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Both employees and employers have to pay the Social Security tax, one of two payroll taxes. For the Social Security tax, employees pay 6.2% of their wages, and employers match that for a total contribution of 12.4%. In 2013, the maximum earnings subject to the tax were $117,000. In 2011 and 2012, the amount employees had to contribute briefly declined to 4.2% of wages, as part of a payroll tax holiday designed to encourage people to spend more and boost the U.S. economy.
A similar tax also exists for Medicare. Both employees and employers are required to contribute 1.45% of wages, or 2.9% in total, to fund the program. Unlike Social Security, there is no maximum taxable wage. In fact, since last year, workers who earned more than $200,000 had to contribute an extra 0.9% of their wages to the program.