I hosted a great workshop yesterday on Social Security Planning at the Leonia Public Library with over 25 people in attendance. Two questions I get at almost every workshop are about the Earnings Test, and how Social Security benefits are taxed. Here is an explanation of those two concepts.
How does the Earnings Test work?
Social Security will withhold $1 of Social Security benefits for every $2 of earned income if you are receiving benefits and under your Full Retirement Age (FRA). Social Security asks people under their Full Retirement Age (66 or 67) who are receiving benefits to estimate their earned income for the year. Let’s say a person who is receiving $1,500 in Social Security benefits plans to earn $30,000 this year. The government will allow you to earn $14,160 in income before they start withholding benefits. To calculate how much benefits will be withheld, subtract $14,160 from $30,000 and you get $15,840. Divide $15,840 by 2 and you get $7,920 in withheld benefits. Rather than withholding the benefits proportionally each month, no benefits would be paid for as many month as it takes to make up the $7,920. After the year is over and actual earnings have been reported, any necessary adjustments will be made. Once you hit your full retirement age you will not longer have any benefits withheld no matter how much income you earn.
How are Social Security Benefits taxed?
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This table shows the taxation of Social Security benefits based on the various income levels. “Income” in this case means provisional income, which includes adjusted gross income, plus one-half of the Social Security benefit plus any tax-exempt interest. If provisional income is under $32,000 for a married couple no benefits are subject to tax. If provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% of a married couple’s benefits are subject to tax. If provisional income is over $44,000, up to 85% of benefits are subject to tax. The thresholds for a single individual are $25,000 and $34,000. In the case of married filing separately and living with spouse, 85% of Social Security is taxable regardless of income level.
For a schedule and to register for an upcoming workshop please go to http://www.retirementfitnesschallenge.com/speaker