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Some individuals may have to pay federal income taxes on Social Security benefits. This generally applies only if they have other substantial income such as wages, self-employment income, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on their federal income tax returns. Based on current tax rules, no one pays federal income tax on more than 85% of his or her Social Security benefits.
A single individual who files a federal tax return and has “combined income” between $25,000 and $34,000 may have to pay federal income tax on 50% of his or her Social Security benefits. Whereas another individual with the same tax filing status who has combined income in excess of $34,000 may be taxed on up to 85% of his or her Social Security benefits.
If a couple files a joint return and has a combined income between $32,000 and $44,000, they may have to pay federal income tax on 50% of their combined Social Security benefits. A joint filer who has more than $44,000 in combined income may be taxed on up to 85% of the combined Social Security benefits.
A married individual who files a separate tax return likely will pay federal income taxes on his or her Social Security benefits.
If an individual does have to pay taxes on his or her Social Security benefits, he or she can make quarterly estimated tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or choose to have federal taxes withheld from his or her benefits.
“Combined income” is the total of adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and 50% of Social Security benefits. If you believe your Social Security benefits may be taxed, you should consult a tax advisor.
The following U.S. states tax Social Security benefits: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.
(U.S. citizens residing abroad in certain countries may be exempt from U.S. tax on their Social Security benefits.)
The law requires employers to withhold taxes from employee earnings to fund Social Security and Medicare programs. Your employer also pays a tax equal to the amount withheld from employee earnings. Individuals who are self-employed pay Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA) taxes on net earnings.
Sources: State tax departments, CCH, the Tax Foundation, Kiplinger, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
For 2018, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is $128,70015 This is also known as the taxable wage base.
You may claim a refund of any excess Social Security taxes withheld from higher earnings when you file your personal income tax return with the IRS. Although Social Security taxes are capped at the taxable wage base, Medicare taxes apply to all earnings.
Earned income exceeding $200,000 (or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly) is subject to an additional .09% in Medicare taxes equaling 13.3%.16
You are self-employed if you operate a trade, business or profession either by yourself or as a partner. You must report your earnings for Social Security when filing your federal income tax return.
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This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular investment, strategy, investment manager or account arrangement. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. Please consult your legal, tax or investment advisor in order to determine whether an investment product or service is appropriate for your particular situation. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. BNY Mellon Corporation and BNY Mellon Securities Corporation are companies of BNY Mellon.
15 2019 Social Security Fact Sheet, Social Security Administration.
16 “If You Are Self-Employed, 2018,” Social Security Administration.