News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 17, 2010

Social Security: Ensure retirement, disability, survivors protection for farm workers

By Brian Hewitt
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — If you’re a farm worker, it’s likely that you’re busy right now.

The spring planting season has ended, but the farm work has only begun.

As you cultivate a bountiful harvest, we at Social Security want to remind all farmers to help ensure future retirement, survivors and disability protection for any farm workers hired.

Most farm workers are covered by Social Security, but only if the employer reports the wages – which is a legal obligation.

By reporting farm workers’ wages and paying Social Security taxes, you can help ensure they earn valuable Social Security retirement, disability and survivors protection.

Farm owners also need to be aware that if they don’t report wages and pay the taxes due, they are breaking the law and could be subject to an IRS penalty.

Some farmers try to rationalize that farm workers can be considered independent contractors, in which case the worker must pay self-employment tax and the employer has no tax obligation.

But if people 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 wage-reporting responsibilities.

In these cases, the crew leader is often considered the “employer” of the farm worker and has the responsibility for submitting wage reports.

If you need more information about who is considered a farm worker’s employer, or if you have other questions regarding farm workers and Social Security, take a look at our helpful publication, “A Guide to Social Security for Farmers, Growers, and Crew Leaders.”

It’s available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10025.html.

The booklet is available in English and Spanish. You can also request a printed copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you run a farm and hire agricultural workers, this booklet is a must-read. But the most important thing to remember is what you probably know better than anyone else: Folks reap only what they sow. Farm workers won’t be able to reap the Social Security benefits they are due unless their work and wages are reported to us.

Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.