Withholding Taxes From Social Security

Older taxpayers can avoid a big bill at tax time or a penalty for underpaying taxes by having the government withhold taxes from their Social Security benefits.

picture of three Social Security cards
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Question: I'm about to sign up for Social Security. Do I need to also sign up to have taxes withheld from my benefits?

Answer: You aren't required to have taxes withheld from your Social Security benefits, but voluntary withholding can be one way to cover any taxes that may be due on your Social Security benefits and any other income. A portion of your Social Security benefits will be taxable if your income—such as from freelance work, a taxable pension and IRA withdrawals, or nontaxable interest—plus half of your Social Security benefits add up to more than $25,000 if single or $32,000 if married filing jointly (see Calculating Taxes on Social Security Benefits for more information).

There are several ways to pay the taxes throughout the year and avoid an underpayment penalty or a big bill at tax time. You can file Form W-4V (opens in new tab) with the Social Security Administration requesting to have 7%, 10%, 12% or 22% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes. Or you can have taxes withheld from other income, such as an IRA withdrawal or a pension, or send quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS with Form 1040-ES (see Instructions for Form 1040-ES (opens in new tab) for more information).

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/xrd7fjmf8g1657008683.png

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of Kiplinger’s expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of Kiplinger’s expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

You can avoid an underpayment penalty if withholding or estimated payments equal at least 90% of your tax liability for the current year, or 100% of your tax liability for the previous year (or 110% if your income was more than $150,000 for singles and married joint filers).

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.