DCP-Safe Harbor and Medicare Exemption Eligibility


The Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) is the federal law that requires employers to withhold certain taxes from the wages they pay their employees. As stated on the IRS website: “Taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) are composed of the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance taxes, also known as social security taxes, and the hospital insurance tax, also known as Medicare taxes.”

In place of OASDI, employees who are not members of the UC Retirement Plan become "safe harbor" participants in the Defined Contribution Plan (DCP).  University policy requires that all eligible non-career employees hired or rehired on, or after, October 19, 1992, contribute on a pre-tax basis, 7.5% of their gross wages to the DCP. These employees are also required to contribute 1.45% of their earnings to Medicare.

Qualifying for Exemption

A student may qualify for a FICA exemption if the student is working less than 80% and enrolled in a minimum of 6 units during the Academic Semester. During the Summer Session, the exemption will require registration and enrollment in 3 units by undergraduate students and 3 units by graduate students.

Students who do not meet the FICA exemption eligibility requirements will be required to contribute 7.5% of their earnings to the DCP and 1.45% to Medicare. Please reference the UCOP website for additional policy rules and exceptions.

Requesting a Refund

If you are a student and believe you qualify for a student exemption (outlined above), yet have had money withheld, please review your payroll earning statements to ensure that you do not have DCP-Safe Harbor and Medicare deductions withheld. In the event that you qualify and had DCP-Safe Harbor and Medicare deductions withheld, please review your options described in the frequently asked questions.

To access and verify FICA withheld on your earning statement, visit UCPath online. If applicable, you will see FICA withholding amounts listed on the line items Retirement/Savings-DCP Safe Harbor and Social Security-Medicare on your earnings statement.  

Possible Reasons for Erroneous Withholding

FICA deductions can be inadvertently withheld when the following occurs:

  • Student registers late in the semester or owes fees
  • Student’s appointment percentage in the UCPath System is equal to or greater than 80% when actual hours worked may be less; this requires a correction to your HR record appointment percentage.

More Information and Questions

Please review the frequently asked questions (PDF) for more information. You may also email payhelp@berkeley.edu to reach one of our client service representatives.