President Trump has pleaded for an employee payroll tax cut for months. His executive action does not do that. Instead, it is a payroll tax deferral. The White House memo directs IRS to issue rules to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of a workers 6.2% share of the Social Security tax from Sept. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. The easing applies to employees with biweekly pretax wages under $4,000, or to workers with annual salaries of less than about $104,000.

The deferred payroll taxes would have to be paid sometime after year-end, unless current congress or the next one approves a law to forgive the obligation.

Eligible workers should not celebrate yet. It is unclear at this time when or even if they will see higher paychecks resulting from the payroll tax deferral. Employers are not mandated to comply, per Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Absent certainty of legislation, many employers may be reluctant to stop withholding because they could ultimately be liable for the taxes if Congress doesn’t otherwise act. They are anxiously awaiting IRS guidance that they hope will provide some clarity.