within the specified period, they may be subject to penalties and interest.

The penalties may include:

  • Late payment penalty: If the employer does not pay the deferred taxes within the specified time frame, they may be subject to a late payment penalty. The penalty ranges from 2% to 25% of the deferred tax amount, depending on the degree of lateness.
  • Late filing penalty: Failure to file the proper forms and report the deferred taxes accurately may result in a penalty ranging from 5% to 15% of the unpaid tax, depending on the duration of the late submission.

Additionally, interest will accrue on the unpaid amount if the deferred taxes are not repaid within the required time frame. The interest rate may vary but is subject to the federal short-term rate plus 3%.

Failure to Deposit and Pay Penalties

Specific penalties may apply in situations where an employer fails to deposit the deferred Social Security taxes or pay them when they become due:

  • Failure to Deposit Penalty: This penalty applies when an employer does not deposit the appropriate tax amount when required. According to Notice 2020-22, the penalty rate is 2% for deposits made 1 to 5 days late, 5% for deposits made 6 to 15 days late, and 10% for deposits made 16 or more days late. In extreme cases, a 15% penalty may be applied if the deposit is still not made after ten days following the first IRS notice.
  • Failure to Pay Penalty: Employers may face a failure to pay penalty if they do not meet repayment deadlines for the deferred taxes. This penalty typically begins at 0.5% of the unpaid taxes and may increase up to 25% over time.

It is crucial for employers to comply with IRS regulations when deferring Social Security taxes to avoid penalties and interest. By understanding the requirements and ensuring timely deposits and payments, employers can minimize the risk associated with tax deferral.

Benefits and Risks of Deferring Social Security Taxes

Pros and Cons for Employers

Deferring Social Security taxes can be a double-edged sword for employers. On one hand, it provides a temporary cash-flow relief as it postpones the payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes. This can help businesses during challenging economic times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic1. Additionally, the Employee Retention Credit is available, allowing eligible employers to claim a refundable tax credit for retaining employees during the crisis.

However, there are risks associated with deferring Social Security taxes too. For instance, deferred taxes must be repaid, and there is no forgiveness or reduction in the amount due. Failure to repay these taxes on time may result in interest or penalties2. Moreover, employers need to keep track of the deferred taxes and ensure timely payment to avoid massive tax liabilities later.

Considerations for Self-Employed

Self-employed individuals can also choose to defer their Social Security taxes, as allowed by the CARES Act1. They should consider the following aspects:

  • Cash Flow: Deferral can provide short-term cash flow benefits, enabling them to navigate through economic hardships.
  • Tax Liability: Deferment may allow individuals to shift tax liabilities to future years when their income or tax rates might be lower.
  • Medicare Tax: The deferment only applies to the Social Security portion of the self-employment taxes, not the Medicare portion.

Similar to employers, self-employed individuals must also carefully weigh the potential risks:

  • Repayment Obligations: The deferred taxes must be repaid, with no possibility of forgiveness or reduction.
  • Planning: Those opting for tax deferral should plan for repayment and avoid spending the deferred amounts on short-term needs.
  • Possible Penalties: Late repayment could lead to additional interest and penalties, making the overall tax liability even higher.

In conclusion, both employers and self-employed individuals need to carefully consider the benefits and risks associated with deferring Social Security taxes. They should plan and manage their finances accordingly to avoid potential penalties and ensure future tax compliance.

Repayment Terms and Strategies

Repayment Period

Employers and self-employed individuals who chose to defer their 2020 Social Security tax liability are required to repay this amount in installments. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the second annual installment of the deferred amount is due on December 31, 2022. It is essential to adhere to the repayment deadlines to avoid penalties or other issues.

Strategic Planning for Repayment

Proper planning and management are crucial in ensuring the timely repayment of deferred Social Security taxes. Employers must collect the employees’ portion and are responsible for repaying the entire deferred amount, even if the employee no longer works for the organization. Here are some strategies employers and self-employed individuals can consider when planning for repayment:

  1. Set up an electronic fund transfer: By using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), you can schedule and manage your tax payments online. Along with ensuring on-time payments, it helps you keep records of previous transactions and monitor your payment history. Visit for more information.
  2. Allocate funds: The deferral period has allowed businesses and individuals to allocate funds for other immediate financial concerns. However, it is now essential to reserve funds toward the repayment of deferred taxes to avoid defaulting on the repayment deadlines.
  3. Consistent communication with employees: Employers should maintain open and transparent communication with their employees regarding deferred Social Security taxes. It is crucial to inform employees about their responsibility to pay back the deferred amounts and discuss any necessary arrangements to ensure timely repayments.
  4. Stay informed with IRS updates: By regularly checking the IRS website and monitoring any reminders, announcements, or changes related to deferred payroll taxes, employers and self-employed individuals can stay up-to-date with their repayment obligations and requirements.

Additional Considerations and Resources

In addition to understanding the basics of deferring Social Security taxes, it’s important to consider some related aspects and resources that may affect tax planning for individuals and businesses.

Related Executive Orders and Legislation

Some key legislations and executive orders that impact Social Security tax deferrals include:

  • Presidential Memorandum: On August 8, 2020, a presidential memorandum allowed deferring Social Security taxes for certain employees.
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan: Under the CARES Act, PPP loans were available to eligible businesses, which could be forgiven if used for specific expenses. The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act later extended the loan forgiveness period.
  • Consolidated Appropriations Act: Signed in December 2020, this act provided additional relief for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as employee retention tax credits.
  • Fiscal Year: The fiscal year refers to an accounting period for tax entities. For instance, the individual’s tax year that could be affected by the tax deferral is Tax Year 2020.

It’s crucial to stay updated on IRS guidance and visit for the latest information regarding Social Security tax deferrals and related policies.

Seeking Advice from Tax Professionals

For both individuals and businesses, consulting a tax professional or an accountant is highly recommended for navigating these deferrals, especially for schedule SE filers (self-employed) and Form 1040 filers (individual income tax return). Here are some reasons for seeking professional advice:

  1. Tax professionals help navigate the complex rules related to Social Security tax deferrals and loan forgiveness from the PPP loan.
  2. They can provide guidance to household employers on how to report and defer their employees’ Social Security taxes.
  3. Tax professionals can inform individuals and businesses about additional relief measures provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
  4. They can help taxpayers correctly use available resources, such as, to pay their deferred taxes.

In conclusion, understanding the executive orders, legislation, and resources related to Social Security tax deferrals, in addition to seeking professional advice, can help individuals and businesses make informed decisions while navigating this complex subject.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the conditions and eligibility requirements for payroll tax deferral?

The payroll tax deferral option under the CARES Act applies to employers and self-employed individuals. Employers may defer the deposit and payment of their portion of Social Security taxes and certain railroad retirement taxes. However, employers who have received a Payroll Protection Loan that has been forgiven are not eligible for this deferral.

What is the deadline for repaying deferred Social Security taxes?

For eligible employers and self-employed individuals who have chosen to defer their 2020 Social Security tax liability, the deferred amount is due in two annual installments. The first installment is due on December 31, 2021, and the second installment is due on December 31, 2022.

How can an individual pay their deferred Social Security taxes online?

Individuals can pay their deferred Social Security taxes online through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). It is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and allows taxpayers to make payments securely.

What are the consequences or penalties for not timely repaying deferred Social Security taxes?

If deferred Social Security taxes are not paid by the deadline, penalties and interest may apply. It is important for taxpayers to stay informed about their tax liability and make timely payments to avoid potential consequences.

Are there methods available to adjust Social Security tax withholding online?

While adjusting Social Security tax withholding directly online is not currently available, employees can request their employer to modify the amount withheld by submitting a new Form W-4. Employers will then adjust the withholding according to the new information provided on Form W-4.

What are the specific guidelines for tax deferral under the CARES Act?

The CARES Act allows eligible employers to defer the deposit and payment of their portion of Social Security taxes and certain railroad retirement taxes. According to Notice 2021-11, employers who elected to defer these taxes can withhold and pay the deferred taxes throughout 2021 instead of just the first four months of the year. It is essential for employers to consult the updated guidance published by the IRS on their website to stay informed on the specific guidelines and frequently asked questions related to the payroll tax deferral.