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Do You Pay Income Tax On Social Security Benefits

If You Have Other Income

Is Social Security Taxable?

A portion of your benefits may be taxable if you have other sources of income in addition to your Social Security benefits. The taxable portion will be either 50% or 85% of your benefits. Which it is depends on the rest of your income.

You can use the Social Security Benefits Worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040 to calculate your taxable amount based on your own personal circumstances.

To figure out your tax liability, you must first calculate your “combined income” and then compare it to the base amounts in the chart below. Your combined income is your total income from all other sources, including tax-exempt interest, plus half your Social Security benefits.

These base amounts are used in figuring the taxable portion of your Social Security benefits. When a person’s income crosses the base amount threshold, but not the additional amount, then they will pay taxes on 50% of their Social Security income.

Filing status

Other Things To Watch Out For

While everyone likes to minimize their taxes, especially ones that you can avoid without too much legwork, its important that you keep things in perspective.

Tax strategy should be part of your overall financial planning, says Crane. Dont let tax strategy be the tail that wags the dog.

In other words, make the financial moves that maximize your after-tax income, but dont make minimizing taxes your only goal. After all, those who earn no income also pay no taxes but earning no income is not a sensible financial path. For example, it can be better to find ways to maximize your Social Security benefits rather than minimizing your taxes.

And it could be financially smart to first avoid some of the biggest Social Security blunders.

Dont forget that these rules apply to minimizing your tax at the federal level, but your state may tax your Social Security benefit. The laws differ by state, so its important to investigate how your state treats Social Security.

There really arent any tricks, you just have to be careful with your interest and dividends, says Paul Miller, CPA, of Miller & Company in the New York City area.

Is Social Security Considered As Income For Tax Purposes

Generally, if your Social Security benefits are your only source of income, then they are usually not considered taxable income and thus not taxed. If you receive Social Security benefits, you will be sent a Form SSA-1099, which will show the total dollar amount of your Social Security income for the given tax year.

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How To Avoid Tax On Social Security Benefits

The fundamental strategy behind minimizing your tax on Social Security benefits is to keep your total taxable income as low as possible. Ideally, you can reduce your combined income below the thresholds the IRS uses to calculate the tax owed on Social Security income.

Your combined income is half your Social Security income plus income from other sources, such as wages, dividends, interest, pensions, retirement account distributions and business income. You may not be able to completely avoid paying taxes on Social Security, but there at least three ways to reduce the tax that you owe:

  • Use Roth IRA accounts. Since contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, qualifying withdrawals are not taxable.2 Withdrawals from a Roth IRA are generally tax free if they are made after age 59 1/2 and the account has been active for at least five years.
  • Withdraw taxable income before starting benefits. For some individuals and households, it can make sense to make withdrawals from taxable accounts before receiving Social Security benefits. For example, if it makes sense for your retirement plan, you can withdraw from traditional IRAs, 401s, and taxable brokerage accounts for retirement income. If executed correctly, you could reduce taxes and, by delaying Social Security, increase your benefits.
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    Do You Pay State Taxes On Social Security Benefits

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    Do I Have To Pay Taxes On My Social Security Benefits

    If you have started receiving Social Security benefits, or if you are applying to receive benefits, you may be wondering if you will need to pay taxes on the benefits you receive from the Social Security Administration . For the most part, these benefits are tax-free, as to qualify to receive benefits you must not be able to work for a year or more as well as meet their income eligibility requirements. While most benefit recipients will not pay taxes, there are situations where you may need to pay federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits.

    Are Social Security Benefits Considered Earned Income

    For the year you are filing, earned income includes all income from employment, but only if it is includable in gross income. … Earned income does not include amounts such as pensions and annuities, welfare benefits, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation benefits, or social security benefits.

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    To Find Out If Their Benefits Are Taxable Taxpayers Should:

    • Take one half of the Social Security money they collected during the year and add it to their other income.

    Other income includes pensions, wages, interest, dividends and capital gains.

    • If they are single and that total comes to more than $25,000, then part of their Social Security benefits may be taxable.
    • If they are married filing jointly, they should take half of their Social Security, plus half of their spouse’s Social Security, and add that to all their combined income. If that total is more than $32,000, then part of their Social Security may be taxable.

    Are States That Tax Social Security Benefits Worse For Retirees

    How to pay less in taxes on your Social Security benefits

    Including Social Security benefits in taxable income doesnt make a state a more expensive place to retire. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, as of the third quarter of 2021, while four of the states that tax Social Security benefits have notably high cost-of-living index scores, the remaining eight fell within the two lowest-scoring groups. Kansas, in particular, had the second-lowest score in the U.S., after Mississippi.

    The inverse is also true, as states that dont levy a Social Security tax arent inherently tax-friendlier places to live. When a state government doesnt garner income from one potentially taxable source, it typically makes up for it with other forms of taxation.

    For instance, while Texas doesnt levy a state income tax at all , it relies heavily on taxes from a variety of other sources, including insurance taxes sin taxes on mixed beverages, tobacco products, and coin-operated machines and motor fuel taxes.

    Other states that dont earn revenue from Social Security incomesuch as Arkansas, California, Louisiana, and New Yorkhave some of the highest income and/or sales tax rates in the U.S.

    Living in a state that levies fewer taxes may be good for your budget, but it can limit the local governments ability to invest in social services that you or your loved ones may rely on, such as healthcare, infrastructure, and public transportation.

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    When To Include Social Security In Gross Income

    There are certain situations when seniors must include some of their Social Security benefits in gross income. If you are married but file a separate tax return and live with your spouse at any time during the year, then 85% your Social Security benefits are considered gross income which may require you to file a tax return.

    In addition, a portion of your Social Security benefits are included in gross income, regardless of your filing status, in any year the sum of half your Social Security benefit plus all of your adjusted gross income, plus all of your tax-exempt interest and dividends, exceeds $25,000, or $32,000 if you are married filing jointly.

    What Percent Of Your Social Security Benefit Is Taxable

    First, lets start off with how much of your Social Security will be considered taxable income. It ranges from 0% to 85% of the amount received. Where you fall in that range will depend on the amount of income that you have each year. Here is the table for 2021:

    But, heres the kicker. 50% of your Social Security benefit that you receive counts towards the income numbers that are listed in the table above to arrive at your combined Income amount. Here is the formula:

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    When Does A Senior Citizen On Social Security Stop Filing Taxes


    The IRS typically requires you to file a tax return when your gross income exceeds the standard deduction for your filing status. These filing rules still apply to senior citizens who are living on Social Security benefits. However, if Social Security is your sole source of income, then you don’t need to file a tax return.

    Key Takeaways

    If the only income you receive is your Social Security benefits, then you typically don’t have to file a federal income tax return.

    If you are at least 65, unmarried, and receive $14,250 or more in non-exempt income in addition to your Social Security benefits, you typically must file a federal income tax return .

    If you are 65, married, and file a joint return with a spouse who is also 65 or older, you typically must file a return if your non-exempt income is $27,800 or more .

    If the sum of half your Social Security plus your adjusted gross income plus your tax-exempt interest and dividends exceeds $25,000 for single filers , then a portion of your Social Security benefits are included in gross income and you might need to file a tax return.

    Control Your Taxes Now & Later

    Do You Need To Pay Tax On Your Social Security Benefits?

    The longer you wait to claim Social Security benefits, the better chance you’ll have to boost the overall tax efficiency of your retirement income plan. Here’s how.

    Drawing down traditional tax-deferred assets before collecting Social Security can enable you to control both your current and future taxes.

    The amount you withdraw from a traditional IRA, for example, lowers your account balance, which may reduce your future required minimum distributions .

    Since your RMD is considered ordinary income, having smaller distributions while you’re collecting benefits may reduce the taxes on your benefitsor keep you from paying taxes altogether.

    In addition, managing your retirement income in this way can also help you qualify to pay lower Medicare parts B and D premiums, which are income-based.

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    How Do I Pay Less Tax On My Social Security Benefit

    Many clients come to us to figure out how to stop losing so much of their Social Security check to taxes. For past years, there is really nothing that can be done. Where we really help clients is putting strategies into place to lower their taxes in the future.

    The only way to lower the taxes paid on Social Security is to lower your other taxable income. This will make your combined income fall into one of the brackets where either only 50% of your check is taxable or even into the bracket where none of your Social Security income is taxable.

    The most common strategies we help clients put into place to lower their taxable income are Roth conversions and QCDs .

    Do You Have To Pay Income Tax After Age 80

    Seniors don’t have to file a return until their income exceeds $13,600. Married filers who are both over 65 do not need to file a joint return unless their income exceeds $26,600. If your sole or primary income source is Social Security or a pension, this may mean you do not have to file a return at all.

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    Is Social Security Based On The Last 5 Years Of Work

    A: Your Social Security payment is based on your best 35 years of work. And, whether we like it or not, if you don’t have 35 years of work, the Social Security Administration still uses 35 years and posts zeros for the missing years, says Andy Landis, author of Social Security: The Inside Story, 2016 Edition.

    When Will I Have To Pay Taxes On My Benefits

    How much your Social Security benefits will be if you make $30,000, $35,000 or $40,000

    To determine if you will need to pay income tax on your benefits, you will need to assess the total tax-exempt income that you receive during the year as well as the total amount of benefits you receive. It is important to note that the benefits that you will calculate do not include Supplemental Security Income as those benefits are not taxable. If your total benefits exceed the below limits, you will need to pay taxes on a portion of your benefits.

    • If you file taxes Single You will need to pay taxes if your combined income is more than $25,000
    • If you file taxes as Married filing Jointly You will need to pay taxes if your combined income is more than $32,000

    If your combined income is less than the above limits, you will not need to pay any income tax on the Social Security benefits you received that year.

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    History And Rationale For Taxing Social Security Benefits

    For more than four decades, Social Security benefits were not subject to income tax. The Treasury Departments rationale for not taxing Social Security benefits was that the benefits under the Act could be considered as gratuities, and since gifts or gratuities were not generally taxable, Social Security benefits were not taxable.

    Former Social Security Commissioner Robert M. Ball long argued that, since Social Security is an earned benefit, it should be taxed like other earned benefits, such as employer pensions. Workers pay income tax on private pensions to the full extent that their benefits exceed their contributions, with no income thresholds.

    As a leading member of the Greenspan commission on Social Security in 1982-83, Ball had an opportunity to promote this idea. The subsequent Social Security Amendments of 1983 provided that up to 50 percent of benefits would be taxable for beneficiaries with incomes above certain levels. A decade later, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 provided for the taxation of up to 85 percent of benefits for individuals with modified AGI above somewhat higher thresholds. The provision has since remained unchanged.

    What Percentage Of Social Security Is Taxable

    If you file as an individual, your Social Security is not taxable only if your total income for the year is below $25,000. Half of it is taxable if your income is in the $25,000$34,000 range. If your income is higher than that, then up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.

    If you and your spouse file jointly, youll owe taxes on half of your benefits if your joint income is in the $32,000$44,000 range. If your income is above that, then up to 85% is taxable income.

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    Social Security Is Taxed More Favorably Than Private Pensions

    The income tax treatment of Social Security benefits is considerably more favorable than that of private defined-benefit pensions, which are otherwise similar to Social Security. Because of the income thresholds and the 50- and 85-percent limits, only about 30 percent of Social Security benefits are currently subject to income taxation. In contrast, defined-benefit pensions are fully taxable except for the typically small portion representing the employees own after-tax contributions.

    CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that taxing Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits in exactly the same way as private pensions would raise $411 billion in additional revenues over ten years. Stated another way, the current tax treatment of Social Security provides beneficiaries with a $411 billion tax reduction, relative to the tax treatment that private pensions face.

    How Will I Know That I Have To Pay

    Do this during tax season to maximize your Social Security benefits

    The Social Security Administration will send a benefit statement each year in January to beneficiaries called Form SSA-1099. This form shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year. With it, you will be able to complete your federal income tax return to find out if your benefits are subject to tax.

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    Withholding Taxes From Your Social Security Benefit

    For taxpayers that know that will have to pay tax on their Social Security benefit, it is usually a good idea to have Social Security withholding taxes taken directly from your Social Security payments. Otherwise, you will have to issue checks for estimated tax payments throughout the year which can be a headache. They only provide you with four federal tax withholding options:

    · 7%

    · 12%

    · 22%

    These percentages are applied to the full amount of your Social Security benefit, not to just the 50% or 85% that is taxable. Just something to consider when selecting your withholding elections.

    To make a withholding election, you have to complete Form W-4V . Once you have completed the form, which only has 7 lines, you can mail it or drop it off at the closest Social Security Administration office.

    How Will Working Affect Social Security Benefits

    In a recent survey, 70% of current workers stated they plan to work for pay after retiring.1

    And that possibility raises an interesting question: how will working affect Social Security benefits?

    The answer to that question requires an understanding of three key concepts: full retirement age, the earnings test, and taxable benefits.

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