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Do You Have To Pay Federal Taxes On Social Security

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The Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program taxmore commonly called the Social Security taxis calculated by taking a set percentage of your income from each paycheck. Social Security tax rates are determined by law each year and apply to both employees and employers.

For both 2021 and 2022, the Social Security tax rate for employees and employers is 6.2% of employee compensation, for a total of 12.4%. Those who are self-employed are liable for the full 12.4%.

The combined taxes withheld for Social Security and Medicare are referred to as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act . On your pay statement, Social Security taxes are referred to as OASDI, and Medicare is shown as Fed Med/EE. Both Social Security and Medicare are federal programs that provide benefits for retirees, people with disabilities, and children of deceased workers.

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Bankrate follows a strict editorial policy, so you can trust that were putting your interests first. All of our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts, who ensure everything we publish is objective, accurate and trustworthy.

Our reporters and editors focus on the points consumers care about most how to save for retirement, understanding the types of accounts, how to choose investments and more so you can feel confident when planning for your future.

Provisional Income And Social Security

Why is provisional income important? Provisional income determines whether and how much your social security benefits are taxed.

  • If your provisional income is greater than $34,000 , 85% of your social security benefits are taxable.
  • On the other hand, if your provisional income is less than than $25,000 you will not have to pay taxes on any of your social security income.
  • Finally, if your income is between these two brackets, the government will tax 50% of your social security income.

Shockingly, the Social Security Administration reports that more than 40% of Americans do not pay taxes on any of their social security income. In other words, many retired American couples make less than $32,000 per year . While there are tax tricks you can do to minimize your provision income, I believe that many people in this group are living nearly entirely on their social security benefits. However, as a federal employee, even if you never saved anything else for retirement, youd be better off than these Americans because you could access both your FERS pension and social security.

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Can You Pay 0 Federal Taxes In Retirement With A Pension

Brian mentioned that he strongly recommends the book The Power of Zero, which is a guide to paying no federal taxes in retirement . In fact, Brian told me that he is able to help most of his non-federal clients pay no tax in retirement.

You can pay no taxes in retirement by minimizing your retirement income. For example, if you had all of your assets in Roth IRAs and the Roth TSP, your withdraws would be tax free. Furthermore, if you are able to keep your total tax/dividends/capital gains below $12,000 per year, you would be in the 0% tax bracket and your social security would be tax free.

If you are able to keep your total tax/dividends/capital gains below $12,000 per year, you would be in the 0% tax bracket and your social security would be tax free.

Obviously, keeping your income below the 0% marginal tax bracket is nearly impossible for a federal employee retiring after 30 years. In fact, for most people, your FERS pension will force you into paying taxes on 85% of your social security benefits. .

Are Other Social Security Benefits Taxable

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Your Social Security and Other ...

The majority of the other Social Security benefits, such as spousal and disability benefits, are taxable. If you receive survivor benefits on behalf of your child, it is taxable to the child and not you. Although, most children do not earn enough income in a year to owe any taxes. Supplemental Security Income , however, is non-taxable.

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Are Pensions Subject To Federal Tax In Retirement

The short answer is yes. You will be taxed on your FERS pension in retirement by the federal government. FERS annuities are taxed as ordinary income. Therefore, the amount of tax you will pay will depend on whether you are married and your income in retirement.

Unsure of how much of your pension will be taxed? Here is the IRS website with the marginal tax brackets. .

Your state may or may not tax your pension. Some states do not tax any income and other states have special rules where they do not tax pension income for retirees.

Buy An Annuity Contract

A qualified longevity annuity contract is a deferred annuity funded with an investment from a qualified retirement plan or an IRA. QLACs provide monthly payments for life and are shielded from stock market downturns. As long as the annuity complies with IRS requirements, it is exempt from the RMD rules until payouts begin after the specified annuity starting date.

QLAC income can be deferred until age 85. A spouse or someone else can be a joint annuitant, meaning that both named individuals are covered regardless of how long they live.

Keep in mind that a QLAC shouldnt be bought just to minimize taxes on Social Security benefits. Retirement annuities have advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed carefully, preferably with help from a retirement advisor.

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How To Determine If Social Security Benefits Are Taxable

Seniors whose only source of income is Social Security do not have to pay federal income taxes on their benefits. If they receive other sources of income, including tax-exempt interest income, they must add one-half of their annual Social Security benefits to their other income and then compare the result to a threshold set by the IRS. If the total is more than the IRS threshold, some of their Social Security benefits are taxable.

For 2020, the threshold amount is $25,000 for singles and $32,000 for married couples filing jointly. Married couples who live together but file separately have a threshold of $0 and must pay taxes on Social Security benefits regardless of other income earned.

The formula for calculating your combined income includes adding your adjusted gross income plus nontaxable interest plus half of your Social Security benefits. Your other income, which is included in adjusted gross income, can come from a part-time job or 401 withdrawals.

More specifically, Social Security benefits are taxed as follows:

  • Up to 50% of Social Security benefits are taxed on income from $25,000 to $34,000 for individuals or $32,000 to $44,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Up to 85% of benefits are taxable if the income level is over $34,000 for individuals or $44,000 for couples.

When Does A Senior Citizen On Social Security Stop Filing Taxes

Do you have to pay taxes on your Social Security? (maybe not)


The IRS typically requires you to file a tax return when your gross income exceeds the standard deduction for your filing status. These filing rules still apply to senior citizens who are living on Social Security benefits. If Social Security is your sole source of income, then you don’t need to file a tax return.

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Do You Have To Pay Tax On Social Security

Americans that are working in retirement, and are making an income when combined with Social security can complicate a tax return.

If you have managed to retire before your actual retirement age and have begun collecting Social security early, the benefits are subjected to a reduction for beginning early and as your earnings increase. The recipients will have to deal with taxes on some of their benefits if the income exceeds certain amounts.

Being an early retiree, you have to decide if you should begin getting benefits early. Social security benefits will be reduced if they are started before normal retirement age. If you work, then you are subjected to more reductions. Social security may reduce some of your benefits once you earn over $15,720 in a year. You will lose $1 for ever $2 over this amount. A higher limit will apply to your benefits once your reach full retirement age. If there are any months in the year of your normal retirement that the benefits are reduced more due to the income earned during your early retirement, then your benefits will be increased in later years to make up for the reduction due to those earnings.

History Of Social Security Tax Rates

The Social Security tax began in 1937. At that time, the employee rate was 1%. It has steadily risen over the years, reaching 3% in 1960 and 5% in 1978. In 1990, the employee portion increased from 6.06 to 6.2% but has held steady ever sincewith the exception of 2011 and 2012.

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 reduced the contribution percentage to 4.2% for employees for those years employers were still required to pay the full amount of their contributions.

The tax cap has existed since the inception of the program in 1937 and remained at $3,000 until the Social Security Amendments Act of 1950. It was then raised to $3,600 with expanded benefits and coverage. Additional increases in the tax cap in 1955, 1959, and 1965 were designed to address the difference in benefits between low-wage and high-wage earners.

The Social Security tax policy in the 1970s saw a number of proposed amendments and re-evaluations. The Nixon Administration was paramount in arguing that tax cap increases needed to correlate with changes in the national average wage index in order to address benefit levels for individuals in different tax brackets. The 1972 Social Security Amendments Act had to be revamped due to problems with the benefits formula that caused financing concerns. A 1977 amendment resolved the financial shortfall and established a tax cap increase structure that correlated with average wage increases.

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Are Other Forms Of Retirement Income Taxable In Virginia

Income from retirement accounts like a 401 or an IRA is taxable, as is any pension income. Much of that income is also deductible, however. Virginia offers an age deduction of up to $12,000 for persons age 65 and older. The deduction phases out by $1 for every $1 that the taxpayer’s federal AGI surpasses $50,000 for single filers and $75,000 for married filers.

The deduction above can be applied to any retirement income, whether from a pension, 401 or IRA. If total retirement income is less than $12,000, it is essentially tax-free. Above that limit, income is taxed at the rates shown in the table below.

Will Income Taxes Go Up

Do You Have to Pay Federal &  State Tax on Social Security ...

I dont disagree with Brians goal of tax minimization. Furthermore, I agree with his facts about debt and taxes. However, I wont bet my whole retirement strategy on the fear of a tax increase.


I believe that tax increases on the middle class are unlikely in the future.

  • Firstly, modern monetary theory states that national debt does not matter. While that sounds shocking, the bond market shows no worries about our current borrowing pattern. And economists no longer believe inflation depends upon the money supply. We can literally print money to pay for the debt without causing inflation.
  • Congress must pass tax increases. Who wants to raise taxes on retirees? Republicans oppose raising taxes on anyone. Democrats oppose taxing the middle and lower classes. Therefore, nobody wants to raise income taxes on retirees.
  • If we do need to raise taxes to pay off our debt, there are other ways to raise taxes.
  • The US may institute a Value Added Tax like Europe.
  • Or the US may enact a wealth tax.
  • Finally, we might do something really crazy like taxing Roth withdrawals or abolishing Roth accounts.
  • Do I really think Congress will tax Roth withdrawals in the future? Of course not. But you would be kidding yourself if you thought Congress does not have the power to tax these withdrawals.

    In short, we dont know what will happen in the future. While Brian is convinced the US will raise income taxes on retirees in the future, I am less certain of this fact.

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    When Are Social Security Benefits Taxed

    Roughly 60% of retirees will not owe federal taxes on their Social Security benefits. A large number will also be free from state taxes on their Social Security retirement income. From a tax standpoint, that is great news but from an income standpoint, it may not be great for their standard of living.

    If your total income hits $25,000 as a single retiree or $32,000 as a married couple, your Social Security benefits will begin to get taxed at the federal level. Those income amounts are likely not going to leave you feeling rich. At those income levels, just 50% of your Social Security income will face taxation. Once your income reaches $34,001 for individuals or $44,001 for married couples, 85% of your Social Security benefits will face taxation from the IRS.

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    Retirees In The South Get A Free Pass With Social Security Except In One State

    All but one of the 16 states of the South are tax-friendly when it comes to Social Security. Florida, Tennessee, and Texas don’t charge state income taxes generally, which makes Social Security taxation largely a moot point. But most of the other states in the region Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia also have a blanket exemption on taxing Social Security. West Virginia is the only exception it uses the federal rules to determine what gets included in state income taxes.

    When Is Social Security Income Taxable

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    To determine when Social Security income is taxable, youll 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.

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

    Then youll 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.

    Youll 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%.

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    State Taxation Of Social Security Benefits

    Most states don’t tax Social Security benefits. But the ones that do either follow the same federal provisional income rules or have special rules and income thresholds to determine what’s taxable.

    These 4 states use the federal PI formula: Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. The taxable portion of Social Security for these states is the same as the federal amount.

    Nine states have special rules and income thresholds. Most use the federal modified adjusted gross income formula rather than the federal PI formula for taxing Social Security income.

    These states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Utah.

    If you live in a state that counts Social Security benefits as taxable income, you should consult your state tax department for details and a qualified tax advisor.

    Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit

    Some of you have to pay federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income in addition to your benefits .

    You will pay tax on only 85 percent of your Social Security benefits, based on Internal Revenue Service rules. If you:

    • file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
    • between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
    • more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
  • between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.
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