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Tax Season 2024: Do senior citizens on Social Security have to file taxes?

Seniors, like all other adults should submit a tax return, even when their income is not subject to taxation.

The SSA will send the last batch of April payments on Wednesday, 24 April. Will you be receiving one and when will the May payments arrive?
Kevin DietschAFP

As of the beginning of 2024, over 53 million Americans aged 65 and above were receiving retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These monthly payments are a crucial form of federal financial support for senior citizens. However, many retirees are uncertain about how these payments are taxed.

With tax season getting underway, filers have until 15 April to submit their 2023 return; many are wondering whether seniors who receive Social Security payments need to file a tax return. There are certain tax credits and benefits that would allow for the sending of a refund, even in cases where the Social Security beneficiary does not have to pay taxes on their income.

Simply put, senior citizens are subject to the exact tax requirements as other adults. There is no age at which you no longer have to submit a tax return, and most senior citizens do need to file taxes every year.

However, if Social Security is your sole source of income, it is not taxable. This applies to both spouses if they file jointly. Additionally, if your taxable income is below $14,250 (or $28,700 for married couples), you will not be liable to pay income tax on those earnings and will not be required to file a tax return.

How are Social Security retirement benefits taxed?

Since 1983, Social Security payments have been subject to taxation if the recipient’s earnings exceed a certain threshold. However, even the highest earners on Social Security will not be taxed on the entire amount they receive. The maximum taxable amount is 85 percent of the total Social Security benefit received.

To be taxed on your Social Security benefits, you must have a gross income of at least $25,000 if you’re an individual or $32,000 if you’re a couple filing jointly. If you earn more than that - at least $34,000 for an individual or $44,000 for a couple - you may see up to 85% of your benefits payments subject to tax.

To calculate whether you are liable to pay tax on your Social Security benefits, you can complete the IRS’ “Figuring Your Taxable Benefits” worksheet. You may find that your taxable income has increased by between 50-85 percent of your annual Social Security benefits amount.

During tax season, all Social Security recipients will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) that details the full amount of benefits received in 2022. You can use this statement to calculate your liability for this tax season.