IRS Logo
Print - Click this link to Print this page

Social Security Tax / Medicare Tax and Self-Employment

If you work as an employee in the United States, you must pay social security and Medicare taxes in most cases. Your payments of these taxes contribute to your coverage under the U.S. social security system. Your employer deducts these taxes from each wage payment. Your employer must deduct these taxes even if you do not expect to qualify for social security or Medicare benefits.

In general, U.S. social security and Medicare taxes apply to payments of wages for services performed as an employee in the United States, regardless of the citizenship or residence of either the employee or the employer. In limited situations, these taxes apply to wages for services performed outside the United States. Your employer should be able to tell you if social security and Medicare taxes apply to your wages. You cannot make voluntary social security payments if no taxes are due.

Refund of Taxes Withheld in Error

If social security or Medicare taxes were withheld in error from pay that is not subject to these taxes, contact the employer who withheld the taxes for a refund.

If you are unable to get a full refund of the amount from your employer, file a claim for refund with the Internal Revenue Service on Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement (PDF). Attach the following items to Form 843:

  • A copy of your Form W-2 to prove the amount of social security and Medicare taxes withheld,
  • A copy of the page from your passport showing the visa stamp,
  • INS Form I-94,
  • If applicable INS Form I-538, Certification by Designated School Official, and
  • A statement from your employer indicating the amount of the reimbursement your employer provided and the amount of the credit or refund your employer claimed or that you authorized your employer to claim. If you cannot obtain this statement from your employer, you must provide this information on your own statement and explain why you are not attaching a statement from your employer.
  • If applicable, Form 8316,Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa (PDF)

File Form 843 (with attachments) with the IRS office where your employer's Forms 941 returns were filed. You can locate the IRS office where your employer files his Form 941 by going to Where to File Tax Returns.

Self-Employment Tax

Self-employment income is income that arises from the performance of personal services, but which cannot be classified as wages because an employer-employee relationship does not exist between the payer and the payee. The Internal Revenue Code imposes the self-employment tax on the self-employment income of any U.S. citizen or resident alien who has such self-employment income.

However, nonresident aliens are not subject to self-employment tax. Once a nonresident alien individual becomes a U.S. resident alien under the residency rules of the Internal Revenue Code, he/she then becomes liable for self-employment taxes under the same conditions as a U.S. citizen or resident alien.

Note: In spite of the general rules mentioned above, self-employment tax may be imposed on a nonresident alien under the terms of an international social security agreement (Totalization Agreement).

International Social Security Agreements

The United States has entered into social security agreements with foreign countries to coordinate social security coverage and taxation of workers employed for part or all of their working careers in one of the countries. These agreements are commonly referred to as Totalization Agreements. Under these agreements, dual coverage and dual contributions (taxes) for the same work are eliminated. The agreements generally make sure that social security taxes (including self-employment tax) are paid only to one country. You can get more information on the Social Security Administration's Web site.

References/Related Topics

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 10-Dec-2013