Social Security Exemption for Student Employees
A student employee is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as an employee of a college or university whose work is "incident to and for the purpose of pursuing a course of study" at that college or university. Student employees are exempt from Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes under certain conditions.
Examples of student employee position titles that may qualify include: program assistant, project assistant, teaching assistant, and student help.
(Note: recipients of fellowships and similar grants are also exempt from FICA taxes, but for a different reason. They are not considered employees, even though all or part of their stipend is considered taxable income, and the conditions outlined here do not apply to them.)
A student employee of the University of Wisconsin is exempt from FICA taxes if he or she is enrolled and attending classes as a graduate or undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin on at least a half-time basis. Half-time status is defined by each institution and is determined at the end of the add/drop period each semester.
The exemption also applies:
- During semester breaks of five weeks or less, as long as the student qualified for the exemption in the last regular semester and intends to qualify in the next regular semester.
- For work before and after the semester, if the work is performed during a pay period that includes the beginning or end of the semester.
- During the student's last semester before receiving a degree, even if he or she is enrolled less than half-time.
The exemption does not apply to:
- Any employee who is covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System.
- Any employee whose position is not incident to and for the purpose of pursuing a course of study, based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
- Work performed during the summer, if there is a break in enrollment of more than five weeks.
For more information, see the University policy on student FICA exemptions.
This document was last revised on December 1, 2006