The Federal Old-Age
and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund was established on January 1, 1940 as a separate account in the United States Treasury. The Federal Disability
Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, another separate account in the United States Treasury, was established on August 1, 1956. All the financial operations of the OASI and DI programs are handled through these respective funds. The Board of Trustees is responsible for overseeing the financial operations of these funds. The following paragraphs describe the various components of trust fund income and outgo. Following this description, tables VI.A2
present the historical operations of the separate trust funds since their inception, and table VI.A4
presents the operations of the combined trust funds during the period when they have co-existed.
The primary receipts of these two funds are amounts appropriated to each of
them under permanent authority on the basis of contributions
payable by workers, their employers, and individuals with self-employment income, in work covered by the OASDI program. All employees, and their employers, in covered
employment are required to pay contributions with respect to their wages. Employees, and their employers, are also required to pay contributions with respect to cash tips, if the individual’s monthly cash tips amount to at least $20. All self-employed persons are required to pay contributions with respect to their covered net earnings
from self-employment. In addition to paying the required employer contributions on the wages of covered Federal employees, the Federal Government also pays amounts equivalent to the combined employer and employee contributions that would be paid on deemed
wage credits attributable to military
service performed between 1957 and 2001 if such wage credits were covered wages.
In general, an individual’s contributions, or taxes
, are computed on wages or net earnings from self-employment, or both wages and net self-employment earnings combined, up to a specified maximum annual amount. The contributions are determined first on the wages and then on any net self-employment earnings, such that the total does not exceed the annual maximum amount. An employee who pays contributions on wages in excess of the annual maximum amount (because of employment with two or more employers) is eligible for a refund of the excess employee contributions.
The monthly benefit amount to which an individual (or his or her spouse and
children) may become entitled under the OASDI program is based on the individual’s taxable earnings during his or her lifetime. For almost all persons who first become eligible to receive benefits in 1979 or later, the earnings used in the computation of benefits are indexed to reflect increases in average wage levels.
The contribution, or tax, rates applicable under current law in each calendar
year and the allocation of these rates between the OASI and DI Trust Funds are shown in table VI.A1
The maximum amount of earnings on which OASDI contributions are payable in a year, which is also the maximum amount of earnings creditable in that year for benefit-computation purposes, is called the contribution
and benefit base. The contribution and benefit base for each year through 2009 is also shown in table VI.A1
All contributions are collected by the Internal Revenue Service and depos
ited in the General
Fund of the Treasury. The contributions are immediately and automatically appropriated to the trust funds on an estimated basis. The exact amount of contributions received is not known initially because the OASDI and HI contributions and individual income taxes are not separately identified in collection reports received by the Internal Revenue Service. Periodic adjustments are subsequently made to the extent that the estimates are found to differ from the amounts of contributions actually payable as determined from reported earnings. Adjustments are also made to account for any refunds to employees (with more than one employer) who paid contributions on wages in excess of the contribution and benefit base.
Beginning in 1984, up to one-half of an individual’s or couple’s OASDI ben
efits was subject to Federal income taxation under certain circumstances. Effective for taxable years beginning after 1993, the maximum percentage of benefits subject to taxation was increased from 50 percent to 85 percent. The proceeds from taxation of up to 50 percent of benefits are credited to the OASI and DI Trust Funds in advance, on an estimated basis, at the beginning of each calendar quarter, with no reimbursement to the general fund for interest costs attributable to the advance transfers.2
Subsequent adjustments are made based on the actual amounts as shown on annual income tax records. The amounts appropriated from the General Fund of the Treasury are allocated to the OASI and DI Trust Funds on the basis of the income taxes paid on the benefits from each fund.3
Another source of income to the trust funds is interest
received on investments held by the trust funds. That portion of each trust fund that is not required to meet the current cost of benefits and administration is invested, on a daily basis, primarily in interest-bearing obligations of the U.S. Government (including special
public-debt obligations described below). Investments may also be made in obligations guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the United States, including certain Federally sponsored agency obligations that are designated in the laws authorizing their issuance as lawful investments for fiduciary and trust funds under the control and authority of the United States or any officer of the United States. These obligations may be acquired on original issue at the issue price or by purchase of outstanding obligations at their market price.
Security Act authorizes the issuance of special public-debt obligations for purchase exclusively by the trust funds. The Act provides that the interest
rate on new special obligations will be the average market yield, as of the last business day of a month, on all of the outstanding marketable U.S. obligations that are due or callable more than 4 years in the future. The rate so calculated is rounded to the nearest one-eighth of one percent and applies to new issues in the following month. Beginning January 1999, in calculating the average market yield rate for this purpose, the Treasury incorporates the yield to the call date when a callable bond’s market price is above par.
Although the special issues cannot be bought or sold in the open market, they
are nonetheless redeemable at any time at par
value and thus bear no risk of fluctuations in principal value due to changes in market yield rates. Just as in the case of marketable Treasury securities held by the public, all of the investments held by the trust funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.
Income is also affected by provisions of the Social Security Act for: (1)
transfers between the General Fund of the Treasury and the OASI and DI Trust Funds for any adjustments to prior payments for the cost arising from the granting of noncontributory wage credits for military service prior to 1957, according to periodic determinations; and (2) the receipt of unconditional money gifts or bequests made for the benefit of the trust funds or any activity financed through the funds.
The primary expenditures of the OASI and DI Trust Funds are for: (1)
OASDI benefit payments, net of any reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury for unnegotiated benefit checks; and (2) expenses incurred by the Social Security Administration and the Department of the Treasury in administering the OASDI program and the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code relating to the collection of contributions. Such administrative
expenses include expenditures for construction, rental and lease, or purchase of office buildings and related facilities for the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Act does not permit expenditures from the OASI and DI Trust Funds for any purpose not related to the payment of benefits or administrative costs for the OASDI program.
The expenditures of the trust funds also include (1) the costs of vocational
rehabilitation services furnished as an additional benefit to disabled persons receiving cash benefits because of their disabilities where such services contributed to their successful rehabilitation, and (2) net costs resulting from the provisions of the Railroad Retirement Act which provide for a system of coordination and financial
interchange between the Railroad
Retirement program and the Social Security program. Under the latter provisions, transfers between the Railroad Retirement program’s Social Security Equivalent Benefit Account and the trust funds are made on an annual basis in order to place each trust fund in the same position in which it would have been if railroad employment had always been covered under Social Security.
The net worth of facilities and other fixed capital assets
is not carried in the statements of the operations of the trust funds presented in this report. This is because the value of fixed capital assets is not available in the form of a financial asset redeemable for the payment of benefits or administrative expenditures, and therefore is not considered in assessing the actuarial status of the trust funds.