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How to Determine if Social Security Benefits Are Taxable

1.

Add up your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and one-half of your Social Security benefits. This total is your combined income.

2.

Determine the base amount for your filing status. If you are married and filing jointly, the base amount is $32,000. If you are married and filing separately and have lived with your spouse at any time during the year, your base amount is $0. For anyone else, the base amount is $25,000.

3.

Compare your base amount and your combined income. If the base amount is larger than the combined income, your Social Security benefits are not taxable.

4.

Use the IRS worksheet to determine the tax on your Social Security benefits if your combined income is equal to or larger than your base amount.

Tips and Warnings

  • At maximum, 85 percent of your Social Security benefits can be taxed.
  • For those who are married and filing jointly, combined income includes income for both spouses.
  • Some circumstances require special computations, for which you should hire a professional tax preparer. Do so if you made an IRA contribution and are covered by a qualified retirement plan, if you excluded income from Puerto Rico or American Samoa, if you had foreign-earned income or if you excluded income from Series EE U.S. Savings Bonds.


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