Ask the Coach
Question: I’m retired, and someone told me that I need to pay tithe on my social security income. Is that true?
Answer: Well, yes and no!
When a person pays in to social security, the money they contribute should be tithed on. (This is when a person returns tithe on their gross income.) When a person begins to receive benefits from social security, an amount equal to the personal contributions can be subtracted before one begins to return tithe on the benefits received.
For example: The American worker pays 7.65 percent of their salary into FICA (6.2 percent Social Security plus 1.45 Medicare).1 Their employer matches that amount. If you worked for 20 years and made $50,000 a year, then you would have paid approximately $76,500 into Social Security over those 20 years. Therefore, when you begin to receive retirement income (Social Security plus Medicare), you would not be responsible for tithing on that income until you surpass the $76,500 income mark.2 If a person is self-employed, he or she pays 100 percent of their FICA. If they return tithe on the amount (gross) paid in, then they would start returning tithe on any money after the threshold of total contributions has been reached.
However, for people who have worked over a period of up to 40 years or more and in different jobs, it can get even more complicated! Thus, another option is to return tithe on your income after deducting your payments made for FICA. Upon receiving Social Security benefits at retirement, you would tithe the total amount of those benefits.
Dr. John Mathews, says, “Let’s not make something that God intended as a blessing to become a curse!” These are guidelines. Please take them and prayerfully consider how God would have you be faithful to Him now and in your retirement years.
By Bonita Shields, Vice President for Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
1 Go to https://www.ssa.gov/thirdparty/materials/pdfs/educators/What-is-FICA-Infographic-EN-05-10297.pdf to view an infographic about the breakdown of FICA.