Social Security Myth #7: Is Retirement Income Taxable?

MYTH: Your benefits are not taxable in retirement.

Surprise! If you continue to have earned income in retirement while receiving Social Security, then part of your Social Security income can be included in your taxable income. That’s not to say that everyone pays taxes on Social Security
benefits or that the full amount is taxable, but it’s important to know that some of your benefits may be taxed. About half of all beneficiaries paid federal tax on Social Security in 2015.

To figure out whether your benefits are taxable or not, you’ll need to understand the IRS’ definition of “combined income.” This means your adjusted gross income plus any nontaxable income you receive, added to one half of your Social Security benefits. The total of these three numbers will determine whether your benefits are taxed, and how much.

If you are single and have a combined income of  $25k to $34k you’ll owe taxes on up to 50% of your Social Security benefit. Couples that earn between $32K and $44K a year and file jointly will owe the same rate if their combined income is between $32k and $44k.

For single filers with combined incomes over $34k and married filers whose combined income exceeds $44k, the portion of benefits that may be taxable is 85%. That’s assuming the married couple files taxes jointly. Filing a separate return makes it far more likely that your benefits will be taxable.

You may also pay state taxes on part of your benefits if you live in Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia; these states mirror the federal tax schedule. The following nine states may also tax a portion of Social Security but provide exemptions based on income and age: Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The remaining 37 states not listed above do not tax Social Security.

Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.

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