Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Ask Kim

Figuring the Tax Bill on Social Security Benefits

If you know the formula for taxing benefits, you may be able to reduce what you pay.

Will my Social Security benefits be taxable?

It depends on your income. The taxation of Social Security benefits is based on your “combined income,” which is your adjusted gross income (the bottom of page 1 of your Form 1040) plus tax-exempt interest and 50% of your Social Security benefits.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things You Must Know About Social Security

Your benefits are tax-free if your combined income is less than $25,000 if you are single or $32,000 if you file a joint return. Above that level, up to half of your benefits are taxable if your combined income is up to $34,000 on a single return or $44,000 on a joint return. And as much as 85% of your Social Security benefits are taxable if your combined income is more than $34,000 on a single return or $44,000 on a joint return. See Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits for details.

Be careful about moves you make that could boost your income and increase your Social Security taxes, such as converting a traditional IRA to a Roth after you start receiving Social Security benefits. Instead of making a big conversion in one year, you may want to spread out your conversions over several years if that helps you stay below the cutoff for paying taxes on your benefits. Also, reducing the amount of money subject to required minimum distributions after you turn 70½ can help you stay below the income cutoff for paying taxes on Social Security benefits. For example, Roths aren’t subject to RMDs, so the more money you convert from traditional IRAs to Roths through the years, the less money that will be subject to required minimum distributions.

For more information about Social Security, see Best Strategies to Boost Your Social Security Benefits.

Got a question? Ask Kim at