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 line 5a of Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. 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 line 5b of Form 1040.

Your benefits may be taxable if the total of (1) one-half of your benefits, plus (2) all of your other income, including tax-exempt interest, is greater than the base amount for your filing status.

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 or in Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.