Seventy-nine years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-stricken old age.”
With that, he signed the Social Security Act into law, ushering in an era of economic prosperity for middle-class families. The first American to get Social Security received 17 cents in benefits. Today, 79 years later, Social Security stands as a major source of income for 54 million Americans who have paid into the system for their entire working lives.
President Obama understands that many seniors rely on Social Security, and believes that every one of them should be able to retire with dignity, which is why he’s acted to strengthen the Social Security system and ensure it remains solvent for years to come.
Will my Social Security benefits be taxable?
It depends on your income. The taxation of Social Security benefits is based on your “combined income,” which is your adjusted gross income (the bottom of page 1 of your Form 1040) plus tax-exempt interest and 50% of your Social Security benefits.
Your benefits are tax-free if your combined income is less than $25,000 if you are single or $32,000 if you file a joint return. Above that level, up to half of your benefits are taxable if your combined income is up to $34,000 on a single return or $44,000 on a joint return. And as much as 85% of your Social Security benefits are taxable if your combined income is more than $34,000 on a single return or $44,000 on a joint return. See Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits for details.
Be careful about moves you make that could boost your income and increase your Social Security taxes, such as converting a traditional IRA to a Roth after you start receiving Social Security benefits. Instead of making a big conversion in one year, you may want to spread out your conversions over several years if that helps you stay below the cutoff for paying taxes on your benefits. Also, reducing the amount of money subject to required minimum distributions after you turn 70½ can help you stay below the income cutoff for paying taxes on Social Security benefits. For example, Roths aren’t subject to RMDs, so the more money you convert from traditional IRAs to Roths through the years, the less money that will be subject to required minimum distributions.
For more information about Social Security, see Best Strategies to Boost Your Social Security Benefits.