The monthly benefit is taxable, but only if you earn above a certain income level. Each year, the Social Security Administration will send you a Form SSA-1099, which includes the total amount of Social Security benefits you received that year. That number will have to be reported on your taxes. However, only a portion of the Social Security benefits is taxable.
Social Security disability insurance is one of several social benefits programs offered. Since we’re an insurance broker, we’ll focus on SSDI, but note that all Social Security benefits may be taxable except for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Read on to learn more about paying taxes on Social Security disability insurance benefits:
If you didn’t earn any income during the year, or if your Social Security benefits do not exceed the base amount for your filing category, then none of your Social Security benefits are taxable.
But if you do earn an income while receiving Social Security benefits, up to 50% of your benefits are taxable if your income exceeds a certain base amount. The IRS defines this base amount as:
However, the IRS also uses adjusted base amounts for people who earn higher benefit amounts or income. These adjusted base amounts are calculated by combining one-half of the Social Security benefits you receive plus your income for that year. If you exceed them, 85% of your Social Security benefits are taxable.
But whether up to 50% or up to 85% of your benefits are taxable, your tax liability is assessed at the same marginal tax rate as your usual income.
The SSDI application process can drag on for a very long time. Most people are rejected on their first attempt, and appeals can mean months or even years before approval. However, once you are approved, you may be owed a back payment for the amount of SSDI you should have been receiving during the application process.
The back payment is paid out as a lump sum. If you report the whole amount of the back payment on your taxes, your taxable income could increase dramatically, leaving you with a much higher tax burden. To avoid this, file amended returns for the prior years covered by the back payment, and report only the remaining amount for the current tax year.
Note, however, that if you can earn an income, you may no longer qualify for Social Security disability insurance. That’s because if you can perform what the Social Security Administration describes as “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), meaning work that results in a monthly income above a certain amount, then you’re no longer considered disabled enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.
As of 2018, nonblind people are considered to be performing SGA if they earn $1,180 or more per month. For blind people, the SGA limit is $1,970 per month.
If your disability was caused by a terrorist attack, whether domestic or international, no portion of your disability benefits is taxable.
Supplemental Security Income, another program of the Social Security Administration, works in tandem with SSDI to pay benefits to disabled or elderly people who have lower incomes. No portion of Supplemental Security Income is taxable.
Box 5 of Form SSA-1099, titled “Social Security Benefit Statement,” shows your net benefits received for the relevant tax year. Your net benefits are your benefits minus any benefits you had to repay for that year.
You report the number in Box 5 on your Form 1040 or Form 1040A (line 20a or line 14a, respectively).
If you elected to voluntarily withhold taxes from your Social Security benefits, that amount will appear in Box 6 of form SSA-1099.
Long-term disability insurance (LTDI) is a private insurance product that will pay you disability insurance benefits if you become sick or injured and can’t earn an income. Unlike Social Security benefits, which are free to you, LTDI must be paid for with monthly or annual premiums.
Compared to SSDI, long-term disability insurance benefits are typically much higher (they replace approximately 60% of your pretax wages) and much easier to qualify for. You also don’t need to pay taxes on your LTDI benefits if you paid your premiums with your after-tax income. A licensed representative at Policygenius can help you pick a benefit amount that works within your budget and provides you with more coverage than you’d get from SSDI.
Zack Sigel is a SEO managing editor at Policygenius. He covers personal finance, comprising mortgages, investing, deposit accounts, and more. His previous work included writing about film and music.