Unexpectedly Intriguing!
06 January 2012

How much money will you really take home from your paycheck in 2012?

To find out, we've created the tool below so you can run the numbers that matter the most for you! In addition to finding out how much money Uncle Sam will be taking straight out of your paycheck for income tax withholding and FICA (which we've broken down into your Social Security and Medicare tax components), our tool will also work in your 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan contributions, as well as the effect of any flexible spending account arrangements you may have set up through your employer.

Better yet, our tool will also let you see how you take home pay might change if you earn a raise during the year!

Just enter the indicated data into our tool, and we'll run your numbers for 2012, or at least your numbers through February 2012, depending upon what happens with that temporary Social Security payroll tax cut. If and when that changes, we'll post a new version of the tool!

Your Paycheck and Tax Withholding Data
Category Input Data Values
Basic Pay Data Current Annual Pay
Pay Period
Federal Withholding Data Filing Status
Number of Withholding Allowances
401(k) or 403(b) Contributions Pre-Tax Contributions (%)
After Tax Contributions (%)
Flexible Spending Account Annual Contribution Data Health Care Spending Account
Dependent Care Spending Account
What if You Had a Raise? Desired Raise (%)

Your Paycheck Data
Category Calculated Results Values
Basic Income Data Proposed Annual Salary (Including Raise!)
Typical Paycheck Amount
Federal Tax Withholding Amounts U.S. Federal Income Taxes
U.S. Social Security Taxes
U.S. Medicare Taxes
401(k) or 403(b) Contributions Pre-Tax Contributions
After-Tax Contributions
Total Contributions
Flexible Spending Account Contributions Health Care Spending Account
Dependent Care Spending Account
Take Home Pay Estimate Net Paycheck Amount

That's all well and good, but how does your paycheck compare to what it would have looked like in 2010, the last year before the Social Security payroll tax cut? And for that matter, when both Single and Married tax filers had lower federal income tax withholding rates in place as well? Did you really get the benefit of that full 2.0% reduction of your income more in your pocket? Our results table below shows how you take-home pay would have been....

Compared to 2010
Category Calculated Results Values
Major Changes Payroll Tax Cut "Savings" per Paycheck (*)
Change in Income Taxes Withheld per Paycheck
Net Gain (+) or Loss (-) to You per Paycheck
Your Personal "Stimulus" (Percentage of Income)

(*) As part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, the taxes collected from all Americans with wage or salary income to support Social Security was reduced by 2.0%, from 6.2% to 4.2%. This change only affects what individuals see on their paychecks, as the employers' portion of these taxes will remain at 6.2% of their employees' wage or salary incomes.

To make up any resulting shortfall in the Social Security tax collections used to pay benefits to today's Social Security recipients, the U.S. Treasury will increase its borrowing to cover the cost of providing those benefits at their current level. The Social Security payroll tax cut was extended for most wage and salary earners through February 2012 by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011.

As for why President Obama's promise of a 2.0% payroll tax cut really doesn't add up to 2.0% of your salary or wage income, see the charts here (if you file as Single) and here (if you file as Married), for the explanation of those tax withholding dynamics....

And remember, one of the consequences of not putting that extra 2.0% of your paycheck into Social Security is that the program will run more deeply in the red, which will force the government to have to borrow more money just to pay benefits to today's Social Security recipients.

Our advice: if you'd like to put Social Security on a more sound footing, and keep your take-home pay from being reduced by 2.0% when the temporary Social Security payroll tax cut is set to expire in February 2012, have your U.S. Representative or Senators reduce all the other income tax rates (and withholding tax rates) by 2.0% (or more). As far as President Obama is concerned, it will make no difference to how much money the federal government will borrow on his watch.

Previously on Political Calculations

We've been in the business of calculating people's paychecks (not including state income tax withholding) since 2005!

But before we forget, your employer pays a lot more to keep you on the payroll than just your paycheck! The tool below shows how much it costs to employ you in 2011-12!

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About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations

Thanks in advance!

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