Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Social Security Benefits?

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Question of the Week: Should I file a Tax Return If I Receive Social Security Benefits?

Many people who receive Social Security benefits always wonder if their benefit is taxable and if they should file a tax return. To help answer this question, let’s first determine what Social Security benefits are.

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Retired couple on the beach not worrying about social security benefits

Social Security benefits including the following below and may be taxable:

  • Survivor
  • Monthly retirement
  • Disability benefits

Around tax season, you will receive Form SSA-1099, which will report the total benefits.

Several factors determine if any portion of your Social Security benefits are taxable.

If the only income you received during the tax year is Social Security benefits or equivalent railroad retirement benefits, then the benefits might not be taxable and you might not be required to file a tax return.

If you received income from other sources, the benefits will generally not be taxable unless your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than the base amount for your filing status.

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Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Social Security Benefits?

You may have to pay taxes on your Social Security Benefits if your amount is between $25,000 and $32,000.

Let’s breakdown how to determine if you’re one of the taxpayers who this may apply to.

How to Calculate Taxable Portion of Your Social Security Benefits

To figure out the taxable portion of your benefits, compare the base amount for your filing status with the total of:

  1. One-half of the Social Security benefits
  2. All other income (including tax-exempt interest)

When making this comparison, you should not reduce other income by any exclusion for:

  • Interest from qualified U.S. savings bonds
  • Employer-provided adoption benefit
  • Foreign earned income or foreign housing
  • Income earned by bona fide residents of American Samoa or Puerto Rico

To figure out the taxable portion of Social Security benefits, compare the base amount to your filing status.

The base amounts for Social Security Benefits in 2021 are:
  • $25,000 if filing Single, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er)
  • $25,000 if filing Married Filing Separately and lived apart from the spouse for all of the tax year
  • $32,000 if filing Married Filing Jointly
  • $0 if Married Filing Separately and lived with the spouse at any time during the year

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Social Security Benefits Calculate Example

Jasper and Colleen (both over age 65) are married, filing a joint return, and both received Social Security benefits during the previous year.

In February of the current tax season, Jasper received Form SSA-1099, showing net benefits of $7,000. Jasper also has a taxable pension of $22,000 and interest income of $1500, but has no tax-exempt interest income. Colleen received Form-SSA, showing new benefits of $3,000.

(Jasper SSB = $7000) + (Colleen SSB = $3000) = Total $10,000 / 2 = $5,000

(Total SSB = $5,000) + (All other income = $23,500) = Total amount calculated = $28,500

Jasper and Colleen’s benefits are not taxable for the previous year because the amount calculated of ($28,000) is less than the base amount shown above of ($32,000) for Married Filing Jointly.

Even though their benefits are not taxable, they must file a return for the current tax season because their taxable gross income ($23,500) exceeds the minimum filing requirement for their filing status.

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Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped you gain some control of your tax plan this year. Remember not to stress out. Don’t forget to check out Tax Forms page for any additional online tax checklists and forms you may need this year.

I receive social security benefits should i file taxes.
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Until the next money adventure, take care!


The Handy Tax Guy Tax Service

Disclaimer Statement: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The Handy Tax Guy makes no absolute representation of the correctness, mistakes, omissions, delays, appropriateness, or legitimacy of any information on this site. **Note: Each client circumstance will vary on a case-by-case basis**

(Original Article Date: January 22, 2018/Updated January 30, 2021)

Nikida Metellus

Nikida Metellus is a financial freedom advocate, author, and the reimagined voice behind ThemeParkHipster.com, now focused on helping you achieve a debt-free life and financial success. Based in Orlando, Florida, she combines her love for theme parks with actionable financial strategies, offering a unique perspective on balancing fun and finances. As the author of Complete Tax Planning Guide, she has now expanded her expertise to guide you on the road to financial freedom. Co-founder of Bramework and a coffee enthusiast at heart, Nikida is committed to empowering you with practical tips and insights to manage your money wisely. When she's not blogging or exploring Florida's attractions, she enjoys quality time with her husband and two daughters. Welcome to your journey toward a financially free life!

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