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Social Security Benefits, are they taxable?

How much, if any, of your Social Security benefits are taxable? It depends on your total income and marital status. Generally, if Social Security benefits are your only income, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.

If you receive income from other sources in addition to Social Security and your modified adjusted gross income is not more than the base amount for your filing status, then your benefits will also not be taxed. (See below for more on base amounts.)

This quick computation will help you determine whether some of your benefits are taxable:

  • First, add one-half of the total Social Security you receive to all your other income, including any tax-exempt interest and other exclusions from income.

  • Then, compare this total to the base amount for your filing status.

The 2012 base amounts are:

  • $32,000 for married couples filing jointly
  • $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouses at any time during the year
  • $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year

According to the Social Security Administration, less than one-third of all current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits.

© 2013, Bruce McFarland. All rights reserved.

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