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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.

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).

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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 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 for more information).

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).

For more information, see Social Security's Benefits Planner: Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits.

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