Your spousal Social Security benefits may be taxable at the federal level, depending on your total household income for the year. As of 2019, a majority of people receiving Social Security benefits pay some amount of income taxes on them.

To determine whether or not you fall into this category, you must calculate your total income base and then add one-half of your annual Social Security benefit amount to that figure. Taxes due on your Social Security spousal benefits are in addition to any income tax you may owe on other income sources such as employment wages, distributions taken from traditional 401(k) or IRA savings plans, and any interest or dividends earned from investments.

Key Takeaways

  • An individual's spousal Social Security benefits may be taxable at the federal level, depending on the total household income figure, for a given year.
  • Most people who receive Social Security benefits pay some amount of income taxes on these assets.
  • Individuals may still collect spousal benefits on the Social Security accounts of an ex-spouse.
  • Married people who file jointly, must include their spouse’s total income, even if the spouse has deferred his or her own benefit payments in order to accrue delayed retirement credits.

Individual Income Threshold

It's possible for individuals to collect spousal benefits on the Social Security accounts of an ex-spouse. But given their single status, such individuals must file taxes as individuals, where the following tax models take effect:

  • Those with a total income less than $25,000 do not pay taxes on benefits.
  • For those with incomes between $25,000 and $34,000, up to 50% of their benefits may be subject to tax.
  • Those with incomes above $34,000 may be taxed on up to 85% of your benefits.

Married Income Threshold

If you are married and filing jointly, you must include your spouse’s total income--even if your spouse has deferred his or her own benefit payments, in order to accrue delayed retirement credits. In this instance, the following tax models take effect:

  • If your combined taxable income is less than $32,000, you are not required to pay taxes on your spousal benefits.
  • If your income is between $32,000 and $44,000, you may be required to pay taxes on up to 50% of your benefits.
  • If your household income is greater than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxed.

If you are married and file separately, you will likely have to pay taxes on a portion of your benefits.

State Taxes on Social Security Benefits

As of 2019 the following 13 states tax Social Security benefits to some degree:

  1. Colorado
  2. Connecticut
  3. Kansas
  4. Minnesota
  5. Missouri
  6. Montana
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Mexico
  9. Rhode Island
  10. North Dakota
  11. Vermont
  12. Utah
  13. West Virginia

[Important: State Social Security taxation models fluctuate. For example, West Virginia is abolishing the practice of taxing Social Security benefits, beginning with the 2021 tax year. Check with your state tax agency for the specifics.]