Research & Analysis by Scott Cash

Social Security Totalization Agreements
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 4 (released November 2018)
by Brent W. Jackson and Scott Cash

Since the 1970s, U.S. negotiators have concluded bilateral agreements with 28 important trading partners to coordinate social security coverage and benefit provisions for individuals who live and work in more than one country in their working lives. Known as “totalization agreements,” they are similar in function and structure to treaties and are legally classified as congressional-executive agreements concluded pursuant to statute. The agreements have three main purposes: to eliminate double taxation on earnings, to provide benefit protections for workers who have divided their careers between the United States and another country, and to permit unrestricted payment of benefits to residents of the two countries. This article briefly describes totalization agreements, relates their history, and considers proposals to modernize and enhance them.