The biggest Christmas present that many people will get this year comes from the federal government. And most will probably fritter it away.
Thanks to the tax bill that President Obama signed a week ago, a large number of Americans will get a year-long discount on their payroll taxes in 2011. Normally, employees pay 6.2 percent of their salaries, up to a $106,800 limit, toward Social Security. In 2011, that number will fall to 4.2 percent.
As a result, individuals could end up with a payroll tax savings of up to $2,136 in 2011, according to CCH, a tax information provider. Households with two wage earners who both make more than $106,800 will get $4,272, double the amount for individuals.
The self-employed will share in the year-long tax holiday as well, though they will still be on the hook for the full 6.2 percent of the employer contribution to Social Security. As a result, they’ll pay 10.4 percent in payroll taxes instead of the usual 12.4 percent.
Some government workers and others who do not contribute to Social Security will not get this temporary break. And as Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center pointed out in a blog post earlier this month, the payroll tax holiday represents a net loss for many low-income individuals, who will lose access to the Making Work Pay tax credit, which expires at the end of the year.