When Does a Senior Citizen on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes? (2024)

Written by a TurboTax Expert • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPAUpdated for Tax Year 2023 • February 28, 2024 3:22 PM

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OVERVIEW

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.

When Does a Senior Citizen on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes? (5)

Key Takeaways

  • 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 isfrom 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.

With TurboTax Live Full Service, a local expert matched to your unique situation will do your taxes for you start to finish. Or, get unlimited help and advice from tax experts while you do your taxes with TurboTax Live Assisted.

And if you want to file your own taxes, you can still feel confident you'll do them right with TurboTax as we guide you step by step. No matter which way you file, we guarantee 100% accuracy and your maximum refund.

When Does a Senior Citizen on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes? (2024)

FAQs

Do seniors over 70 need to do federal tax returns every year? ›

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).

At what age do seniors stop paying federal taxes? ›

Taxes aren't determined by age, so you will never age out of paying taxes. Basically, if you're 65 or older, you have to file a return for tax year 2023 (which is due in 2024) if your gross income is $15,700 or higher. If you're married filing jointly and both 65 or older, that amount is $30,700.

At what age does the federal government stop taxing Social Security? ›

Yes, Social Security is taxed federally after the age of 70. If you get a Social Security check, it will always be part of your taxable income, regardless of your age.

Who is exempt to senior citizens from filing tax returns? ›

If Social Security is your sole source of income, then you don't need to file a tax return. However, if you have other income, you may be required to file a tax return depending on the amount of other income. Here are the guidelines.

Do I need to file a tax return if my only income is Social Security? ›

Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.

Can I get a tax refund if my only income is Social Security? ›

You would not be required to file a tax return. But you might want to file a return, because even though you are not required to pay taxes on your Social Security, you may be able to get a refund of any money withheld from your paycheck for taxes.

How much can I make on Social Security and not file taxes? ›

Generally, your Social Security benefits are taxed when your income is more than $25,000 per year, including income from investments held in retirement accounts like traditional 401(k)s and IRAs.

Do seniors pay federal income tax on Social Security? ›

You will pay federal income taxes on your benefits if your combined income (50% of your benefit amount plus any other earned income) exceeds $25,000/year filing individually or $32,000/year filing jointly. You can pay the IRS directly or have taxes withheld from your payment.

What is the new standard deduction for seniors over 65? ›

If you are 65 or older and blind, the extra standard deduction is: $3,700 if you are single or filing as head of household. $3,000 per qualifying individual if you are married, filing jointly or separately.

How do you get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

Have you heard about the Social Security $16,728 yearly bonus? There's really no “bonus” that retirees can collect. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a specific formula based on your lifetime earnings to determine your benefit amount.

Will Social Security be taxed in 2024 for seniors? ›

The limit for 2023 and 2024 is $25,000 if you are a single filer, head of household or qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child. The 2023 and 2024 limit for joint filers is $32,000. However, if you're married and file separately, you'll likely have to pay taxes on your Social Security income.

At what age can I earn unlimited income while on Social Security? ›

How much can you earn and still get benefits? later, then your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 67. If you work, and are at full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

Does Social Security count as income? ›

You report the taxable portion of your social security benefits on line 6b of Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. Your benefits may be taxable if the total of (1) one-half of your benefits, plus (2) all of your other income, including tax-exempt interest, is greater than the base amount for your filing status.

Is Social Security considered earned income? ›

Unearned Income is all income that is not earned such as Social Security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, dividends, and cash from friends and relatives. In-Kind Income is food, shelter, or both that you get for free or for less than its fair market value.

Who does not have to file a tax return? ›

If you earn less than the standard deduction for your filing status, you likely don't need to file a tax return. Even if you don't meet the filing threshold, you may still have to file taxes if you have other types of income.

Does the IRS do taxes for seniors? ›

In-person IRS help for seniors and low-income taxpayers

Eligible taxpayers can have their taxes prepared in person for free with these two programs: Tax Counseling for the Elderly – The TCE program prioritizes taxpayers aged 60 and older.

Does a 70 year old have to pay taxes on Social Security? ›

Though there are some rumors on the internet that the government stops taxing Social Security payments once you reach a certain age, such as 70, this is simply not true. Social Security payments are taxable from the moment you start receiving them until you die.

Do I have to file taxes every year? ›

Submitting a tax return is an annual duty for most people, but not everyone has to file. Generally, people who make below a certain income may be able to skip the paperwork. However, it's also important to know that income isn't the only factor that comes into play.

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