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Taxation of Social Security Benefits

If your (and your spouse’s, if married) only income is Social Security, your Social Security will not be taxable. However even a modest amount of other taxable income can result in paying taxes on a portion of your benefits. Taxable income might include for example, your wages, self-employment, interest, dividends.

Here is an overview of what portion of your Social Security may be taxed. If you:

  • file a federal tax return as an individual and your “combined income” (see below for the definition of combined income) is:
    • less than $25,000 your benefits are not taxed.
    • between $25,000 and $34,000 up to 50% of your benefits may be taxable.
    • more than $34,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return and you and your spouse have a “combined income” (see below) that is
    • less than $32,000 your benefits are not taxed.
    • between $32,000 and $44,000 you may have to pay tax on up to 50% of your benefits.
    • more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxed.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you likely will pay taxes on your benefits but not more than 85%.

The definition of “combined income” is calculated by adding your adjusted gross income plus nontaxable interest income plus one-half of your Social Security benefits.

For more information on the taxation of Social Security retirement benefits, visit our convenient information page, Social Security online, for the Retirement Benefits Guide. You also can get information from the IRS, including Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and the instructions for your Form 1040 federal income tax return.

If you believe that you’ll owe income taxes on your social security benefits, you can either make quarterly payments to the IRS or choose to have federal taxes withheld from your monthly benefits amount. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you understand the impact these kinds of taxes can have on your benefits as you age. Contact us today to learn more!


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The Elderlaw Firm

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