Social Security Outperforms America’s Top Websites

Today’s post is mostly from the February 2015 edition of the Social Security newsletter. Read the full newsletter here.

Social Security has done it again! Social Security’s websites scored higher in customer satisfaction than those of some of the leading private sector companies in America, according to the ForeSee E-government Satisfaction Index. The Index also reported that of the 100 top-ranked federal sites, 5 of the top 6 belong to SSA.

The study analyzed 220,000 survey responses collected from users across 100 federal government websites. Social Security’s Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs, Retirement Estimator, Business Services Online, my Social Security, and online retirement application websites were all top-ranked. These websites outperformed those of private-sector customer service icons, including Amazon, L. L. Bean, and Apple.

Social Security’s websites outperform so many others because they are easy to navigate, and the information is easy to find. In addition, we employ acceptance testing, focus groups, and surveys to develop online applications and Web pages that will meet the expectations of users.

Check out all the great Social Security online services, including online applications, by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

All the above website locations are available through www.socialsecurity.gov. Specific sites named above follow:  

Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs

Retirement Estimator

Business Services Online (BSO)

my Social Security

 

Recently change your name?

Recently change your name?

Is your name the same on your W-2 form as on your Social Security number (SSN) card? 

If you need to update your name on your Social Security card, remember that doing so is free. Social Security does not charge a fee for Social Security number actions whether name change, replacement of a lost card or issuing an original number.  

See the Numbers & Cards section at www.socialsecurity.gov for needed evidence and a downloadable application. The direct link is www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. An easy to use decision tree provides instructions.

To protect your personal information and avoid identity theft, you cannot electronically submit the Social Security number application. While a few areas of the country have centralized sites to process SSN card actions, in North Dakota completed applications, with evidence, can be brought or mailed to a local office. Locations for other areas are part of the decision tree instructions in the Numbers & Cards section. 

To speed your request, be sure to read instructions and have needed information available. Local offices routinely see people who do not have what they need. Unfortunately, they must be sent away wasting their time and ours.

It is important that any document submitted as evidence must be an original or a copy certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies you made yourself or that you had notarized cannot be used. State agency addresses if you need a certified copy of a document showing a birth, marriage or divorce within the United States are linked from the website. All documents are returned to you.

SSN cards are mailed from a central location when processing is complete. Allow approximately two weeks to receive your corrected or replacement card.

The name on your card should be the same as reported by your employer so that your wages are correctly shown on your work record. Have your employer correct your payroll record after your SSN card is updated. Employers can verify the SSN of employees and transmit W-2 data with the free SSA Business Services Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/business.html

Warning: Be careful when searching the Internet for Social Security information. Avoid private for-profit websites that charge for services provided free by Social Security, including name changes to your SSN card. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov or www.ssa.gov for accurate information and free services.  

 

 

Is payroll tax withheld if I work and receive Social Security?

Q: I stopped working full-time at the end of 2014 and started Social Security retirement. For the next few months I will work part-time and then retire completely.

Will Social Security payroll tax be held from my paycheck? If yes, will this increase my retirement amount? 

A: Yes, you continue to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. Your employer will continue doing so too. Everyone working in employment or self-employment covered by Social Security must pay payroll taxes regardless of age or eligibility to Social Security benefits. Current and historical Social Security and Medicare tax rates are shown here. 

If you are younger than full retirement age, remember annual earnings test limits.

Your new earnings would have to be better than the ones already used to compute your retirement amount to increase your monthly retirement amount. While possible, it is doubtful that a few months of part-time work will change your monthly retirement amount since the best 35 years of your working career are used.  

Benefit amounts of everyone receiving Social Security benefits are automatically reviewed when new earnings are posted to their work record even when low earnings are involved. Due to this, your retirement amount will be automatically reviewed once these 2015 earnings appear on your work record. 

Since you worked full-time all of 2014, it is much more likely that your 2014 earnings will increase your retirement amount when automatically reviewed. 

Employers report your earnings to the Social Security Administration as part of the W-2 process. Different employer deadlines apply based on how reporting is completed. Employers have a March 31 deadline if electronically reporting 2014 W-2 information using Social Security Business Services Online (BSO). If reporting by paper, the deadline is the last day of February.

However reported, national posting of all wage information is usually complete in approximately October, with automatic reviews of benefit amounts starting once wage posting is complete. If 2014 earnings increase retirement benefits, you will receive the increase in approximately December 2015, with payment retroactive to January 2015. 

 

Employers – remember SSA Business Services Online

Employers: You can still register for Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) and transmit your 2014 W-2 information electronically.  

Once registered, you can also immediately verify the Social Security number (SSN) of new and existing employees online or overnight, without seeing the paper SSN card, preventing future reporting problems due to having a wrong SSN or name. If an employee name and SSN do not correctly verify, have the employee contact Social Security. 

Firms providing payroll services register once to use BSO for all their clients.

There is no charge to use Social Security Business Services Online.

 Business Service Online details are at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/business.html. Registration instructions, tutorials and support contacts are in the Employer section. 

Do you work with payroll? Use SSA Business Services Online.

Are you an employer?

Do you work in a human services department?

Do you handle payroll services, whether for one business or many?  

Has your business registered to use the free Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) yet?   

Register now, then verify employee Social Security numbers online and be ready to transmit your 2014 W-2 information electronically. As long as you register in time to meet your W-2 reporting deadlines, there is not a firm BSO registration deadline. You have an extended deadline when using this electronic W-2 reporting. Register now and be ready.  

Business Services Online includes two methods to electronically file W-2s plus the Social Security number verification service (SSNVS), for online verification of employee Social Security numbers. 

To use Business Services Online, you or the appropriate people from your firm must register. Registration instructions are at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/ in the Handbooks, Tutorial & Videos section. 

Registration is not difficult. As one of several security measures, those registering are asked for the business EIN number as well as their own name, Social Security number, and other information. A User ID and PIN is created for each person registering, not just one for the business.   

BSO provides two methods to electronically transmit W-2s. Your business can create and transmit a data file from your existing payroll software or use a Social Security provided W-2 template (W-2 Online). You can print copies suitable for distribution to employees with the SSA W-2 template. 

When you hire a new employee, use the Social Security number verification service (SSNVS) as part of your routine payroll process. Doing this avoids having incorrect employee Social Security numbers, saving your business additional work especially if the person is only a temporary hire. With SSNVS, you can immediately verify the SSN of new employees. If there is a verification problem, the new hire should contact Social Security to resolve it.  

SSNVS verifies that the employee name and provided SSN match Social Security records. It does not provide work authorization information. 

Have a question about Business Services Online? Ask.

When do I get credit for my 2013 earnings?

Q: I retired effective January 2014, so my current Social Security payment only reflects earnings through 2012. When will my retirement amount include 2013 wages? What do I need to do to make that happen?  

A: Earnings for 2013 are automatically reviewed for possible increase to your retirement benefits when posted to your work record, approximately by October 2014. You do not need to do anything for this to happen. The automatic review includes employment from wages and self-employment.  

Employers pay estimated taxes to IRS based on wages paid during the year but specific information of how much individual employees earned during a year are only sent to the Social Security Administration with annual W-2’s. Your employer reports earnings to Social Security at about the same time you receive your W-2 form. The employer report is a copy of the W-2.  

Employers of all sizes can register to report W-2 information electronically with Social Security Business Services Online. Incentives exist to encourage electronic W-2 reporting but many still are received by paper, requiring additional handling and processing time.  

W-2 processing for a year is usually completed during the fall of the following year, approximately October. Social Security receives more that 250 million wage reports annually. These are processed by employer report, not by individual employee. If you worked for more than one employer during the year, your total earnings will not be posted to your personal earnings record all at one time. Earnings from each employer will be added to your record when that employer’s report is processed.  

Your 2013 earnings will be automatically reviewed for possible increase to your retirement benefits when posted to your work record. While this review is automatic, it does not mean that benefit amounts will increase a significant amount or even at all. Retirement benefits are based on your best 35 years of employment, with the actual earnings amounts adjusted (indexed) to account for changes in average wages over the years. New earnings would have to replace earnings already used to increase your retirement amount. If 2013 earnings increase benefits, the increase is retroactive to the start of 2014.   

Since Social Security posts W-2 information all during the year, this automatic review might be sooner, especially if the employer reports W-2 data electronically with Social Security Business Services Online, but final reviews are completed when all W-2’s for the preceding year are processed in the fall. 

This review is done automatically every year that new earnings are posted to your work record. You do not need to take any action for this to happen.  See page 9 of “How Work Affects Your Benefits” at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf.

Whether or not receiving monthly benefits, you can check your personal Social Security earnings record by creating your my Social Securityaccount and looking at your SSA Statement. Earnings on the Statement are updated as described above, with earnings for a year posted during the fall of the next.

SSA online services update

As regular readers know, many Social Security activities can be completed online. 

Social Security has available online services whether you do not expect to be receiving Social Security anytime soon, are completing an application to begin SSA benefits, or are already receiving monthly benefits. Online services are available for specific groups, including employers for W-2 wage reporting and verification of employee Social Security numbers.

From the start of Fiscal Year 2014 in October 2013 through April 2014, here are examples of public online use for Social Security activities:

Through my Social Security, with services for people both receiving or not yet receiving benefits:

14,898,898 views of personal Social Security Statements for estimates and to see earnings records

664,649 changes to a current beneficiary mailing address or of direct deposit bank information (electronic fund transfer)

Applications:

Just over 50 percent of retirement and disability applications are now received online.

760,095 Retirement applications

760,825 Disability applications

391,534 Medicare only applications, for people age 65 but not starting SSA retirement

Other online actions:

145,990 requests to replace a Medicare card

128,589 requests to replace Form 1099 for filing taxes (largely during February – March)

Online services are available for you through the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov, anytime at your convenience without calling or visiting an SSA office but those options are available if preferred.

The national SSA toll-free number is 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Both numbers have representatives Monday – Friday, excluding holidays, between 7:00am – 7:00pm, local time. Automated services are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-772-1213. Appointments can be made for your local office by calling the national numbers.

Local office public hours are usually Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00am – 3:00pm with Wednesday hours of 9:00am – noon. Small offices can have different public hours. Learn local office addresses and public hours here.

Did you know? The original Social Security website was launched in May 1994, just over 20 years ago. That first site received about 17,000 visits in its first month.  Now, in 2014, the SSA website averages more than 17 million visits monthly, contains roughly 45,000 pages of information including retirement planning tools and provides online services. Visit it at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Is your W-2 correct?

Q: Everyone at work calls me Bill rather than my formal name of William. I just received my W-2 form and it used Bill. Will this be a problem since my Social Security card shows my name as William?

A: This will not be a problem but it is strongly recommended that both your Social Security number (SSN) card and W-2 form use your legal name. 

 

Although popular nicknames such as Bill for William will match to Social Security records, you should bring this to the attention of your employer immediately for correction. W-2 forms should also be reviewed to be sure your SSN is correctly shown, with your employer immediately told of any problems.

 

If reversed, with your name correct on your W-2 form but not your Social Security card, you should correct your SSN record very soon. Whether for marriage, divorce or other reason, make sure you change your name with Social Security as well as with your employer. A mismatch could delay your tax refund and cause problems with your Social Security benefits in the future.

  

Name changes and all other Social Security number actions are provided at no charge by Social Security. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber/ for instructions.

 

Employers: You can still register for Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) to transmit your 2013 W-2 information electronically. Registration instructions are in the BSO Handbooks, Tutorial & Videos section. For additional assistance, call the employer support phone number.

 

 

 

 

Just received: Tax Year 2013 Business Service Online updates

Last week I posted a reminder about the free Social Security Business Services Online. Once registered with BSO, you can verify employee Social Security numbers online and transmit W-2 information electronically.

For those already registered, todays post provides recently received Tax Year 2013 BSO reminders:

  • Changes to the Tax Year 2013 file format are here
  • To keep your existing Business Services Online account current, see these user reminders
  • On December 23, 2013, BSO will be available for accepting Tax Year 2013 and prior year files and Form W-2 online inputs.
  •  March 31, 2014, is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) deadline for 2013 electronic W-2 filing.

To use Business Services Online, you or the appropriate people from your firm must register. Registration instructions are at http://www.ssa.gov/employer/ in the Handbooks, Tutorial & Videos section. Registration is not difficult. As one of several security measures, those registering are asked for the business EIN number as well as their own name, Social Security number, and other information. A User ID and PIN is created for each person registering, not just one for the business.  

Do you have questions about Business Services Online? See here.

Social Security card replacement: what do you need?

People often think they need a replacement Social Security number (SSN) card if they cannot find their old one. Replacing a missing Social Security card is easy and free to do but first consider if you really need one. You probably do not.

When you think about it, the card is just a piece of paper, not proof of identity. Knowing your Social Security number is the important part and usually all you will need. Memorize your SSN and you will always have it if needed.

Employer reminder: register with Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) and use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify a new employee’s SSN online immediately.

If you reallywant or need to get a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details at the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov. From the homepage, click on the Numbers & Cards tab and then go to the Social Security Number & Card section. There you select if the SSN card desired is for a child or adult, if the needed card is for an original, replacement or corrected card such as for a name change, and citizenship of the person involved. Each step explains what you need.

 Warning: make sure you are at the genuine Social Security website and not at a private, for profit site. There is no charge for any Social Security number action. To protect your personal ID information, at the genuine www.socialsecurity.gov website you do not enter your information online. Instead, you print the application for offline completion.

Reading instructions is important. In most cases you simply print, complete and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the correct documents.

What are these documents? They vary with the situation. Learn what documents you specifically need by using the very simple learn what documents you need section of the Social Security Number & Card page.

Doing this will make processing your application go smoothly for both you and SSA. For example, a replacement card for a U.S. born adult requires proof of citizenship, if not previously established on your Social Security number record, and identity. A list of suitable documents is shown, with a U.S. driver’s license being first on the identity list.

Note that the documents you use must be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency and not a photocopy you made or a notarized copy.  

Exceptions apply but usually identity documents must be current and show your name, some other identifying information such as your birthdate and preferably a recent photograph. Based on this, you can readily see that a birth certificate would not be acceptable for adult identity although it could prove citizenship, if needed, while your U.S. passport might be proof of both citizenship and identity. All documents are returned to you.

Social Security number activity is free and as easy as 1-2-3 at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber/.

  1. Learn what documents you need
  2. Print and complete the application
  3. Take or mail the completed application to a Social Security office