Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

Social Security 'tax max' figure not declining as stated

The statement

Historically, the Social Security tax has been assessed on about 90 percent of U.S. income. Now it captures 83 percent because there's been such a growth of income among the highest earners.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., in an interview

The ruling

According to a Social Security "Policy Brief" from 2011 and other sources, Social Security sometimes refers to this limit as the "tax max." It's been the subject of a lot of tinkering since the 1930s, when it was set at $3,000. The tax rate then was just 1 percent.

The tax max started going up in 1951. Annual increases began in 1972. The tax rate itself started to rise in 1950. It has been 6.2 percent since 1990.

Returning to Cicilline's statement, we found that he got a key number wrong.

He said that, historically, 90 percent of income was subject to the Social Security tax. In fact, 83 percent is the average proportion of wages subjected to the tax from the founding of Social Security through 2009. For several years during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s it was below 80 percent, dropping to 71 percent in 1965.

The percentage peaked at 90 percent in only two years — 1982 and 1983. It's been on the decline since then. It was about 86 percent in 2010.

Cicilline's office subsequently sent us two reports that confirmed the 90 percent represents a historical peak, not an average.

One was a 2010 document from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which predicted that the rate would hit 83 percent around 2014. The other was a compilation of statistical tables from the Social Security Administration showing that the 2011 rate was expected to be 83 percent, as Cicilline said.

The reports showed something else.

Since 1983, about 6 percent of the population each year has earned enough money to reach the cap and stop paying Social Security taxes that year. The fact that the percentage has changed very little (yet the amount of wages subjected to the Social Security tax has steadily declined) shows that the wealthiest Americans have been seeing less and less of their income subjected to the tax, which was Cicilline's other point.

As the 2011 policy brief concluded, "The percentage of earnings covered by the tax max has fallen since the early 1980s because earnings among above-max earners have grown faster than earnings among the rest of the working population."

We rate the claim Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Social Security 'tax max' figure not declining as stated 05/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 5:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.