Social Security affects farm workers

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EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – As American farmers and growers prepare for spring planting season, they should make sure they know the rules that affect Social Security protection for their workers.
When producers hire workers, the producers become part of a system of income protection that pays monthly Social Security benefits to a worker and his or her family when the worker retires, becomes disabled or dies.
Must report. Nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 840,000 agricultural workers in the country. Most of these farm workers are covered by Social Security and farm owners need to be aware that if they don’t report wages and pay the taxes due, they could be subject to an penalty from the Internal Revenue Service.
I am often asked if farm workers can be considered independent contractors. The answer is that if they are working under a farm owner’s direction and control, they cannot be considered independent contractors. They are employees and their wages must be reported to Social Security. Some farmers hire crew leaders to manage their farm workers and to handle their entire wage reporting responsibilities.
Record carefully. In these cases, the crew leader is often considered the “employer” of the farm worker and has the responsibility for submitting wage reports. Whether a farmer or crew leader submits wage reports, we always stress the importance of recording the right name, Social Security number and earnings for each employee.
We tell all employers to make sure they use the name and number exactly as it is shown on the worker’s Social Security card. If you employ farm workers, you must keep a record for each worker, collect and pay Social Security taxes, prepare Form 943 (Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees) and provide a pay statement and prepare a W-2 form.
For information about tax responsibilities, read Internal Revenue Service Publication 51, Circular A (Agricultural Employer’s Tax Guide). You can order Internal Revenue Service forms and publications by calling 1-800-829-3676.
Online. For information about agricultural work and Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov and read the electronic pamphlet, A Guide for Farmers, Growers and Crew Leaders.
Or you can call 1-800-7721213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the pamphlet. The pamphlet includes English and Spanish. It also tells you how to report your own income to Social Security, whether you are an owner/operator, partner, renter, share farmer or crew leader.
(The author is the Social Security manager in East Liverpool).

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