If you’re concerned about how much income from Social Security you’ll receive after taxes you might want take note of the following: Thirteen states tax Social Security benefits, according to a recent Tax Foundation analysis.
And that would be on top of taxes you might pay the IRS if you’re collecting Social Security, older than full retirement age, and have income above a certain amount.
Not surprisingly, each of the 13 states that tax Social Security has its own approach to determining what share of benefits is subject to tax. But the provisions can be grouped together into a few broad categories, according to the report.
The 13 states that tax social security benefits
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Some states, for instance, tax Social Security with modifications, according to the Tax Foundation. New Mexico includes all Social Security benefits in the taxable income base, though the state provides a deduction that reduces the taxability of all retirement income, according to the Tax Foundation.
Meanwhile, residents of Montana must complete a worksheet to determine the taxable amount of their Social Security benefits.
The other 11 states that tax Social Security give exemptions based on factors such as age and income, according to the Tax Foundation.
Connecticut, for instance, excludes Social Security benefits from income calculations for any taxpayer with less than $75,000 (single filers) or $100,000 (filing jointly) in adjusted gross income (AGI).
“Many consumers don’t have a clue that as much as 85% of their Social Security benefits may be taxable on the federal level – depending upon other sources of retirement income – much less possibly on the state level.” – Heather Schreiber, president, HLS Retirement Consulting
What do the experts say about these taxes?
► Consider your “take-home” pay. Before retiring, learn how your Social Security benefits will be taxed at the federal and state levels and what your net, after-tax income will be.
“Many consumers don’t have a clue that as much as 85% of their Social Security benefits may be taxable on the federal level – depending upon other sources of retirement income – much less possibly on the state level,” said Heather Schreiber, the president of HLS Retirement Consulting. “When you add the potential of taxes being assessed on the benefits as well, it pays to be knowledgeable on how ‘retirement friendly’ your state is.”
At the federal level, for instance, if you and your spouse file a joint return have a combined income that is between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits. And if your combined income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. Combined income is your adjusted gross income plus your nontaxable interest plus one-half of your Social Security benefits.
“In retirement, your Social Security dollars go farther and can buy more of the things you need than the dollars in your tax-qualified accounts.” – David Freitag, financial planning consultant, MassMutual
How do states tax other sources of retirement income? To be sure, most states don’t tax Social Security income either because it’s exempt, or there’s no income tax at all. But if a near-retiree isn’t aware of how their resident state treats Social Security income and other sources of retirement income such as IRA distributions or pension income, they could be in for an unwelcome surprise, said Schreiber.
North Carolina, for example, exempts Social Security income from state income taxes but doesn’t offer the same tax breaks for other sources of retirement income. Income from a pension, 401(k), IRA or any other type of retirement account is all taxed at the North Carolina state income tax rate of 5.25% and the state doesn’t allow deductions on any type of retirement income.
► Plan ahead. Learning how Social Security is taxed as the federal and state levels is one task. Planning ahead for those taxes is another, said Martha Shedden, the president and co-founder of the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts. “Because only some of Social Security income can be taxed, there are potential withdrawal strategies from retirement and other accounts that can sometimes minimize tax liability.”
For instance, taking taxable distributions from IRAs and other retirement accounts earlier than age 72 might reduce the amount of required minimum distributions later. And that could minimize taxes due on Social Security benefits.
► The silver lining. Even though your Social Security benefit might be taxed at the federal level and, depending on where you live, at that state level, David Freitag, a financial planning consultant with MassMutual, still considers this income tax-advantaged.
“Social Security payments always have at least a 15% or more tax advantage over money taken from a traditional IRA or other tax-qualified plan,” he said. “When you combine this tax savings at the federal level with the fact that it’s totally tax-free or tax-advantaged income in most states, you have a double win,” he said. “In retirement, your Social Security dollars go farther and can buy more of the things you need than the dollars in your tax-qualified accounts.”