Social Security in United States Treaties and Executive Agreements

Internationalen Steuerrecht, No. 43, June 28, 2006

66 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2005


The employee dispatched by her company to work temporarily in international destinations is not a new phenomenon, but social structures between which the worker may move have arguably never been more complex. In a world of social insurance programs that feature broad contribution requirements coupled with limitations on benefits, global workers may be required to contribute in multiple jurisdictions, yet be eligible for benefits in none. Having introduced its own social insurance program in the 1930s when workers were much less likely to be sent on temporary cross-border assignments, the United States social security system has had to adapt to the increasingly international workforce. Adaptation has occurred over the last two decades in the form of coordination of taxes and benefits through treaty-like instruments called executive agreements. However, some matters of social security taxation, like other tax matters, have traditionally been addressed in income tax treaties. This article examines the role of tax treaties and executive agreements in the administration of the United States social security program, discusses some of the conflicts and issues that arise due to the use of multiple and potentially conflicting instruments, and suggests ways in which international coordination of social security could be improved in the United States.

Keywords: Social security, taxation, treaties, executive agreements

JEL Classification: E62, H24, H55, F22

Suggested Citation

Christians, Allison, Social Security in United States Treaties and Executive Agreements. Internationalen Steuerrecht, No. 43, June 28, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Allison Christians (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec

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