When Does a Senior Citizen on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes?
The IRS typically requires you to file a tax return when your gross income exceeds the Standard Deduction for your filing status. These filing rules still apply to senior citizens who are living on Social Security benefits. However, if Social Security is your sole source of income, then you don't need to file a tax return.
- At what age is Social Security not taxable?
- When do seniors have to file a tax return?
- When do I include Social Security in my gross income?
• If the only income you receive is your Social Security benefits, then you typically don't have to file a federal income tax return.
• If you are at least 65, unmarried, and receive $15,700 or more in nonexempt income in addition to your Social Security benefits, you typically need to file a federal income tax return (tax year 2023).
• If you are 65, married, and file a joint return with a spouse who's also 65 or older, you typically have to file a return if your nonexempt income is $30,700 or more (or $29,200 if your spouse is under 65 years old).
• If the sum of half your Social Security plus your adjusted gross income plus your tax-exempt interest and dividends exceeds $25,000 for single filers (or $32,000 if you are Married Filing Jointly), then a portion of your Social Security benefits is included in gross income for taxes, and you might need to file a tax return.
At what age is Social Security not taxable?
Social Security can potentially be subject to tax regardless of your age. While you may have heard at some point that Social Security is no longer taxable after 70 or some other age, this isn’t the case. In reality, Social Security is taxed at any age if your income exceeds a certain level.
Essentially, if your taxable income is greater than the Standard Deduction for your filing status, you’ll typically have to file a tax return. This means that seniors on Social Security whose income exceeds the Standard Deduction will need to determine if some of their Social Security benefits need to be included in their taxable income for federal taxes as well as for taxes in certain states.
When do seniors have to file a tax return?
For tax year 2023, seniors filing as single or married filing separately will usually need to file a return if :
- You are at least 65 years of age, and
- Your gross income for tax is $15,700 or more
However, if your only income is from Social Security benefits and the amount that you receive is less than $50,000 per year, you don't typically include these benefits in your gross income. In this case, if this is the only income you receive, then your gross income for taxes equals zero, and you usually don't need to file a federal income tax return.
But if you do earn other income including certain tax-exempt income, then each year you need to determine whether the total exceeds the filing threshold.
- For tax years prior to the 2018 tax year (filed in or before 2019), these amounts are based on the year's Standard Deduction plus the exemption amount for your age and filing status.
- Beginning in 2018, only your Standard Deduction is used since exemptions are no longer part of calculating your taxable income under the new tax law passed in late 2017.
For the 2023 tax year,
- If you are married and file a joint return with a spouse who's also 65 or older, you'll need to file a return if your combined adjusted gross income is $30,700 or more.
- If your spouse is under 65 years old, then the threshold amount decreases to $29,200.
- Keep in mind that these income thresholds only apply to the 2023 tax year, and generally increase slightly each year.
TurboTax Tip: As long as you are at least 65 years old and your income from sources other than Social Security isn't high, then the tax credit for the elderly or disabled can reduce your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
When do I include Social Security in my gross income?
There are certain situations when seniors have to include some of their Social Security benefits in gross income for taxes. If you are married but file a separate tax return and live with your spouse at any time during the year, then 85% of your Social Security benefits are included in your gross income for taxes, which may require you to file a tax return.
Additionally, a portion of your Social Security benefits is included in gross income for tax, in any year the sum of half your Social Security benefit plus all of your taxable gross income, plus all of your tax-exempt interest and dividends, exceeds $25,000 if filing single, or $32,000 if you are Married Filing Jointly.
How can I avoid paying taxes on Social Security?
If you exceed the income threshold for your filing status, then you’ll be required to file a tax return. This means that your Social Security benefits may be subject to federal and possibly state income tax.
Keep in mind, though, that there are ways to legally minimize or eliminate tax liability for your Social Security income. To navigate this process, it’s generally recommended that you consult a tax professional to ensure that you’re operating within the law when making these decisions.
The simplest way to avoid paying taxes on your Social Security is to take steps so that your gross income is lower than the point at which you have to file a tax return. This income threshold will vary depending on your filing status.
As far as how you can reduce your gross income, you might consider minimizing the amounts you withdraw from retirement accounts. Additionally, try to prioritize taking money out of tax-free retirement accounts before anything else.
Here are some other tips seniors may use to reduce taxable income in order to minimize taxes paid on Social Security:
- Tax-loss harvesting: This is a strategy where you sell investments at a loss in order to reduce your total taxable income. Note that tax-loss harvesting only works when you take losses on taxable investments.
- Investing in growth stocks: Certain investments and assets will pay dividends and increase your taxable income. Growth stocks, on the other hand, often do not pay dividends and therefore aren't taxed until you sell, so you can maintain more control over what your taxable income will be for a given year.
- Donate to charity via your IRA: When you make a qualified charitable contribution directly from your IRA to an eligible charitable organization, you can lower your tax burden. If you’re forced to take a required minimum distribution (RMD), this could be one strategy to lower your taxable income.
What is the tax credit for seniors?
Even if you must file a tax return, there are ways you can reduce the amount of tax you have to pay on your taxable income. As long as you are at least 65 years old and your income from sources other than Social Security isn't high, then the tax credit for the elderly or disabled can reduce your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
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