Social Security: Do I Still Need to Make Contributions if I Work Overseas?

Mature couple exploring Belgrade in Serbia.
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American citizens who live overseas and start missing the good old USA can always count on one thing to keep them in touch with their homeland: the taxes they owe to Uncle Sam — including Social Security taxes.

See: 15 Worst States To Live on Just a Social Security Check
Find: 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About SNAP

If you’re a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, you will need to pay into Social Security whether or not you live in the United States, according to the Greenback Expat Tax Services website. If you work for a U.S. company, you and your employer are both responsible for making Social Security tax contributions.

This might mean you’ll be hit with double taxation — the taxes you have to pay to the U.S., and the taxes you have to pay to your host country. Most foreign countries also require individuals to pay into their own social insurance systems to cover benefits received while living there.

Whether you are double taxed depends on where you live. As a way of preventing double taxation, the U.S. has entered into Social Security agreements, also known as Totalization agreements, with more than two dozen countries. The agreements are based on territory rule, which determines where an individual’s employment is sourced. The agreements also take into consideration factors such as where the person was hired and their intended length of stay in the foreign country.

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According to the Social Security Administration, the countries with Social Security agreements are Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, Canada, the U.K., Sweden, Spain, France, Portugal, the Netherland, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Greece, South Korea, Chile, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Uruguay, Slovenia and Iceland.

If you don’t live in one of those countries, you’ll probably face double taxation.

If you decide to retire overseas, you should be able to still receive your Social Security benefits, though part of that depends on your citizenship and residency status in addition to agreements between the U.S. and your host country.

See: 17 Tips To Live Comfortably Off Just a Social Security Check
Find: The First Thing You Should Do With Your Social Security Check

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re eligible for benefits if you paid into Social Security. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, your payments will be eliminated after you’ve been away from the U.S. for six calendar months – unless you live in a country that shares a Totalization Agreement.

To learn more, visit the SSA’s International Programs and Resources page.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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