With the cost of living climbing higher, you probably aren't eager to give the government any more of your money than you have to. That's especially true if you're retired and living off of Social Security benefits and personal savings.
While income taxes are a part of life for everyone, not all seniors have to worry about paying taxes on their Social Security benefits. Here's a look at which states expect their seniors to pay up and how the federal government fits into all this.
Could you face taxes on your Social Security benefits?
The following 37 states don't tax their residents' Social Security benefits:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
If your state isn't on this list, there's a chance you could face taxes on your benefits, but that's not a guarantee. Each state has its own rules that determine which seniors owe taxes, and they're usually based on seniors' adjusted gross income (AGI) or the amount they receive in benefits throughout the year.
For example, in Kansas, only those with AGI of $75,000 or more owe taxes on their Social Security benefits. Seniors who manage to keep their AGI under this amount won't have to give any of their benefits to the state.
High-income seniors worried about benefit taxes may consider moving to one of the 37 tax-free states listed above to hold on to more of their Social Security checks. Doing so might help you avoid state benefit taxes, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook entirely.
Does the federal government tax Social Security benefits?
The federal government taxes some seniors' Social Security benefits as well. It determines how much you owe by looking at your provisional income. That's your AGI plus any nontaxable interest and half of your annual Social Security benefits.
Individuals with provisional incomes in excess of $25,000 and married couples with provisional incomes in excess of $32,000 could owe taxes on up to 50% of their benefits. Individuals with provisional incomes greater than $34,000 and married couples with provisional incomes greater than $44,000 could owe taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.
But that's the worst-case scenario. Some people pay taxes on a smaller amount than this, and some manage to avoid benefit taxes entirely.
Many seniors do end up paying some Social Security benefit taxes, though. If you don't think you can avoid taxes altogether, the next-best thing to do is to estimate how much you might owe in taxes and budget for this in your retirement plan.
If you're not retired yet, pay attention to any rule changes related to Social Security or benefit taxation, and update your retirement plan accordingly. Keeping a close eye on these changes will ensure you aren't caught off guard by your tax bills in retirement.