June 22, 2023
Have you ever wondered how social security benefits fit into your taxes? How much they are taxed, or whether they are taxed at all, depends on your other income. In the worst-case scenario, 85% of your benefits would be taxed. (This doesn’t mean you pay 85% of your benefits back to the government in taxes—merely that you would include 85% of them in your income subject to your regular tax rates.)
To determine how much of your benefits are taxed, you must first determine your other income, including certain items otherwise excluded for tax purposes (for example, tax-exempt interest). Add to that the income of your spouse, if you file jointly. To this add half of the Social Security benefits you and your spouse received during the year. The figure you come up with is your total income plus half of your benefits. Now apply the following rules:
For married taxpayers, filing jointly:
1. If your income plus half your benefits is not above $32,000, none of your benefits are taxed.
2. If your income plus half your benefits exceeds $32,000 but is not more than $44,000, you will be taxed on (1) one half of the excess over $32,000, or (2) one half of the benefits, whichever is lower.
Example (1): S and D have $20,000 in taxable dividends, $2,400 of tax-exempt interest, and combined Social Security benefits of $21,000. So, their income plus half their benefits is $32,900 ($20,000 plus $2,400 plus 1/2 of $21,000). They must include $450 of the benefits in gross income (1/2 ($32,900 − $32,000)). (If their combined Social Security benefits were $5,000, and their income plus half their benefits were $40,000, they would include $2,500 of the benefits in income: 1/2 ($40,000 − $32,000) equals $4,000, but 1/2 the $5,000 of benefits ($2,500) is lower, and the lower figure is used.)
For single taxpayers:
1. If your income plus half your benefits is not above $25,000, none of your benefits are taxed.
2. If your income plus half your benefits exceeds $25,000 but is not more than $34,000, you will be taxed on (1) one half of the excess over $25,000, or (2) one half of the benefits, whichever is lower.
Example (1A): S has $20,000 in taxable dividends, $2,400 of tax-exempt interest, and Social Security benefits of $9,000. So, S’s income plus half S’s benefits is $26,900 ($20,000 plus $2,400 plus 1/2 of $9,000). S must include $950 of the benefits in gross income (1/2 ($26,900 − $25,000)). (If S’s Social Security benefits were $3,000, and S’s income plus half S’s benefits were $30,000, S would include $1,500 of the benefits in income: 1/2 ($30,000 − $25,000) equals $2,500, but 1/2 the $3,000 of benefits ($1,500) is lower, and the lower figure is used.)]
For either married or single taxpayers:
In many cases, If your income, plus half your benefits exceeds the limits listed above ($44,000 for married, or $34,000 for single taxpayers], the computation grows far more complex. Generally, however, unless your income plus half your benefits is fairly close to $44,000 [$34,000 for single taxpayers], if you fall into this category, 85% of your Social Security benefits will be taxed.
Caution: If you aren’t paying tax on your Social Security benefits now because your income is below the above floor, or are paying tax on only 50% of those benefits, an unplanned increase in your income can have a triple tax cost. You’ll have to pay tax (of course) on the additional income, you’ll also have to pay tax on (or on more of) your Social Security benefits (since the higher your income the more of your Social Security benefits that are taxed), and you may get pushed into a higher marginal tax bracket. This situation might arise, for example, when you receive a large distribution from a retirement plan (such as an IRA) during the year or have large capital gains. Careful planning might be able to avoid this stiff tax result. For example, it may be possible to spread the additional income over more than one year, or liquidate assets other than an IRA account, such as stock showing only a small gain or stock whose gain can be offset by a capital loss on other shares. If you expect a large increase in your income, or you should need a large amount of cash for a specific purpose, please contact us before liquidating any assets. We can determine just what your additional tax cost will be and potentially reduce this cost with some planning.
If you know your social security benefits will be taxed, you can voluntarily arrange to have the tax withheld from the payments by filing a Form W-4V. Otherwise, you may have to make estimated tax payments.
If you’d like us to run some specific numbers for you, or if you would like to discuss this matter further, please call.
Are you thinking about setting up a retirement plan for yourself and your employees, but are concerned about the financial commitment and administrative burdens involved in providing a traditional pension or profit-sharing plan? An alternative program you may want to consider is a “simplified employee pension,” or SEP.
SEPs are intended as an alternative to “qualified” retirement plans, particularly for small businesses like yours. The relative ease of administration and the complete discretion you, as the employer, are permitted in deciding whether or not to make annual contributions, are features that are especially attractive. Here’s how these plans work.
If you don’t already have a qualified retirement plan, you can set up a SEP simply by using the IRS model SEP, Form 5305-SEP. By adopting and implementing this model SEP, which doesn’t have to be filed with the IRS, you will have satisfied the SEP requirements. This means that you, as the employer, will get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees will be taxed not when the contributions are made, but at a later date when distributions are made, usually at retirement. Depending on your specific needs, an individually-designed SEP-instead of the model SEP-may be appropriate for you.
When you set up a SEP for yourself and your employees, you will make these deductible contributions to each employee’s IRA, called a SEP-IRA, which must be IRS-approved. The maximum amount of deductible contributions that you can make to an employee’s SEP-IRA, and that he or she can exclude from income, is the lesser of: (i) 25 percent of compensation, and (ii) $61,000 (for 2022). The deduction for your contributions to employees’ SEP-IRAs isn’t limited by the deduction ceiling applicable to an individual’s own contribution to a regular IRA. Your employees control their individual IRAs and IRA investments, the earnings on which are tax-free.
There are other requirements which you have to meet to be eligible to set up a SEP. Essentially, all regular employees must elect to participate in the program, and contributions can’t discriminate in favor of the highly compensated employees. But these requirements are minor compared to the bookkeeping and other administrative burdens connected with traditional qualified pension and profit-sharing plans. The detailed records that traditional plans must maintain to comply with the complex nondiscrimination regulations aren’t required for SEPs. And employers aren’t required to file annual reports with IRS-Forms 5500-which, for a pension plan, could require the services of an actuary. What record-keeping is required can be done by a trustee of the SEP-IRAs-usually a bank or mutual fund.
We are happy to meet with you to explain your SEP options in greater detail as well as answer any questions you may have. Give us a call today!
Despite all the gridlock in Washington, as well as an impeachment, the SECURE Act has passed. It changes a number of important retirement plan rules. The act runs over 120 pages, so the experts will be poring over it for some time. Meanwhile, a number of sources have weighed in on what they think are the key provisions. (Note that last-minute alterations and more detailed analysis may lead to additional changes in the coming weeks.)(more…)