Why didn't my student job report payroll taxes?

My wife happened to be looking at her “my social security” at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. She noticed that she had no wages reported for the years when she was a teaching assistant at college and wondered if something was wrong. I was curious, so I logged into my account. Sure enough, the years I was a TA, and the time I was a Graduate research assistant in grad school, I got paid, but nothing was reported to the SSA.

I have W-2s from those years, and while I paid income tax, there wasn’t any payroll tax taken out. I can’t find any reason for it searching the FAQs at SSA.gov, and I assume my college, which employs thousands of students each year, didn’t get it wrong for most of a decade.

So… why? What about those jobs meant I didn’t pay into SS for those years? It’s not simply the amount of the job - I have other W-2s for less money that did report to the system. I don’t think it’s the non-profit status of the school - all the FAQs I read said non-profits still pay SS and medicare taxes. Which leaves me puzzled, and turning to the teeming millions for illumination.

State school? You didn’t pay in to social security, you paid in to your state employees retirement system.

I don’t think they do this any more, but back when I was a grad student, my fellowship was not considered income, because teaching was considered part of my degree requirements. So, no tax withheld, no SS withheld.

Or sometimes neither- in my first government job, as a provisional employee I could either pay into both the pension and SS or pay into neither.Permanent employees at the time were required to pay into both.

It was a state school, but I can’t find any documentation that I paid into a retirement system. The Retirement page for my alma mater lists a few options: I know I did not apply for the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia or the Optional Retirement Plan or the Supplemental Retirement Savings Plans. I suppose it’s possible I was entered into the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan without my knowledge (since I was both temporary and non-exempt), but it seems odd that nobody would tell me this. I suppose I will make an account and see if there’s anything for me to get a refund.

Interesting! Unfortunately my research was not part of my degree requirements (at least, not the research I was paid for), so I don’t think that’s it.

There was a time that certain types of student jobs at universities did not require SS taxes to be paid. Assistantships were typical of those. I also had assistantships for a number of years and never paid payroll taxes those years.

Well, I created an account and logged into the Employee Retirement System of Georgia, and found that I had deposited the princely sum of $61 into the account, which had gained me three and a half dollars of interest over the years. Woo! Even better, I can request a refund of all the huge sums of money I apparently contributed to this system, plus interest, even tho I’m not retired! Of course, I have to pay a whopping 10% early withdrawal fee, and 66 cents are being withheld for federal tax (on the interest) and 33 cents are being withhold for state tax (again, on the interest), so I’m left with $63.87. Better call my broker to see where I should invest that.

One problem though, is that the last statement update occurred before grad school (I was an undergrad TA, and I had a couple of other student jobs, so I suppose that’s where the contributions came from), so it doesn’t explain why no SS taxes where paid during my grad school tenure.

Hmm, this could be it. Do you know where I could go to find out if that’s still the case and if I qualified?

Turns out suranyi was right - although I had to look at a Different universities FAQ page, that explains it.

Thanks for the help everyone.

Many (all?) US grad students* don’t pay FICA. TA/RA both. No, nobody told me beforehand either. :frowning: I went from paying 5 different taxes before to 1 in grad school (no state tax now, no SS+MC, no CA SDI). I get paid for 10 months/year. If I teach in the summer, then I DO pay FICA. I think/heard that I wouldn’t if took a class while I taught. Except I pay the 1.45% Medicaid like usual, and the 6.2% SS goes into a 458 plan instead. It’s like a 401k (businesses) or 403b (schools, usually K-12), but it’s for government employees, and I technically work for the state. The sweet thing is though is that there is zero early withdrawal penalty. I have to pay taxes if I don’t roll it over but that’s it. The plans are through ING or Hartford.

*ETA: grad students who earn a salary through the school, if that wasn’t clear.

I just checked my SSA earnings report and it is odd.

I have no reported income for most of my undergrad/Masters time. Just a small amount one year. Nothing listed for the bulk of time when I did paper grading and tutoring for the U. The small amount listed is way too small for my TA. I might have gotten some money that year working on a project for a prof. and that accounts for the one oddity.

But then I have income listed while an RA for my PhD at another place.

Why was the RA money taxed but not the TA/other stuff?

(I thought I had FICA taken out even when tutoring, but I don’t see how I can prove that.)