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. 

Using your SSA Statement

In previous posts, I have encouraged readers to create a personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/. Whether or not you now receive Social Security monthly benefits, online services are there for use. To create a my Social Security account, you must be at least 18 years old, have an email address and a United States mailing address. There are no fees to do this. As of September 30, nearly 14.5 million people had opened their free my Social Security account. 

If not yet receiving ongoing benefits, the major tool available is your Social Security Statement.

Many people think only of retirement when Social Security is discussed, but, in fact, the program includes disability and survivors benefits too. Including family member benefits, retirement represents about 70 percent of national Social Security benefits, survivors about 11 percent, and disability about 19 percent.Nationally, about 18.3 percent of the entire United States population, including adults and children of all ages, receive monthly Social Security benefits. 

Of course, retirement is the desired Social Security benefit, but studies show that just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67 and people die at all ages.   

For all of these possibilities, your Social Security Statement is a great family financial planning tool. After creating your my Social Security account, look at your Statement (sample here), especially your earnings record and estimated benefits sections, at least annually. 

Directly from your actual Social Security work record as reported by employers, your earnings record for many years is shown. This is the only place where you can see your personal earnings history. Future Social Security benefits on your record are based on your lifetime earnings. Review your record for accuracy. If there is an error, follow the correction instructions. 

Now look at the estimated benefits section. The Social Security website retirement planning section, contains tools to estimate retirement amounts but disability and survivors estimates, potentially to your children and other family members, are only on your Statement. Useful at all ages and especially for young families with dependent children, these current estimates can be a foundation for your other family financial planning. 

Creating your personal my Social Security account lets you access your Statement whenever desired. Starting for December birthdays, this past September the Social Security Administration resumed periodic mailings of paper Statements. Workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a my Social Security account will receive the Statement in the mail about 3 months before their birthday. After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year. The agency expects to send nearly 48 million Statements each year.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

ID theft and your SSN

Posting about identity theft is not the most cheerful way of closing out the year but I have received questions on the topic, answered below, due to the recent theft of personal information from a major retailer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website (www.ftc.gov) has a lot of information related to identify theft including about the recent retailer data theft. See the FTC consumber information section at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/.  

Q: Will the Social Security Administration know if someone is misusing my Social Security number (SSN)? 

A: Eventually, perhaps. You will likely know long before Social Security does. Although other agencies and organizations use SSN’s, within Social Security the primary use of the SSN is to associate wages or self-employment earnings with a person’s individual record so that Social Security retirement, survivors and disabilty amounts are properly computed.

Individual earnings information is received from employers, or the self-employed, once a year when W-2 data is reported or with self-employment tax returns. This is posted to individual records on a flow basis all during the year and, for paper W-2s, usually completed in the fall of the following year. For example, calendar year 2012 earnings were almost all posted by the fall of 2013. Posting is faster for W-2 information electronically transmitted to Social Security using the free Business Services Online tools. Posting of wages just updates a record. It does not automatically identify if those wages are actually yours or if someone has stolen your identity and using your Social Security number.

Social Security recommends that you review your personal earnings record at least annually. Do this by creating a my Social Security account at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/ and then looking at the earnings on your Social Security Statement. If those earnings are wrong, provide the accurate information to Social Security and corrections can be made. 

The Statement also provides estimated benefit amounts for yourself and family members. See a sample at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/SSA-7005-OL.pdf. Read the How We Verify and Protect Your Identy section when creating your my Social Security account.

Q: Can I get a new Social Security number (SSN) due to ID theft?

A: Not impossible, but definitely rare. This action is usually only for very severe and ongoing problems. Obtaining a new number will not solve all misuse problems and might actually create new ones since your work, credit, tax, banking information and more are referenced under the orginal number. A person receiving a new SSN cannot use the old number anymore.  

 

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.

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.