Withholding Social Security Tax from Wages—Things to Consider

US social security tax is withheld from employees’ wages under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), which provides funding for the Social Security and Medicare programs. The goal of the Social Security program is to offer retirement, disability, and survivor’s benefits, whereas Medicare provides health insurance. 

Although many companies believe they have a good process in place to address the withholding of these taxes for their US-based employees that work in the US, it is critical that they review and understand the rules for their internationally mobile population. Through proper review and planning, companies can mitigate risks and may also achieve substantial cost savings.

Do You Have to File US Taxes Abroad If You’re Making Under $100K?

All US citizens and permanent residents must file federal income tax returns if they meet the IRS filing threshold. The amount of this threshold will vary depending on factors such as age, filing status, and type of income (i.e., income from employment or self-employment). For example, a single individual under the age of 65 would be required to file a 2019 US federal tax return if their gross income exceeded $12,200. If the earnings came from self-employment, this same person would need to file a US federal tax return if their net earnings exceeded $400.

How Can I Avoid Double Tax While Working Abroad?

When they are working outside the United States, most US citizens and permanent residents (i.e., green card holders) will be required to file income tax returns in both their Host country and in the United States. Filing two sets of returns can be a headache for the taxpayer, but it does not necessarily mean that they will be taxed twice on the income earned while working abroad.

Do You Need to File US Tax Returns While Working Outside the US?

It may seem counterintuitive to a US citizen or permanent resident (i.e., a green card holder) who has just taken a new international job, that most will still be required to file US federal income tax returns after relocating. In addition to filing income tax returns, mobile employees may also have other filing obligations including estate or gift tax returns, estimated tax payments, and foreign bank account reports.

Are US Citizens and Green Card Holders Still Subject to Taxes in the US when Living Overseas?

If you have employees working outside the United States who are US citizens or permanent residents (i.e., a green card holder), these individuals will need to continue filing US tax returns to declare all of the income they earn in both the United States and their Host country. This requirement does not change if they are employed or paid from a non-US employer. Additionally, most of the tax rules that apply to taxpayers living in the United States will also apply to US persons operating overseas. The result may be that an overseas employee will be subject to tax in both the US and other jurisdictions.

When Should Your Business Bring in a Mobility Tax Consultant?

Most companies recognize that sending an employee overseas for a long-term assignment or permanent relocation can create a broad range of issues for both the employee and employer. Those companies are aware that they will likely need to provide the mobile employee with assistance in addressing such issues as visas, work permits, and travel and relocation expenses. The fact that the employee and employer are likely facing a new tax environment following the move is sometimes unknown or may even be kicked down the road to be dealt with after the other issues have been resolved.