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)


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


Register now and use SSA Business Services Online

Are you an employer?

Do you operate a business having employees?

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? 

You still have time to register, verify employee Social Security numbers online and transmit your 2013 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. Since this is a hectic time of year, register now and be ready.

Business Services Online include two ways 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 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.  

BSO provides two methods to electronically transmit W-2s. Your business can create and transmit a data file from 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 used for new employees, the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) avoids having incorrect employee Social Security numbers, saving your business additional work especially if the person was only a temporary hire. With SSNVS you immediately verify the SSN of new employees. Did your business use SSNVS this year?

Have Business Services Online questions? Ask.


Timeline to post W-2 wages

Q: How long does it take for wages to appear on Social Security records?  My 2012 earnings were not yet on my record when I filed for benefits a few weeks ago. 

A: Employers report employee wages to Social Security only once during the year, when you receive your W-2. Posting from employer W-2 information to individual records goes on all year and usually completed by fall of the following year for records given to SSA by paper W-2. Nearly all 2012 wage records will be posted by the fall of 2013. W-2 data submitted electronically by employers using the free Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) posts faster.   

SSA representatives may request a prior year W-2 before earnings are posted so new beneficiaries receive credit for immediate past year wages. Whether or not this is done, the end result is the same because records of all beneficiaries are automatically reviewed when new earnings are posted. If the new earnings increase benefit amounts, any adjusted amount is retroactive. This applies to new beneficiairies and people receiving SSA benefits for years.

With different methods available, employers of all sizes can electronically report W-2 wage information by using the free SSA Business Services Online (BSO). Advance registration is required. Register now and transmit 2013 W-2 information electronically. Learn more at the Business & Government tab at www.socialsecurity.gov.


New Social Security home page

The Social Security home page, www.socialsecurity.gov, has a whole new look. One, I’ve been told, designed to present a fresh, modern look and feel, reflecting current trends and best practices in web design. Included are a new top banner and footer, an updated color scheme, and a simplified layout. 

The home page now features popular “main menus” to help you quickly and easily find information, rather than searching different areas of the homepage. For example:

-       Social Security number (SSN) card information is in the “Number & Cards” section.

-       The “Benefits” section has information about Social Security (Retirement, Survivors & Disability), Medicare and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

-       Go to “Information for…” to see topics for specific populations, including AIAN, or third party groups such as financial planners, representative payees, health and human resources professionals and others. 

-       The “Business & Government” section contains Business Services Online and other material for employers and the self-employed as well as items of Congressional interest.

-       Find much of the statistical and historical information I provide in the “Our Agency” section.

Keeping in mind the growing number of tablet users, Social Security made the new theme tablet friendly. Smartphone users will continue to enjoy the benefits of the mobile-friendly website launched in May.

Even though the home page look has changed, your bookmarked links to favorite pages have not. The website pages you use will still be just a click away. 

Experience the new home page at www.socialsecurity.gov. Please share this information and consider linking to the Social Security website from your own webpages. A partial image of the new home page follows.

Social Security Update for July is online

The July edition of the monthly Social Security Update is now online at www.socialsecurity.gov/newsletter.

Topics this month are:

  • Status Report: Social Security Benefits for Same Sex Couples (Defense of Marriage Act)
  • New Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Grant Application Process Set
  • Proof of Social Security Number (Reminder: employers can use the free SSN Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify employee SSN’s)
  • Still Need a Social Security Statement?

You can subscribe to this free newsletter at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/newsletter/.

Employer reminder – Use SSNVS for summer help

According to newspaper advertisements, summer is nearing its end.  In another month or so, people hired for summer jobs will be leaving.  

While summer help is still on the job, now is a good time to remind employers about the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) a useful tool included as one of the Social Security Business Services Online (BSO). 

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. With one registration, firms that handle payroll services for multiple employers can use SSNVS, and the other Social Security business services, for all clients.

The Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) does exactly what you would expect from the name. It compares the name Social Security number (SSN) provided by employees with Social Security records and lets you know if the information verifies. If the information does not verify, have the employee contact Social Security to resolve the problem.

Doing this now, before the employee leaves, makes your W-2 wage reporting for the year much easier. Even if the employee is long gone by year’s end, you know the employee’s SSN is correct and that your wage report will be accurate without time consuming edits for an incorrect SSN. This is especially valuable in areas of high employee turnover, including the hospitality industry.

You can use the Social Security Number Verification Service two ways:  immediately verify the SSN of an employee online or complete an overnight verification for a large number of employees.

Note that failure of a SSN to match can occur for many reasons.  It does not imply that false information was intentionally provided nor does a mismatch make any statement about employee immigration status.  

Many employers ask to see the Social Security card of new employees.  Do you really need to see the card?