Taxing Social Security

Most people realize that a portion of a Social Security benefit can be taxable. It’s either up to 50% or up to 85% depending on adjusted income. The key triggers for a single person are $25,000 (50%) or $34,000 (85%) in combined income. Here is a simple explanation.

Keep in mind that the actual tax you may pay on a portion of your Social Security benefit is based on your income tax bracket.

My recent revelation is that it’s possible to have less than 50% of your Social Security benefit taxable, hence the use of “up to” in the explanation.

Say you’re a single filer who receives a monthly benefit of $1,543 (the average benefit after the cost of living increase in January 2021). Your total annual benefits would be $18,516. Half of that would be $9,258. Then let’s say you have a combined income of $30,000. The difference between your combined income and your base amount (which is $25,000 for single filers) is $5,000. So the taxable amount that you would enter on your federal income tax form is $5,000, because it is lower than half of your annual Social Security benefit.


Keep in mind that thirteen states also tax a portion of Social Security benefits.


  1. Thanks for sharing the example from SmartAsset for calculating taxable social security. It made my head hurt, and that’s why so many people use TurboTax.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The $32,000 for a married couple is misleading. Until you do the math
    My wife and I will not have to pay any tax on our SS benefits until our income reaches $41,000. Then the tax would only be $30, on $17,000 SS Benefit. With current COLA projections, that will be in 4 to 5 years The $32,000 threshold needs to be inflation adjusted, but I am not sure that will ever happen. Each year in retirement I see my standard of living going down in retirement benefits received, mostly because of Medicare increases.

    It is a good thing I am able to save 30% of my net income. Looks like it will be needed in the very near future as inflation ramps up.

    Liked by 1 person

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