Payroll taxes, paid by wage-earners as well as employers, go to fund the Social Security retirement system. If you're self-employed, you pay into the system with self-employment taxes, calculated on your federal return. The Social Security Administration provides an easy way to check a current estimate of your retirement benefit, and find out how much you've paid in over the years.
The Benefit Statement
Social Security makes information on your accumulated payments available on a Benefit Statement. At one time, the agency mailed out these statements every year to all workers with a record of "covered earnings," meaning those who had contributed payroll or self-employment taxes to the Social Security trust fund. The statements no longer arrive automatically each year, but Social Security mails them out to workers reaching the ages of 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, and to older workers not receiving Social Security benefits.
My Social Security
You can also request a copy of your Benefit Statement by phone or online, or access the information with a My Social Security account. To set up an account, navigate to the SSA.gov homepage, and click on the link for My Social Security. You must have a valid e-mail address, as well as a Social Security number and a mailing address.
Checking Your Records
The Benefit Statement estimates your future monthly benefit, depending on when you choose to retire. It also reveals your lifetime earnings record: the amount of wages or self-employment income on which you paid in to the system, each year, over your entire working life. The statement also estimates the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid, although it does not break these payments down by year. The estimated total is based on the payroll tax rate as applied to your earnings for each year, and takes into account the fact that the payroll tax rate has varied over the history of the Social Security system.
Reviewing W-2 Forms
If you need a more precise accounting of Social Security taxes paid, check your W-2 statements, which break down the contributions to Social Security as well as Medicare. You can request past statements from your current and former employers, or request a complete copy of your past tax returns, including any W-2 forms filed with those forms, by completing Form 4506 and sending it to the Internal Revenue Service. As of 2015, the IRS charges a fee of $50 for each return requested.