Following is a summary of the federal 2021 payroll tax changes including Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Tax, Minimum Wage, 401(k) limits, and more.

Social Security / Medicare

The wage base increases to $142,800 for Social Security and remains UNLIMITED for Medicare. For Social Security, the tax rate is 6.20% for both employers and employees. (Maximum Social Security tax withheld from wages is $8,853.60 in 2021). For Medicare, the rate remains unchanged at 1.45% for both employers and employees.

Additional Medicare Tax

A 0.9% additional Medicare tax must be withheld from an individual’s wages paid in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. There is no employer match for the additional Medicare tax.

Federal Unemployment Tax

The wage base remains at $7,000.

The effective tax rate for 2021 is 0.6%.

Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage rate per hour for 2020 is $7.25, effective 7/24/09.

Earnings Under Social Security

A social security beneficiary under full retirement age can earn $18,960 before benefits are reduced. For every $2 a person under full retirement age earns over $18,960, $1 is withheld from benefits. In the year an employee reaches full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be withheld for each $3 they earn above $50,520 until the month the employee reaches full retirement age. Once an employee reaches full retirement age or older, their benefits are not reduced regardless of how much they earn.

401(K) Plan Limits

The maximum employee pretax contribution remains at $19,500 in 2021. The “catch-up” contribution limit remains at $6,500 for individuals who are age 50 or older.

SIMPLE Plan Limits

The maximum salary deferral contribution remains at $13,500 in 2021. The “catch-up” contribution remains at $3,000 for individuals who are age 50 or older.

Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS)

Employers must pay their Federal Tax Liabilities through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System unless they pay less than $2,500 in quarterly payroll tax liabilities and pay their liability when filing their employment tax returns (Forms 941 and 944).

Forms W-4, I-9 and W-9

All new employees are required to file Forms W-4 and I-9 which are to be kept on file by the employer. A new Form W-4 should be obtained when an employee’s filing status or exemption changes.

Be sure to request and keep on file a completed Form W-9 from all non-corporate taxpayers to whom your company pays commissions, interest, rents, etc., totaling $600 or more, and also payments made to certain incorporated entities such as attorneys for legal services and providers of medical and health care services.

Filing of Form W-2 and 1099

Federal Reports containing 250 or more W-2s must be filed electronically via the Social Security’s Business Services Online (BSO). Visit for more information about using BSO.

Employers filing 250 or more Forms 1099 with the IRS must file electronically. Form 1099 must provide the payer telephone number or will be subject to penalties.

W-2 and 1099 Filing Deadline for Employers

The due date for filing 2020 Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration is February 1, 2021. A change to the reporting requirement for 2020 for non-employee compensation such as payment to independent contractors will be reported on Form 1099-NEC instead of 1099 MISC. The 1099-NEC return is due on February 1, 2021.

Health Benefits W-2 Reporting

Employers are required to include the aggregate cost of employer sponsored health benefits on the 2020 W-2’s in Box 12 with code DD. It is for informational purposes only and will not be included in taxable income. Please contact us regarding the specific types of health benefits to be recorded. Small employers who file fewer than 250 W-2 Forms are exempt.

Household Employment – Domestic Workers

Household employers are required to withhold and pay FICA for domestic workers (age 18 and older) if paid cash wages of $2,300 or more in 2021. The $1,000 per calendar quarter threshold continues to apply for FUTA. These taxes are reported on Schedule H of the employer’s personal tax return (Form 1040), but must be remitted through withholding or estimated payments during the year.

For PA and NJ, unemployment coverage applies for domestic service in an employer’s private home for cash wages of $1,000 or more in a calendar quarter in the current or preceding calendar year.

2021 Federal Wage Tax Rate Summary

FICA / OASDI2021 Current Year2020 Prior Year
Employee rate6.2%6.2%
Maximum liability – employee$8,853.60$8,537.40
Employer rate6.2%6.2%
Maximum liability – employer$8,853.60$8,537.40
Wage limit$142,800.00$137,700.00
Medicare2021 Current Year2020 Prior Year
Employee and Employer rate1.45%1.45%
Maximum deduction / liability (each)No limitNo limit
Wage limitNo limitNo limit
Additional employee rate on wages exceeding $200,0000.9%0.9%
FUTA2021 Current Year2020 Prior Year
Employer rate0.6%0.6%
Wage limit$7,000$7,000
Social Security Benefits (Earned income may be received without forfeiting benefits)2022 Current Year2021 Prior Year
Under full retirement age$18,960.00$18,240.00
After full retirement ageNo limitNo limit

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