As concerns circulate about a potential recession, President Donald Trump insists that the economy remains healthy. Despite those assertions, there have been rumblings that White House officials are exploring the possibility of a temporary payroll tax cut to put more money in the hands of consumers.
According to reports, economists inside the White House have drafted a white paper about the potential for a payroll tax cut. Earlier, a White House official released a statement saying that “more tax cuts for the American people are certainly on the table, but cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time.” However, President Trump confirmed to reporters that payroll tax cuts are on the table, along with those rumored potential changes to capital gains, saying, “I’ve been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time. Many people would like to see that.”
If the back-and-forth sounds familiar, it echoes themes from an earlier time. The last payroll tax cut for American workers—also controversial—was pushed through by the Obama administration in 2011, despite concerns that the cut would increase the federal deficit. The theory was that the benefit would offset any costs: The cut was intended to kick-start the economy following the 2008 recession. After the first round, Congress renewed the temporary payroll tax cuts in 2012.
Here’s how the payroll tax cuts worked. Wages and self-employment income are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. Together, Social Security and Medicare taxes are known as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes and are taken right out of your paycheck. Taxes on self-employment income are separately referred to as SECA (Self-Employment Contributions Act) taxes since self-employed persons pay both the employee and employer contributions.