Residents react to payroll tax deduction

When you’re on a fixed budget and facing numerous medical bills, losing any money from your paycheck can make an impact.

Williamstown resident Linda Lutes, 61, and her husband have felt the effects of the reset of the payroll tax deduction from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent at the start of the year.

“My husband noticed it on his first check,” said Lutes, who does not work full-time because of health issues. “He says, ‘Now, I’m going to have to redo the whole budget.'”

The payroll tax holiday was instituted two years ago in an effort to help the country emerge from the Great Recession. It was billed as a temporary measure and became one when the reduction wasn’t renewed at the end of 2012.

“Of course, it’s really not going up; it’s back to where it used to be,” said Angie Joy, 31, of Williams-town.

Joy and co-worker Jennifer Seckman, 50, of Vienna, W.Va., said they both received pay increases at the start of the year, so they haven’t felt the pinch from the tax reverting to its previous rate.

“I just figured a raise probably offset it,” Seckman said.

Lutes knows the measure was only meant to be temporary, but that doesn’t make it any easier for her and her husband to adjust.

“It’s hard when you’re on a budget and you have all these health problems,” she said. “Where’s that extra money going to come from?”

Bucky Lee, owner of Food 4 Less in Marietta, said a mandatory increase of the minimum wage from $7.70 to $7.85 helped counter the deduction increase for some of his workers, but employees have felt the bite.

“Definitely with the economy the way it is, they could use that 2 percent,” he said.

“I honestly think the people understand the Social Security and they want it to be there when they retire, but at the same time, they don’t want to pay it … and see the government waste it,” Lee said.

Some employers, including Washington-Morgan Community Action, reminded workers in advance about the reversion, so they wouldn’t be surprised when their take-home pay changed.

Although the increase may mean smaller checks, in many cases, it doesn’t entitle low-income individuals to any additional benefits, said Candy Nelson, supervisor with Washington County Job and Family Services.

“Everything’s gross, but there are allowable deductions, for example, for food stamps, you can look at rent,” she said.

The payroll tax is not an eligible deduction, Nelson said.