You may think it’s unfortunate enough that social security taxes are already taken out of your paycheck each pay period. The theory behind the social security retirement benefits program is simple. You pay taxes during your working years, become covered under its umbrella of benefits after a certain amount of time, and finally receive benefits during your retirement.
But did you know that when you receive your social security benefits in retirement, they may be taxed again?
How To Determine If Your Social Security Benefits Are Taxable
The taxable amount of your social security benefits, if any, depends on a combination of your benefits and your other income. Usually, as this total increases, a bigger percentage of your benefits is subject to tax.
More specifically, if your total other income, which is described below, plus half of your net benefits (box 5 of Form SSA-1099) is greater than the base amount attributed to your filing status, some of your benefits will be taxable. We’ll discuss the base amount later.
Total Other Income
Your total other income includes taxable pensions, wages, interest, dividends, and tax-exempt interest income. In addition to this, some exclusions – such as interest from qualified U.S. savings bonds, exempt adoption benefits from your employer, foreign-earned income, foreign housing, and income earned in American Samoa or Puerto Rico by bona fide residents – must also be included in your other income.
Other Income And Half Of Your Social Security Benefits
To calculate this number to compare to your base amount, go through these following steps:
- Calculate the total amount from box 5 of all your Forms SSA-1099.
- Calculate half of the amount from line 1.
- Calculate the total amount of your taxable pensions, wages, interest, dividends, and other taxable income.
- Calculate the total amount of any tax-exempt interest income (such as interest on municipal bonds) plus any exclusions from income (listed earlier).
- Add lines 2, 3, and 4.
Compare the amount on line 5 to the base amount for your filing status. If the amount on line 5 is less than or equal to the base amount, none of your benefits are taxable. If the amount on line 5 is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.
Your specific base amount 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 all the tax year,
- $32,000 if you are married filing jointly, or
- $0 if you are married filing separately, and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.
Other Important Points
In most cases, up to 50% of your benefits will be taxable. However, up to 85% of your benefits can be taxable if either of the following situations applies to you.
- The total of half of your benefits and all your other income is more than $34,000 ($44,000 if married filing jointly).
- You are married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.
If some of your benefits are taxable, use the social security benefits worksheet – found in the instructions for IRS Form 1040 (page 28) or 1040A (page 29) – to calculate the actual amount of your taxable benefits. And for more detailed information, check out IRS Publication 915.
For more needed information on social security and how it affects you read these great articles.
This post was included in the Carnival of Financial Planning at My Trader’s Journal.
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