Working After Electing SSA Benefits

Many Social Security benefits recipients continue to work, if not full-time, at least part-time. Confusion surrounds the taxability of their SSA benefits when it is time to file their income tax returns. The worst-case scenario is the call you receive from your CPA and she informs you that “you owe a few thousand dollars due to your SSA benefits”.

How can you prevent such a conversation? It is simple but you must proactively plan for the elimination or mitigation of the applicable taxes. For example, let’s assume you have elected to receive your SSA benefits at age 62. You continue to earn a portion of your annual salary working part-time. How much can you earn and not be taxed on your SSA benefits? If you are taxed, how much of your SSA benefits is taxed? And by which taxing agency?

Let’s tackle the nagging question of “how much can I earn?” per tax year and not pay tax on my benefits. The IRS established the base amount of household income, defined as adjusted gross income plus nontaxable interest and one-half of your SSA benefits, a taxpayer can receive to determine the applicable taxable portion of SSA benefits. The limit for a single filer is $34,000. 

Assume you receive $12,000 of W-2 income from your employer, SSA benefits of $25,000, taxable interest and dividends of $5,000 and nontaxable interest income of $5,000. Your household income for purposes of determining the taxability of SSA benefits, as a single person, would be $34,500 [$12,000 + $5,000 + $5,000 + $12,500 ($25,000/2)]. In our example, since your combined household income exceeds the limit by only $500, you would be taxed on 85% of your SSA benefits. 

This doesn’t seem “fair” to many beneficiaries as they wrestle with the concept that they were “taxed” on their paychecks to contribute to the SSA benefits program. However, the theory is that your contributions have earned income that is currently being paid to you in the form of your benefits and, therefore, a portion would be taxable.

The maximum amount of your SSA benefits taxed by the IRS is 85%. Good news, right? Even better news is that the State of Oklahoma does not tax your SSA benefits at all! Now that I have placed a smile on your face, lets clear up a big SSA benefits misconception.

Many rumors abound that individuals can “earn” all the money they want and not withhold FICA and Medicare contributions from their earnings after reaching age 70. This is perhaps a little misconstrued by most people. To clarify, you may earn as much “earned” income as you desire, while drawing your SSA benefits, after age 70 and not be subject to the requirements to return a portion of the SSA benefits for earning above the allowed income limits set by the SSA. 

If you elect to take your benefits at age 62 and continue to work, you may earn $17,640 in 2019 and not repay any benefits. However, for every $2.00 you earn over the limit, SSA deducts $1.00 from your benefits.

If you elect to take your benefits at FRA (full retirement age) and continue to work, you may earn $46,920 in 2019 and not repay any benefits. The SSA will deduct $1.00 in benefits for every $3.00 you earn above the limit.

Don’t play games with your retirement income. Seek professional assistance from a CPA or Certified Financial Planner practitioner. Live your life with confidence and control your future tax liability. 

Related Podcasts

See More