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WEP question for Social Security

WEP question for Social Security

Old Jan 18th 2021, 1:22 am
  #46  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
how do you split it out. I think I may have taken a screenshot of the forecast UK state pension before I made all the voluntary contributions, is it a straight calculation based on years or some more complicated formula? If it is based on years how will they treat the years I was commuting and paying NI (non voluntarily) and SS at the same time?
If you go the to the web site that forecasts your UK pension you can get an up to date online statement of your qualifying years. In my case they identify my years from UK earnings as "Paid Employment", and my years from voluntary contributions as "Self Employment", even though my only income was from normal employment by various USA companies when I made those voluntary contributions. I think they are categorized that way because I pay the lower rate Class 2 Voluntary Contributions which are the same as those paid by self employed people in the UK. The higher rate Class 3 Voluntary contributions may be identified as Voluntary. I don't know because I don't have any of those, maybe someone else can chime in on that one.

To answer you questions. Any qualifying year that is classified as Paid Employment, will be WEP’d, unless you can prove that you also paid SS on the SAME earnings (didn't know that was even possible). The reason is that the law states that WEP applies to any portion of a pension derived from paid earnings on which you did not pay Social Security. (This includes UK Occupational pensions). Any qualifying year not based upon Paid Employment will NOT get WEP’d, i.e voluntary contributions.

A rough rule of thumb is to take the number of qualifying years identified as Paid Employment on your statement and divide by the total number of qualifying years. If you had 20 qualifying years classified as Paid Employment and 5 qualifying years classified as Self Employment/Voluntary then
you should expect roughly 80% of your UK state pension to be WEP’d. (20/25). Technically, it is more complicated than that though because unless you are a spring chicken and earn all qualifying years after 2016 when they changed the system then some of your pension will be based upon the old formula and some based on the new formula but I suspect the Social Security Organization will ignore that because there are several approaches to determining exactly what part of you pension should be WEP’d and it does not make a lot of difference in the end anyway. Although you might come out better off one way or another, not by enough to have your brain explode trying to work it out.

I have not collected my SS yet, but I will be using the UK NICS statement to clearly identify which years were based upon Paid Employment and which by Voluntary Class 2 (Self Employment). The SS may have a simple way of getting the UK to provide that information directly to them, I don’t know because I am not yet old enough. maybe someone else can advise on that.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 1:57 am
  #47  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by Glasgow Girl View Post
If you go the to the web site that forecasts your UK pension you can get an up to date online statement of your qualifying years. In my case they identify my years from UK earnings as "Paid Employment", and my years from voluntary contributions as "Self Employment", even though my only income was from normal employment by various USA companies when I made those voluntary contributions. I think they are categorized that way because I pay the lower rate Class 2 Voluntary Contributions which are the same as those paid by self employed people in the UK. The higher rate Class 3 Voluntary contributions may be identified as Voluntary. I don't know because I don't have any of those, maybe someone else can chime in on that one.

To answer you questions. Any qualifying year that is classified as Paid Employment, will be WEP’d, unless you can prove that you also paid SS on the SAME earnings (didn't know that was even possible). The reason is that the law states that WEP applies to any portion of a pension derived from paid earnings on which you did not pay Social Security. (This includes UK Occupational pensions). Any qualifying year not based upon Paid Employment will NOT get WEP’d, i.e voluntary contributions.

A rough rule of thumb is to take the number of qualifying years identified as Paid Employment on your statement and divide by the total number of qualifying years. If you had 20 qualifying years classified as Paid Employment and 5 qualifying years classified as Self Employment/Voluntary then
you should expect roughly 80% of your UK state pension to be WEP’d. (20/25). Technically, it is more complicated than that though because unless you are a spring chicken and earn all qualifying years after 2016 when they changed the system then some of your pension will be based upon the old formula and some based on the new formula but I suspect the Social Security Organization will ignore that because there are several approaches to determining exactly what part of you pension should be WEP’d and it does not make a lot of difference in the end anyway. Although you might come out better off one way or another, not by enough to have your brain explode trying to work it out.

I have not collected my SS yet, but I will be using the UK NICS statement to clearly identify which years were based upon Paid Employment and which by Voluntary Class 2 (Self Employment). The SS may have a simple way of getting the UK to provide that information directly to them, I don’t know because I am not yet old enough. maybe someone else can advise on that.
OK sounds like I have some work to do. I don’t think I paid SS on the UK income, probably only state and city tax, federal was offset by the double tax treaty, with lots unused and carried over for a number of years. I was living here in the US and commuting to the UK 3 or 4 times every month for work. But was also employed in another role here in the US that was taxed with SS so I would maintain full benefits. I think I got maximum credits in both UK and US, and was tax resident in both countries for the 2-3 years I was doing the commute. And yes I have been making the class 2 NIC contributions. I also have some years in NZ and Ireland which I think can be used as credits in the UK.

it might work out OK, I only had a few years work as I was abroad a lot.. so maybe that’s a reason to keep making class 2 contributions even after I have the minimum... it may average down the WEP.. might be worth a spread sheet... I have only been here in the US 10 years, but I think I will have the 40 credits this year or next.

Last edited by tht; Jan 18th 2021 at 2:10 am.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 2:56 am
  #48  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

When you fill out the form for SS it asks where you were born. Therefore, they will certainly ask if you receive a pension from the UK. I had enough years of SS, so they did not pursue any WEP questions.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 3:54 am
  #49  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by Mallory View Post
When you fill out the form for SS it asks where you were born. Therefore, they will certainly ask if you receive a pension from the UK. I had enough years of SS, so they did not pursue any WEP questions.
I was not born in the UK.

what does the second part mean? Do you mean you only qualify for SS and not UK state pension?
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 4:23 am
  #50  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
OK sounds like I have some work to do. I don’t think I paid SS on the UK income, probably only state and city tax, federal was offset by the double tax treaty, with lots unused and carried over for a number of years. I was living here in the US and commuting to the UK 3 or 4 times every month for work. But was also employed in another role here in the US that was taxed with SS so I would maintain full benefits. I think I got maximum credits in both UK and US, and was tax resident in both countries for the 2-3 years I was doing the commute. And yes I have been making the class 2 NIC contributions. I also have some years in NZ and Ireland which I think can be used as credits in the UK.

it might work out OK, I only had a few years work as I was abroad a lot.. so maybe that’s a reason to keep making class 2 contributions even after I have the minimum... it may average down the WEP.. might be worth a spread sheet... I have only been here in the US 10 years, but I think I will have the 40 credits this year or next.
I logged in a looked, I have 27 years more I can make class 2 contributions, but it says I will hit the maximum pension with 11 more years. So from a WEP perspective is it better to make the minimum 11 or more. If the total pension amount is divided by all years and then that figure is multiplied by “earned” years only diluting the max by more class 2 years may hemp minimize WEP. Does HMRC do something similar with SS?
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 8:43 am
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
I logged in a looked, I have 27 years more I can make class 2 contributions, but it says I will hit the maximum pension with 11 more years. So from a WEP perspective is it better to make the minimum 11 or more. If the total pension amount is divided by all years and then that figure is multiplied by “earned” years only diluting the max by more class 2 years may hemp minimize WEP. Does HMRC do something similar with SS?
With HMRC it is a simple calculation on what your pension will be. Divide the max pension by 35 and that is how much you will receive per year of contributions, and those years won’t contribute towards the WEP calculation. I was told by the FBU at the US Embassy in London to have a statement from HMRC/DWP on hand when applying for SS. My wife will be doing this at the end of this year. Suppose your OAP is £8k/year from 8 years working and 24 years voluntary contributions. Only £2k will be used in the WEP calculation.

With SS, once you have 20 years of contributions the WEP begins to reduce with each additional year until zero WEP is applied if you have 30 years.

Last edited by durham_lad; Jan 18th 2021 at 8:47 am.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 5:17 pm
  #52  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
Does HMRC do something similar with SS?
No. Thankfully, the UK has no equivalent to WEP. They will not adjust your UK state pension based upon your SS payment.


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Old Jan 18th 2021, 5:43 pm
  #53  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
I logged in a looked, I have 27 years more I can make class 2 contributions, but it says I will hit the maximum pension with 11 more years. So from a WEP perspective is it better to make the minimum 11 or more. If the total pension amount is divided by all years and then that figure is multiplied by “earned” years only diluting the max by more class 2 years may hemp minimize WEP.
It all depends upon how they do the calculation.

As soon as you have attained the full pension, all further years of NI contributions do not add anything to your benefit. It is possible therefore that they will only look at the years of contributions that contributed to your pension and disregard the rest. In which case your additional contributions would be wasted. On the other hand they may look at all years of contributions then as you say the amount of voluntary contributions would be a larger percentage and therefore reduce your WEP. I rather suspect the calculation will be done manually by a person, as I doubt the US SS will build in rules for every country out there and keep up with them. You may get a chance to argue your case, they may have a policy in place to handle it, I don't know because I am not there yet. But in any case if you are paying Class 2 it is a small amount and may be worth the gamble. For anyone paying Class 3, I would probably end contributions after I have attained the max UK pension.

Also, remember that if you receive any foreign occupational pension or any other foreign state pension, superannuation or the like, then that will also be WEP’d. The maximum WEP for 2021 is $498 (but is increased every year for inflation). Therefore if you have foreign occupational pensions and/or other foreign state pensions that total $996 per month or more then you will hit the maximum WEP and your state pension will not be WEP’d at all, another reason to stop NI’s once you attain the full pension.

And, as Durham_lad mentioned if you have 20 years of earnings on which you paid SS then the WEP amount starts to phase out and is eliminated after 30 years of earnings on which you paid SS. It is a straight line sliding scale.

A final important point. It is not always as simple as stating that you need 35 years of contributions. You need at least 35 years of contributions. However, if you ever contracted out of SERPS either voluntarily as a personal choice, or involuntarily (frequently unknown to many but usually by contributing to a company pension scheme) then you may have to contribute more than 35 years to get the full pension. The reason is that they will partially reduce your entitlement for every year you were contracted out, the exact amount depends upon your earnings. So you may have contributed for 35 years and find that you state pension forecast is less than the maximum. The good news is that you can make that back by continuing to contribute after 35 years. Each further full year of contributions will earn you 1/35th of the maximum state pension. If you get your state pension forecast online it will typically tell you how many more years you need to contribute to get to the max, so to that extent they make it easy for you to know when to stop.

Last edited by Glasgow Girl; Jan 18th 2021 at 6:17 pm.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 7:12 pm
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

^^^^ Excellent post

I will add that if you are paying voluntary contributions via direct debit as my wife and I did for years then it will automatically stop when you hit the max you can contribute.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 7:26 pm
  #55  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by Glasgow Girl View Post
It all depends upon how they do the calculation.

As soon as you have attained the full pension, all further years of NI contributions do not add anything to your benefit. It is possible therefore that they will only look at the years of contributions that contributed to your pension and disregard the rest. In which case your additional contributions would be wasted. On the other hand they may look at all years of contributions then as you say the amount of voluntary contributions would be a larger percentage and therefore reduce your WEP. I rather suspect the calculation will be done manually by a person, as I doubt the US SS will build in rules for every country out there and keep up with them. You may get a chance to argue your case, they may have a policy in place to handle it, I don't know because I am not there yet. But in any case if you are paying Class 2 it is a small amount and may be worth the gamble. For anyone paying Class 3, I would probably end contributions after I have attained the max UK pension.

Also, remember that if you receive any foreign occupational pension or any other foreign state pension, superannuation or the like, then that will also be WEP’d. The maximum WEP for 2021 is $498 (but is increased every year for inflation). Therefore if you have foreign occupational pensions and/or other foreign state pensions that total $996 per month or more then you will hit the maximum WEP and your state pension will not be WEP’d at all, another reason to stop NI’s once you attain the full pension.

And, as Durham_lad mentioned if you have 20 years of earnings on which you paid SS then the WEP amount starts to phase out and is eliminated after 30 years of earnings on which you paid SS. It is a straight line sliding scale.

A final important point. It is not always as simple as stating that you need 35 years of contributions. You need at least 35 years of contributions. However, if you ever contracted out of SERPS either voluntarily as a personal choice, or involuntarily (frequently unknown to many but usually by contributing to a company pension scheme) then you may have to contribute more than 35 years to get the full pension. The reason is that they will partially reduce your entitlement for every year you were contracted out, the exact amount depends upon your earnings. So you may have contributed for 35 years and find that you state pension forecast is less than the maximum. The good news is that you can make that back by continuing to contribute after 35 years. Each further full year of contributions will earn you 1/35th of the maximum state pension. If you get your state pension forecast online it will typically tell you how many more years you need to contribute to get to the max, so to that extent they make it easy for you to know when to stop.
Assuming I don’t retire early I should hit 30 years. I moved here at around 30. One thing I did observer is that the US SS maximum seems to be a lot more “generous” than the UK one. Depending on FX rate it could be more than 4x, and if you live in a high cost/high income area it seems pretty easy to get to the max if I am reading it right. I have some minimal Irish PRSA and UK state holder.. but they are not material, the PRSA is in cash and at the rate it’s declining may be gone by retirement (I tried to just take it out and pay the 30-40% tax, but apparently they don’t have that option like they do here :-(, I have also been trying to at least combine Irish PRSA with the UK stakeholder but it’s near on impossible to do and barley worth the effort. Never contracted out, also have some orphan years where I paid in Nee Zealand.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 7:56 pm
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Yes, if you earn a decent salary for enough years it is fairly easy to get a payout from social security that far exceeds the UK state pension. The US Social Security website provides some great tools to estimate your Social Security at different ages. It uses your record to date, you estimate your future earnings and it will calculate what it thinks you will get at various different ages. It also has a WEP calculator but it sounds like you may avoid that. Congratulations

And, of course if you can get both that is the icing on the cake. Gotta love the voluntary NI’s that allow to do that. Even if WEP’d, if you qualify for the Class 2 NI’s then it is the deal of the century. Even at class 3 rates it is a very good deal.

Last edited by Glasgow Girl; Jan 18th 2021 at 7:59 pm.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 8:49 pm
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
Assuming I don’t retire early I should hit 30 years. I moved here at around 30. One thing I did observer is that the US SS maximum seems to be a lot more “generous” than the UK one. Depending on FX rate it could be more than 4x, and if you live in a high cost/high income area it seems pretty easy to get to the max if I am reading it right. I have some minimal Irish PRSA and UK state holder.. but they are not material, the PRSA is in cash and at the rate it’s declining may be gone by retirement (I tried to just take it out and pay the 30-40% tax, but apparently they don’t have that option like they do here :-(, I have also been trying to at least combine Irish PRSA with the UK stakeholder but it’s near on impossible to do and barley worth the effort. Never contracted out, also have some orphan years where I paid in Nee Zealand.
To get the maximum Social Security benefit you have to have at least 35 years of contributions at or above the Social Security taxable earnings limit ($137k in 2020). I think I read that about 1% of claimants get that maximum. Somewhat by chance, I'm one of them. I'm sure a lot more get close though.

You can't really compare US SS to UK State Pension. In the US, you'll be paying for Medicare the rest of your life (unless you're also on Medicaid). In the UK, you have "free at the point of service" NHS.

Last edited by Giantaxe; Jan 18th 2021 at 8:51 pm.
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 10:56 pm
  #58  
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by Giantaxe View Post
To get the maximum Social Security benefit you have to have at least 35 years of contributions at or above the Social Security taxable earnings limit ($137k in 2020). I think I read that about 1% of claimants get that maximum. Somewhat by chance, I'm one of them. I'm sure a lot more get close though.

You can't really compare US SS to UK State Pension. In the US, you'll be paying for Medicare the rest of your life (unless you're also on Medicaid). In the UK, you have "free at the point of service" NHS.
Lottery win?
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Old Jan 18th 2021, 11:57 pm
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by tht View Post
Lottery win?
I wish... more because it was only after I had stopped working that I realized that I had fulfilled those two criteria, right down to having exactly 35 years of contributions.
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Old Jan 19th 2021, 12:42 am
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Default Re: WEP question for Social Security

Originally Posted by Giantaxe View Post
I wish... more because it was only after I had stopped working that I realized that I had fulfilled those two criteria, right down to having exactly 35 years of contributions.
well that made calculating your 35 highest paying years easy then.... In theory that could be me if I don’t sell the wife on a few years in Asia, came right after my 30th birthday... so I guess I would have to work enough each year to max it till about 66 to have 35 years... my read is you don’t have to work full tile or all year, just earn enough income subject to SS and that could be self employed as well?

Last edited by tht; Jan 19th 2021 at 12:45 am.
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