Social Security Tax: Step-By-Step Guide

Finding out that your social security benefits are taxable catches a lot of people by surprise.  After all, this is a benefit paid by tax that was collected from you.  Now it’s taxed again?  Yes.

According to the Social Security Administration 52% of families receiving social security benefits paid income tax on those benefits in 2015. So there’s a good chance that some of your benefits will be taxable.  Here’s how you can figure it out two steps.

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Social Security Income Limits

 

social security income limit

Note:  Social Security earnings limits change each year.  This article is written with 2017 numbers.

Many people are surprised by the Social Security income limits. At one of my first speaking engagements, a lady came up to me and told me her story.  She was in a bridge club with several other women, and one day the topic turned to Social Security benefits. The consensus around the table was that filing at 62 was the smartest thing to do. This lady, trusting the advice of some of her closest friends, filed for benefits as soon as she turned 62.

She told me that she’d always wanted to buy a brand new Toyota Camry. She figured that now was the perfect time to buy this car. She was still working and her Social Security check would be extra income. So that’s exactly what she did:  she bought the car, and took out a car loan to be paid with her Social Security benefits.

A few months later, she received a nasty letter from the Social Security Administration stating that she had been paid benefits that she was not eligible for. They asked her to pay the benefits back and informed her that she her benefits would be suspended due to her income. Now she had a new car, and a car loan, without the Social Security benefits to pay for it.

The culprit…the Social Security earnings limit.

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Video: The “Why” Behind The Weird Social Security Rules For Educators

Social Security for Educators is the hottest topic that I speak on. At these speaking events I usually get asked a lot of questions. Many of them are similar from place to place, but there is always one question that is asked every time. Why?  Why do they pick on educators with these crazy Social Security rules?

In this video I’ll go into the thinking that went into setting up these weird rules.

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Social Security and Divorce: What Women Need to Know

social security and divorce

If you have an ex-spouse, you really need to understand the rules on Social Security and divorce.

Especially if you’re a woman!

Why? Because Social Security is much more important for most women than it is for men. That’s not just what I think, or based solely on observations after more than a decade of financial planning, that’s what the Social Security Administration says.

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Video: Social Security for Educators (and other public servants)

Social Security is different for educators. It’s more complicated, and the rules aren’t always fair.

If you’re an educator, when your turn comes to file for Social Security benefits you may need to fight for what’s rightfully yours. But first, you need to understand the rules!

Thankfully, it’s not that hard. In this video I’ll help to simplify the rules.

Here are a few of the areas I’ll cover:
– How Your Teacher’s Pension Will Affect Your Benefit Amount
– The Windfall Elimination Provision
– The Government Pension Offset
– Can You Expect to Collect Spousal Benefits?
– Will You Be Eligible for Survivor Benefits?
– Strategies to Reduce the Impact of These Rules

 

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Your Top 5 Social Security Questions Answered

Even though Social Security benefits depend on many variables, there are a lot of questions that are asked by nearly everyone.   In my practice helping people understand their Social Security benefits, there are five questions that come up regularly.  You probably have these questions, too.  Read on to find the answers to the five most frequently asked Social Security questions.top 5 social security questions

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VIDEO: Social Security Basics

What You Need To Know

Before you file for Social Security, you need to do your homework. Why? Because you only get one chance to get your filing decision right. If you make a mistake, it could cost you – and the loved ones you leave behind – thousands of dollars in missed benefits. GOOD NEWS! IT’S NOT THAT HARD. After spending the last several years studying, speaking and writing on Social Security, I’ve learned that most questions can be answered within one of the Social Security basics.

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Mailbag: Gross vs. Net Wages for the Social Security Earnings Limit

answers to social security questions

A reader wants to know what earnings will count towards the Social Security income limit.

QUESTION

I am 65 years old and went back to work 3 days a week and draw social security. My taxable income for 2 weeks is $1063, I now am taking $160 out of my check at putting in my Ky deffered account and now my taxable income is $904. My question is what amount is counted toward my limit of $15,720.

ANSWER

This is a great question! When the Social Security Administration defines which earning count towards the income limit, they will use the general terms “wages” and “net income from self-employment.” If you’re not self-employed, this leaves many to wonder if the countable wages are gross (before deductions) or net (after deductions).

I had this same question at a recent webinar.  A participant in California was earning $28,000 per year in part time work. She was contributing $15,000 to her 401k. Her question was very similar to yours. “Will they consider me to have earned $28,000 or $13,000?” I didn’t have to dig far to find the definitive answer. You can see this too in the Social Security’s piece “How Work Affects Your Benefits.”

“We do count an employee’s contribution to a pension or retirement plan, however, if the contribution amount is included in the employee’s gross wages.”

 That’s pretty clear. The amount of income used to determine whether or not you are subject to the earnings test is your gross wages.

Something else about your question that stood out to me was that you are currently 65 years of age. In my article The Social Security Earnings Limit and Working In Retirement, I discuss how the earnings limit The Social Security earnings limit is split into two categories.

1) Earnings when you are age 62 through January 1 of the year you attain full retirement age

2) Earnings after January 1 of the year you reach full retirement age

In the first category, the limit is $15,720. If your earnings exceed that amount, the Social Security Administration will withhold $1 for every $2 over the limit.

The second category begins on January 1 of the year you attain full retirement age. During that period you can earn $41,880 before the Social Security earnings limitation is applied. If you go over that amount, they will withhold $1 for every $3 over the limit.

So, if you are turning 66 this year, your current Social Security benefit may not be subject to the earnings limit at all.

If you are subject to the earnings limitation, I would suggest not waiting for the Social Security Administration to cut off your benefit. Instead, I’d recommend that you voluntarily suspend benefits. If you wait on them to cut you off, your risk of an overpayment notice is higher.

In any case, if your benefits begin to be withheld because you are making too much, don’t worry…you aren’t missing payments that you’ll never get back. The Social Security Administration will simply recalculate your benefit amount at your full retirement age (or when you stop working) to reflect the months that benefits were withheld.

I hope this helps!

A note for all readers

First, thanks for being a loyal reader and supporter of my blog! I’m continually amazed at the month over month increase in visitors.

As the number of readers increase, so do the emails I receive. Most of these questions are from visitors who have a Social Security issue and cannot find the help they need. Since I think solid Social Security advice is so important, I have tried to answer every email that I receive. However, I simply can’t keep up. The quantity of incoming email has just gotten too high.

That stinks because I love interacting with my readers and answering Social Security questions!

In the future I’ll continue to answer as many questions as possible. The questions and answers that’ll have priority are those that may benefit a wider audience. I’ll answer the question and then publish the Q&A on my blog. (Don’t worry, I’ll change up enough personal details so you’ll stay unknown.)

If you want to make sure I answer your question, I am still accepting individual consultations. You can click HERE for more information on booking.

Thanks for reading!

How To Calculate Social Security Benefits: 4 Easy Steps

Step-By-Step Video Guide

It’s important for you to understand how to calculate Social Security benefits. Sure, the Administration will perform this calculation for you, but if you understand the process used you may be able to spot errors and fix mistakes before it’s too late.

Here’s how to calculate your benefit amount in 4 easy steps.


Transcript of video is below:

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