Social Security Refund: Here’s Why Some College Students Can Get Money Back

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U.S. resident taxpayers who are working must pay what is called FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax, which helps fund Society Security and Medicare hospital insurance. Gig workers pay their share of FICA, which typically totals roughly 8% of a worker’s annual pay, through self-employment tax. W-2 employees typically have the money withheld from their paycheck.

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However, there are some individuals who are exempt from the tax. Yale University’s Office of International Students and Scholars recently shared details about the FICA exemption. If FICA taxes were accidentally withheld from your paycheck, you can request a refund from your college or from the IRS.

The OISS website states that individuals who are exempt from the taxes include:

  • Federal tax filers who are not U.S. residents
  • Students employed on college campuses
  • Students who are authorized for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training
  • Students authorized for employment due to economic hardship

It’s important to note that the exemption does not apply to college faculty members or others who are considered professional employees of the institution.

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What To Do If You Paid FICA Taxes in Error

If you’ve accidentally had FICA taxes withheld from your paychecks, Yale advises that you request a refund from your employer first. If your employer cannot refund the money, you will need to file IRS Forms 843 and 8316. Include a statement from your employer explaining that they could not issue a refund.

When you reach out to the IRS with forms 843 and 8316, you should include a copy of your W-2 form showing FICA taxes withheld, a copy of the visa page of your passport, and a copy of your I-94 record. If you have CPT or OPT authorization, you’ll want to include a copy of your I-20 form. If you were authorized to work due to economic hardship, you’ll want to include a copy of your EAD card, according to Yale’s OISS.

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It’s important to make copies of all your paperwork — do not send originals. Do not file this paper with your tax returns. Instead, mail them to the Internal Revenue Service, Austin, TX, 73301-0215.

If you are a college student who worked on campus in 2021, review your W-2 forms carefully to be sure that Social Security and Medicare taxes were not withheld in error.  

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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