Purpose and History of Financial Interchange
The financial interchange between the railroad retirement and social security systems is intended to put the Social Security Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Hospital Insurance (HI) trust funds in the same position they would have been had railroad employment been covered under the Social Security and Federal Insurance Contributions Acts. It follows that all computations under the financial interchange are performed according to social security law. The amount of benefits payable under the Railroad Retirement Act has no effect on the results.
The financial interchange provision was introduced by the 1951 amendments to the Railroad Retirement Act and was made retroactive to January 1, 1937. The initial determination covered the period from January 1937 through June 1952 and indicated a balance of $488.2 million in favor of the social security system. Only interest was paid on that amount until the debt was liquidated by subsequent offsets in favor of the railroad retirement system. Since the liquidation of the original balance, annual transfers reflecting the experience of the preceding fiscal year have always favored railroad retirement. The 2014 transfer alone amounted to $4.1 billion.
The experience under the financial interchange proved to be more favorable to the railroad retirement system than was originally anticipated. There were two primary causes for this. The first was a series of successive amendments to the Social Security Act which raised benefits immediately while tax increases were deferred. The second factor was the decline in railroad employment, which reduced the taxes payable to social security but had little immediate effect on the benefit reimbursements.
Financial Interchange Determinations
Placing the social security trust funds in the same position they would have been had railroad employment been covered under social security since its inception involves computing the amount of social security payroll and income taxes relating to railroad employment and computing the amount of additional benefits which social security would have paid to railroad retirement beneficiaries during the same fiscal year. In the computation of the latter amount, credit is given for any social security benefits actually paid to railroad retirement beneficiaries. When benefit reimbursements exceed payroll and income taxes, the difference, with an allowance for interest and administrative expenses, is transferred from the social security trust funds to the Social Security Equivalent Benefit Account. If taxes exceed benefit reimbursements (this has not happened since 1951), a transfer would be made in favor of the social security trust funds.