DEFINITION of 'Social Security Act'

A law enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to create a system of transfer payments in which younger, working people support older, retired people. Under the act, the government began collecting the Social Security tax from workers in 1937 and began making payments in 1940.

BREAKING DOWN 'Social Security Act'

The Social Security tax combines with the Medicare tax to form what is known as FICA, or the payroll tax. As of 2010, the Social Security tax rate was 6.2% and the Medicare tax rate was 1.45%. The total payroll tax of 7.65% is deducted from the employee's paycheck; the employer must make a matching contribution of an additional 7.65%. The employee effectively pays the entire tax, as the employer's matching requirement reduces what he is able to pay his employees. Thus, Social Security represents a tax of 12.4% on the employee in addition to Medicare taxes, federal income taxes, state and local income taxes, sales taxes and numerous other less-noticed taxes.

To learn more about the Social Security Act, check out Why is Social Security running out of money?

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