Article reprinted from the Associated Press/AP - 1/24/13.
The Social Security Administration has implemented a variety of new rules
and features for 2013. The two-year payroll tax cut has officially ended,
and paper Social Security checks will soon cease to be printed. A growing
number of Social Security services will also be online this year. Here's
a look at some of the recent Social Security changes that go into effect
Payroll tax cut ends. The temporary payroll tax cut was allowed to expire at the end of 2012.
Workers who paid 4.2 percent of their income into the Social Security
system in 2011 and 2012 will now resume contributing 6.2 percent of their
earnings in 2013, up to the payroll tax cap of $113,700.
Higher payroll tax cap. The payroll tax cap increased by $3,600, from $110,100 in 2012 to $113,700
in 2013. Workers who earn more than this threshold don't need to pay
Social Security taxes on that income.
More online services. A trip to the Social Security office is no longer necessary to start
your Social Security payments. A growing number of retirees are claiming
Social Security payments online, largely thanks to an advertising campaign
starring actors Patty Duke and George Takei. For the first time in 2012,
workers could access their Social Security statements online, including
their complete earnings history and expected payments, and about 3 million
people have already done so. In early 2013, Social Security added online
services including the ability to access a benefit verification letter
and payment history. Retirees can also change their address and start
or change direct-deposit information online. "The ability to do this
online, it will be a real convenience for the people who are required
to have these benefit verification letters," says Social Security
Commissioner Michael Astrue. "It is going to allow us to focus on
the kind of conversations that we really do need to have face to face."
Reduced office hours. Social Security offices are reducing the hours they are open to the public
to save money and avoid paying overtime to workers. Social Security locations
nationwide have been closing 30 minutes early each day since Nov. 19,
2012, and they began closing to the public at noon every Wednesday on
Jan. 2, 2013.
Paper checks will end. On March 1, 2013, the Treasury department will stop mailing paper checks
to Social Security recipients. Retirees will be required to choose to
have their Social Security payments either directly deposited into a bank
or credit union account or loaded onto a prepaid Direct Express Debit
MasterCard. "If you already have a bank account or credit union account,
we encourage you and it's our preference that you sign up for direct
deposit," says Walt Henderson, director of the electronic fund transfer
strategy division at the Treasury Department. "The debit card is
primarily for unbanked benefit recipients. We don't want people who
already have a bank account to feel that they have to get the debit card."
New Social Security beneficiaries have been required to choose an electronic
payment option since May 2011, and approximately 93 percent of Social
Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are already being
Higher earnings limit. People between ages 62 and 66 who work and collect Social Security benefits
at the same time might have part or all of their Social Security benefit
temporarily withheld. Workers between ages 62 and 65 can earn up to $15,120
in 2013, after which $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 of income
above the earnings limit. People who turn 66 this year can earn up to
$40,080, and then $1 of benefits will be withheld for every $3 earned
above the limit. However, once you turn age 66, the earnings limit no
longer applies. And benefits may be recalculated at age 66 to reflect
the withheld benefits and continued earnings.