Will Your Social Security Benefits Be Taxed?

For many, it can be confusing to determine how much of your social security benefits are taxable, if any. It typically depends on your total income and marital status. For example, if social security benefits were your only income in 2008, those benefits are not taxable at all, and you will most likely not need to file a return. If you have other sources of income, it may be more complicated, and you may be required to file a return.

Are your social security benefits taxable?
Are your social security benefits taxable?

If you have other sources of income in addition to your social security benefits, those benefits will not be taxed unless your modified AGI (adjusted gross income) is greater than the base amount for your filing status. You can determine what your status is through worksheets in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet, through free tax software like TaxACT.

The IRS has offered these tips for those trying to determine whether their benefits are taxable.

Before you go to the instruction book, do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:

  • First, add one–half of the total social security 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.

The 2008 base amounts are:

  • $32,000 for married couples filing jointly
  • $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouses at any time during the year
  • $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year
    For additional information on the taxability of social security benefits, see IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits. Publication 915 is available on the IRS Web site at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).