Reporting Your Social Security Benefits

Your Social Security benefits may not be taxable at all, or may be taxable up to 85% of the amount. This depends on your total income from other sources, and on your marital status.

Determining how much of your benefits are taxable

Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2011, your benefits are not taxable, and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return. If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount (see below) for your filing status.

Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet.

You can however, do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:

 

  • First, add one-half of the total benefits you received 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. If the total is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.

 

Your benefits include retirement, survivor, and disability benefits, and are reported to you and the IRS on Form SSA-1099.

Depending on your other income and your filing status, your benefits may not be taxable, or they may be taxable up to 85% of the benefits received. Basically, as your income increases, a greater percentage of your benefits become taxable.

Social Security benefits are not taxable if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI plus tax-exempt interest minus adjustments) plus one-half of your net benefits shown in box 5 of your Form SSA-1099 are not more than the following base amounts:

 

  • $25,000 if Single, H/H or Q/W.
  • $25,000 if MFS, and lived apart from spouse for all of the tax year.
  • $32,000 if MFJ.
  • $0 if MFS, and did live with spouse during the year.

 

If your modified adjusted gross income plus one-half of your net Social Security benefits are more than the base amounts (above) you must determine to see if they are less than the adjusted base amounts below:

 

  • $34,000 if Single, H/H, or Q/W
  • $34,000 if MFS, and did not live with spouse during year.
  • $44,000 if MFJ
  • $0 if MFS, and did live with spouse during the year.

 

If your modified AGI plus one-half of your benefits are more than the base amounts but less than the adjusted base amounts, then your taxable Social Security benefits is the SMALLER of:
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