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Publication 915 - Introductory Material


Future developments. For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 915, such as legislation enacted after it was published, go to

my Social Security account. Social Security beneficiaries may quickly and easily obtain various information from the SSA's website with a my Social Security account to:

  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;

  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;

  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them;

  • Change your address;

  • Start or change your direct deposit;

  • Get a replacement Medicare card; and

  • Get a replacement Form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for the tax season.

For more information and to set up an account, go to

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This publication explains the federal income tax rules for social security benefits and equivalent tier 1 railroad retirement benefits. It is prepared through the joint efforts of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. They do not include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are not taxable.

Equivalent tier 1 railroad retirement benefits are the part of tier 1 benefits that a railroad employee or beneficiary would have been entitled to receive under the social security system. They are commonly called the social security equivalent benefit (SSEB) portion of tier 1 benefits.

If you received these benefits during 2016, you should have received a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement; Form RRB-1099, Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board; Form SSA-1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement; or Form RRB-1042S, Statement for Nonresident Alien Recipients of Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board, showing the amount.


When the term “benefits” is used in this publication, it applies to both social security benefits and the SSEB portion of tier 1 railroad retirement benefits.

What is covered in this publication.   This publication covers the following topics.
  • Whether any of your benefits are taxable.

  • How much is taxable.

  • How to report taxable benefits.

  • How to treat lump-sum benefit payments.

  • Deductions related to your benefits, including a deduction or credit you can claim if your repayments are more than your gross benefits.

The Appendix at the end of this publication explains items shown on your Form SSA-1099, SSA-1042S, RRB-1099, or RRB-1042S.

What is not covered in this publication.   This publication does not cover the tax rules for the following railroad retirement benefits.
  • Non-social security equivalent benefit (NSSEB) portion of tier 1 benefits.

  • Tier 2 benefits.

  • Vested dual benefits.

  • Supplemental annuity benefits.

For information on these taxable pension benefits, see Pub. 575, Pension and Annuity Income.

  This publication also does not cover the tax rules for foreign social security benefits. These benefits are taxable as annuities, unless they are exempt from U.S. tax or treated as a U.S. social security benefit under a tax treaty.

Comments and suggestions.   We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

  You can send us comments from Click on “More Information” and then on “Give us feedback.

  Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Tax Forms and Publications 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

  We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.

  Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

Ordering forms and publications.   Visit to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Tax questions.   If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.

Useful Items - You may want to see:


  • 505 Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

  • 575 Pension and Annuity Income

  • 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)

Forms (and Instructions)

  • 1040-ES Estimated Tax for Individuals

  • SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement

  • RRB-1099 Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board

  • W-4V Voluntary Withholding Request

See How To Get Tax Help near the end of this publication for information about getting these publications and forms.

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