FAQs + What to do about NYU’s faulty FICA taxes

As GSOC noted previously, there’s evidence that NYU is wrongly deducting many thousands of dollars in FICA taxes from grad student pay. Since then, two NYU grad students and GSOC members (Anne & Noah) have been doggedly researching this issue and what to do about it.

This is clearly a collective problem which requires a collective response. To this end, they’ve created a self-reporting form for students to detail how much FICA tax, during which years, NYU has deducted from student pay. We ask that all GSOC members—and grad students in general—check their W-2s and paystubs and fill out the form if they see any FICA deductions.


Here’s an FAQ from Anne and Noah about the initiative:


Who are you?

We’re Anne & Noah, two NYU Steinhardt doctoral students. Noah is a US national, Anne is not. We saw problems with the taxes NYU took out of our paychecks and are working together to get our overpayments back and figured we should probably get this fixed for everyone while we’re at it.


Are you tax experts? How do you know you’re right about this?

We are not tax experts, just concerned grad students trying to get this right. So we’ve read laws and policies, talked with college and university leaders around the country, and looked closely at the policies of other universities. Noah has had several conversations with the head of global tax compliance at NYU, who thinks we’re basically right about this.


If this is real, why isn’t NYU fixing this itself?

That’s a great question! The way FICA works is the the employee pays half and the employer (NYU in our case) pays half, so every dollar NYU has deducted from our pay has been matched by a dollar from NYU’s budget. So we graduate students are out maybe a million dollars a year and so is the university. NYU’s head of global tax compliance knows about the problem, but thinks it’s a problem for Human Resources. So we – Anne & Noah – need your help to remind NYU that a million dollars is a lot of money and that this needs fixing.


Why should I trust you with my personal information?

Don’t! We’re asking for only the information we need to understand the scope of the problem. To do that, we don’t need any information beyond your name & contact info (so we can keep you in the loop about how to get your money back), your job titles (because only some jobs qualify for the student FICA exemption that NYU screwed up), and the amount of money withheld from your paychecks (so we know how much money is involved).


What is FICA tax?

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) outlines how Americans are taxed for Social Security and Medicare. It can show up on your pay stubs as “FICA,” “Medicare,” “Social Security,” or “OASDI” (which stands for old age, survivor and disability insurance – usually called Social Security).


How do I know if I paid more FICA than I owe?

In general, international students should pay no FICA tax – if you’re an international student and have paid FICA, you’ve probably overpaid.

For US citizens and permanent residents, you don’t owe FICA when you work in a non-professional job for the college or university that you’re enrolled in. Figuring out whether you’re enrolled the right way and whether you’re working a professional job is tricky. Teaching Assistants enrolled full-time in a degree program are generally exempt from FICA taxes; full-time administrators enrolled less than half time generally owe FICA. So if you’ve paid FICA, please complete this form and we’ll start the process of figuring out whether and how much the university has erroneously withheld from your pay.

You can see how much FICA tax you paid by checking your paystubs or W-2s.


If I paid more FICA than I owe, how will I get it back?

For international students, you’ve got to talk with the university to straighten out your paperwork. We’re hoping that when you complete this form, we can just take a list of people to the university and they’ll fix it. But if that doesn’t happen, Anne will be in touch with you and will guide you through the process – and will direct you to NYU staff who know how to handle the problem.

For US citizens and permanent residents, it’s more complicated. There are two ways to fix a problem with past excess withholding: either NYU can file with the IRS and correct everyone’s overpayment at once, or we can each file individually to get back our portion. We of course would really prefer the former. When we talked with NYU, they want us to do the latter. Figuring out just how big a problem this is is the first step to helping NYU take the problem seriously – that’s where you and this form come in. Please let us know if you’re affected, so that we can tell NYU how many people need this fixed.


When you give us your name & email, we’ll keep you posted about developments in fixing this problem. If NYU will fix it, we’ll let you know how and when. If we have to file on our own to get the overpayments refunded, we’ll make you a template and instructions so that you can file for the refund yourself.

If NYU doesn’t solve this problem, we might also seek the advice of lawyers who may be interested in filing a class-action lawsuit. To be honest, we don’t know yet how this would work. But we’ll find out and keep you posted when you complete this form and we know more! You’re obviously not agreeing to anything by completing the form.

Contact anne.e.pasek@gmail.com if you have any further questions.

If you see FICA deductions on your W-2s or paystubs, please ????????Fill Out the Self-Reporting Form????????