With only one month to go until April 15th, our focus has quickly shifted to this year’s tax preparations. From W-2s to 1099s, to 1040 mailings to tax preparer solicitations, we are bombarded with reminders of our obligations to both the federal and state governments – whether we like it or not!
While some individuals who receive Social Security Disability pay taxes on their benefits, some do not. Individuals excluded from this rule are those persons receiving SSI. SSI benefits are non-taxable, thus depleting the need to report them on any tax return. However, if a SSI recipient earned additional monies other than SSI benefits, he or she is required to report those monies earned on the appropriate tax form.
Approximately one-third of all beneficiaries receiving benefits are required to pay taxes on money received. Two factors determine whether an individual will be required to pay taxes on any benefits received. The total amount of money earned (SSDI + additional income) and an individual’s filing status (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately) are those things considered. To determine whether your benefits are taxable, compare the base amount representing with filing status with one-half of your benefits plus any additional income, including tax-exempt interest.
|Single||$25,000.00 (base amount)|
|Married filing separately||$0.00 (base amount)|
|Married filing jointly||$32,000.00 (base amount)|
Hypothetical cases incorporating these guidelines are below:
Hypothetical situation # 1
Anne is single and receives SSDI, and over the course of 2009 received $18,000.00 in disability benefits. She received $2,000.00 as additional income in the form of commission from a business that she has. Her combined total income for 2009 is therefore $20,000.00. Since the total amount earned is below the $25,000.00 required for a person-filing single, Anne is not taxed on her disability benefits. *Note: Because Anne’s salary combined was below the set income of $25,000, there was no need to consider one-half of her benefits. The results either way would have been the same.
Hypothetical situation # 2
Daniel, a single 43-year-old male, received $18,000 in disability benefits during the year of 2009. In addition, he earned $18,000.00 as a commercial construction consultant. In this case, to determine whether Daniel would have to pay taxes on his disability benefits, we would need to take one-half of Daniel’s disability benefits (1/2 of $18,000 = $9,000.00) and add those monies to any other income that Daniel received in 2009. In this case, he earned an additional $18,000.00. These two totals combined equal $27,000.00, which is $2,000.00 over the $25,000.00 maximum for individuals whom file single. In this case, Daniel’s benefits would be taxed as well as any other income he earned during 2009.
A rule of thumb, if you are in doubt whether you are required to pay taxes on your benefits, consult with a professional tax preparer. Ignorance is not a defense in law.
Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.