Are my Social Security benefits taxable?

This fits with the recent them covering what items are considered income according to the IRS. Social Security benefits are an item that may or may not be considered taxable income depending on how much is received, and what other income is received.

This can be particularly important in determining whether somebody can be claimed as a dependent. Many taxpayers provide significant support to their elderly parents, and often the parent’s only source of income is Social Security. One of the criteria for claiming a dependent in this situation is they must not have more than a certain amount of taxable income. This amount changes each year (currently $3700), but a common source of confusion is whether Social Security is considered income for purposes of this test.

This IRS tip helps determine whether or not Social Security income must be considered taxable:

IRS Tax Tip 2012-26

Many people may not realize the Social Security benefits they received in 2011 may be taxable. All Social Security recipients should receive a Form SSA-1099 from the Social Security Administration which shows the total amount of their benefits. You can use this information to help you determine if your benefits are taxable. Here are seven tips from the IRS to help you:

1. How much – if any – of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status.

2. Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2011, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.

3. If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount for your filing status (see below).

4. Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet. Your tax software program will also figure this for you.

5. You can do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:

  • First, add one-half of the total Social Security benefits you received to all your other income, including any tax-exempt interest and other exclusions from income.
  • Then, compare this total to the base amount for your filing status. If the total is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.

6. The 2011 base amounts are:

  • $32,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouse at any time during the year.
  • $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year.

7. For additional information on the taxability of Social Security benefits, see IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits. You can get a copy of Publication 915 at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits


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