Question

Are social security benefits taxable?

Answer

Up to 50% or even 85% of your Social security benefits are taxable if your “provisional” or total income, as defined by tax law, is above a certain base amount. Your Social Security income may not be taxable at all if your total income is below the base amount.

If you’re married and filing jointly with your spouse, your combined incomes and social security benefits are used to figure your total income.

When Is Social Security Income Taxable?

To determine when Social Security income is taxable, you’ll first need to calculate your total income. Generally, the formula for total income for this purpose is: your adjusted gross income, including any nontaxable interest, plus half of your Social Security benefits.

are social security benefits taxable

If you’re married and filing jointly with your spouse, your combined incomes and social security benefits are used to figure your total income.

Then you’ll compare your total income with the base amounts for your filing status to find out how much of your Social Security income is taxable, if any.

You’ll see that you fall into one of three categories. If your total income is:

  • Below the base amount, your Social Security benefits are not taxable.
  • Between the base and maximum amount, your Social Security income is taxable up to 50%.
  • Above the maximum amount, your Social Security benefits are taxable up to 85%.

How Much of Your Social Security Income is Taxable?

Review the list below to determine where your total income falls and how much of your Social Security income is taxable. For:

  • Single, Head of Household or Qualifying Widow(er), the base amount is $25,000 and the maximum is $34,000.
  • Married filing jointly, the base amount is $32,000 and the maximum is $44,000.
  • Married filing separately, the base amount is $0 and the maximum is $0. (Note: married filing separate filers who lived apart the entire tax year use the same base and maximum amounts as single filers.)

Are All Kinds of Social Security Income Taxable?

All social security benefits are taxable in the same way. This is true whether they’re retirement, survivors, or disability benefits. Take note that Social Security benefits paid to a child under his or her Social Security number (SSN) could be potentially taxable to the child, not the parent. Note: Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a non-taxable needs-based federal benefit. It is not part of Social Security benefits and does not figure into the taxable benefit formula.

 

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