Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Poll workers in VA: income tax free up to $600


I meandered over to the Arlington County Government center this morning to look into the question of income and social security tax liability for income earned by working the polls on election day (general elections and primaries). Poll workers are paid a minimum of $130 for about a 16 hour day in Arlington; some (like technical support for the machines) may be paid a little more.

The general rule seems to be that income for the year up to $600 from poll working is not subject to income tax (federal or state), or social security (FICA) or medicare tax. I asked if it would be considered “self-employment” (triggering a FICA tax liability at $400) and they said no. However, all employment associated with the election entity has to be totaled, and if it goes over $600 in a year, the amount over $600 becomes taxable (in an “ordinary” manner) and the individual must receive a normal form W-2 (not a 1099-Misc).

From a legal point of view, all of this depends on a state’s “Section 218” Agreement with the Social Security Administration. Apparently pollwork income under $600 would not count against the "earnings limits" for early (before full retirement age) retirees, too.

Virginia used the WinVote system for the Feb. 12 primary, but I was told that it is considering adding a mechanism for a detailed paper by-vote trail in November. I said that it is necessary to make the experience of working the polls more reasonable, with split shifts or more pay of possible.

ING was in the building explaining benefits to Arlington County employees. ING is the company that I retired from at the end of 2001.

Here is a link to a review of a PBS film on poll working ("By the People"), here.

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