Monday, June 18, 2018

The Amish and Social Security

The Amish and Social Security

Because of their faith, self-sufficiency is the Amish answer to government aid or welfare programs. The Amish do not support the concept of insurance. The Amish believe that insurance is not trusting in God. Insurance plans are rather a worldly operation.

The Amish view of separation of church and state normally means not accepting money from government programs, especially something viewed as welfare. Few could deny that the Social Security program was one of paying money to the government and then receiving some sort of a benefit in return.

Perhaps most importantly, the Amish believe that care of the elderly is seen as the responsibility of the family and the church-based community, not the government. Whether it is an addition built onto the main house where grandparents live peacefully in retirement, benefit sales to pay large medical bills, or the community effort of a barn raising, the Amish take care of their own.

In the 1950’s, the IRS, in an attempt to collect Social Security taxes from Amish farmers, seized personal property, including horses used to prepare fields and raise crops, which allowed the Amish to earn a living. Some Amish, who objected to paying the tax, did establish bank accounts and allowed the IRS to seize money owed, while others just refused to pay. Although it was called a tax, the Amish viewed Social Security as an insurance program. The federal government clearly described it as a form of old age and survivors insurance. In a 1961 IRS press release, the IRS recognized the Amish stance that ‘Social Security payments, in their opinion, are insurance premiums and not taxes. They, therefore, will not pay the ‘premium’ nor accept any of the benefits.”

The Amish held meetings with various government officials seeking relief. At a September 1961 meeting with the IRS commissioner in Washington, Amish bishops cited several Bible passages, including I Timothy 5:8, which says, But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

Uncharacteristically, the Amish had filed a lawsuit, but as the court date approached, they rethought their strategy and dropped the legal action, seeking a legislative solution. Congress became involved, and now Section 310 of the Medicare section of the Social Security act has a subsection that permits individuals to apply for exemption from the self-employment tax if a member of a religious body that is conscientiously opposed to Social Security benefits but that makes reasonable provision of taking care of their own elderly or dependent members.

The Amish enjoy a long history of taking care of their own. While they do not have retirement communities or nursing homes, the family takes care of their own elderly or disabled members, and the Amish community gives assistance as needed.

Since Medicare and Medicaid are also a part of the Social Security system, the Amish do not participate in either program. Old Order Amish believe that if the church is faithful to its calling, many government programs and commercial insurance are not needed.

While the Amish will and do pay taxes, they refuse to pay taxes that are forms of insurance. If they hire non-Amish employees, the Amish business must pay social security taxes that match the employee’s contribution. In the 1965 Medicare Bill, Congress included a clause exempting the Old Order Amish and other religious groups that conscientiously objected to paying insurance premiums from paying Social Security tax. To be exempt, the faith-based group or sect must have been established prior to 1950 and maintain reasonable provisions for their elderly. The Amish qualified for this exemption.

Special Note: 

Amish Wisdom is an ongoing feature of various entries about the Amish on George Sheldon's website and blog. Written and produced by George, it is intended to provide information about those of the Amish faith.

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