Top Frequently Asked Questions for Social Security Income

I retired last year, and started receiving social security payments. Do I have to pay taxes on my social security benefits?

Answer:

Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor and disability benefits. They don't include supplemental security income (SSI) payments, which aren't taxable. The net amount of social security benefits that you receive from the Social Security Administration is reported in Box 5 of Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, and you report that amount on your income tax return (Form 1040, line 20a or Form 1040A, Line 14a). The taxable portion of the benefits that's included in your income and used to calculate your income tax liability depends on the total amount of your income and benefits for the taxable year. You report the taxable portion of your social security benefits on Form 1040, line 20b or Form 1040A, line 14b.

To find out whether any of your benefits may be taxable, compare the base amount for your filing status with the total of:

  • One-half of your benefits; plus
  • All of your other income, including tax-exempt interest.

The base amount for your filing status is:

  • $25,000 if you're single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er),
  • $25,000 if you're married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year,
  • $32,000 if you're married filing jointly,
  • $0 if you're married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.

If you're married and file a joint return, you and your spouse must combine your incomes and social security benefits when figuring the taxable portion of your benefits. Even if your spouse didn't receive any benefits, you must add your spouse's income to yours when figuring on a joint return if any of your benefits are taxable.

You can figure the taxable amount of the benefits in Are My Social Security or Railroad Retirement Tier I Benefits Taxable?, on a worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040, Instructions for Form 1040A, or in Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

 

Are social security survivor benefits for children considered taxable income?

Answer:

Yes, under certain circumstances, although a child generally won't receive enough additional income to make the child's social security benefits taxable.

  • The taxability of benefits must be determined using the income of the person entitled to receive the benefits.
  • If you and your child both receive benefits, you should calculate the taxability of your benefits separately from the taxability of your child's benefits.
  • The amount of income tax that your child must pay on that part of the benefits that belongs to your child depends on the child's total amount of income and benefits for the taxable year.

To find our whether any of the child's benefits may be taxable, compare the base amount for the child’s filing status with the total of:

  • One-half of the child's benefits; plus
  • All of the child's other income, including tax-exempt interest.

If the child is single, the base amount for the child's filing status is $25,000. If the child is married, see Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, for the applicable base amount and the other rules that apply to married individuals receiving social security benefits.

If the total of (1) one half of the child's social security benefits and (2) all the child's other income is greater than the base amount that applies to the child's filing status, part of the child's social security benefits may be taxable. You can figure the taxable amount of the benefits on a worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040, Instructions for Form 1040A, or in Publication 915.

Subcategory:

I received social security benefits this year that were back benefits for prior years. Do I amend my returns for those prior years? Are the back benefits paid in this year for past years taxable this year?

Answer:

You can't amend returns for prior years to reflect social security benefits received in a single lump-sum in the current year. You must include the taxable part of a lump-sum payment of benefits received in the current year (reported to you on Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement) in your current year's income, even if the payment includes benefits for an earlier year.

However, there are two ways to determine the amount of income to include:

  • You can use your current year's income to figure the taxable part of the total benefits received in the current year; or
  • You may make an election to figure the taxable part of a lump-sum payment for an earlier year separately, using your income for the earlier year.

You can select the lump-sum election method if it lowers the taxable portion of your benefits:

  • Under this method, you refigure the taxable part of all your benefits (including the lump-sum payment) for the earlier year using that year’s income.
  • Then you subtract any taxable benefits for that year that you previously reported.
  • The remainder is the taxable part of the lump-sum payment. Add it to the taxable part of your benefits for the current year (figured without the lump-sum payment for the earlier year).
  • Worksheets in Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, can help you calculate the taxable portion using this method.

Subcategory:

Frequently Asked Question Subcategories for Social Security Income