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Social Security - V. Taxation of benefits


Recipients of Social Security retirement benefits pay taxes on their benefits if their non-Social Security income plus half of their Social Security benefits are above specified levels known as the base amount. This base amount varies by filing status.

  • Single, head of household, qualifying widow(er) and married filing separately (living apart from spouse) - No taxation of Social Security below base amount of $25,000.
  • Married filing jointly - No taxation below base amount of $32,000
  • Married filing separate (and living with spouse) - Base amount is $0.
Taxable amount
Generally, up to 50% of benefits are taxable. In the following situations, up to 85% of benefits may be taxable:
  • Total of one half of benefits plus all other income exceeds $34,000 ($44,000 if married filing jointly).
  • Benefits recipient is married, filing separately and lived with spouse at any time during the tax year.
Taxable income
For purposes of Social Security taxation, total income includes one half of Social Security benefit and all other income, including tax-exempt interest. (For more information, see the Social Security Handbook.) Introduction
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