Turns out it's optional. Though you won't find that explicitly stated in either the Order or the recent IRS Guidance "clarifying" it. THAT takes a phone call to the IRS Hotline. But the Agency remains a little foggy on the basis for this conclusion. They're promising yet another FAQ on that part of it. So ... why? ... amid great fanfare, pomp and circumstance ... did the President dramatically roll out his Executive Order? And declare it a gift to (whom else?) the American worker? And further promise that, if reelected, he would do everything he could to forgive the tax entirely? And ... like a mythical champion of the people ... dare their bosses and congress to stand in the way?
Aside from the legal questions surrounding whether the Executive office even has the authority to do this, there's really no question that the action is a deferral -- not an exemption. An exemption would undoubtedly put the Social Security fund in peril. No one really believes the President, if reelected would, literally with the stroke of a pen, successfully eliminate that tax obligation. I'll tell you what that was all about. That was Donald Trump running the country the way he ran his business. Smoke, mirrors and illusory promises. Leaving everyone, anyone -- usually one whom he felt had wronged him in some undetermined way -- holding the bag. Could it be that the President's pollsters have determined that he's already lost the employer vote? He certainly did everything he could with this move to put employers in a most difficult position.
Who knows. That's a different discussion. This one's just about calling that announcement what it really was: political theater.