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Payroll tax cut temporarily extended

The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 was enacted late last year. It temporarily extends the two percentage point payroll tax cut for employees, continuing the reduction of their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2% to 4.2% of wages paid through Feb. 29, 2012. Shortly after its passage, the IRS instructed employers to implement the new payroll tax rate as soon as possible in 2012 but not later than Jan. 31, 2012.

The law also includes a “recapture” provision, which applies only to those employees who receive more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month period (i.e., two-twelfths of the 2012 wage base of $110,100). This provision imposes an additional income tax on these higher-income employees in an amount equal to 2% of the amount of wages they receive during the two-month period in excess of $18,350 (and not greater than $110,100).

In addition, under the new law, the social security tax rate for a self-employed individual remains at 10.4%, for self-employment income of up to $18,350 (reduced by wages subject to the lower rate for 2012). Congress is going to try to negotiate a deal to extend the payroll tax cut for all of 2012. If a deal is struck to extend it for the full year, the recapture provision for employees would not apply.

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