Social Security Benefits and Taxes

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Michael Lodge    by Michael Lodge

Question:  I retired last year, and started receiving social security payments.  Do I have to pay taxes on my social security benefits?

Many of our clients are planning to retire, this question gets asked of our tax team.

Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor and disability benefits.

They do not include supplemental security income (SSI) payments, which are not taxable.  The amount of social security benefits that must be included on your income tax return and used to calculate your income tax liability depends on the total amount of your income and benefits for the taxable year.

To find out whether any of your benefits may be taxable, compare the base amount for your filing status with the total of:

  • One-half of your benefits.
  • All of your other income, including tax-exempt interest.

The base amount for your filing status is:

  • $25,000 if you are single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er),
  • $25,000 if you are married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year,
  • $32,000 if you are married filing jointly,
  • $0 if you are married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.

If you are married and file a joint return, you and your spouse must combine your incomes and social security benefits when figuring the taxable portion of your benefits. Even if your spouse did not receive any benefits, you must add your spouse’s income to yours when figuring on a joint return if any of your benefits are taxable.

You can figure the taxable amount of the benefits on a worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040Instructions for Form 1040A, or in Publication 915Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

If you have tax questions, please send them to:  tax@icontaxgroup.com