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 • April 5, 2024 3:07 PM

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.

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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 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.

Does a senior on Social Security have to file taxes? ›

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.

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.

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

If the only income you receive is your Social Security benefits, then you typically don't have to file a federal income tax return.

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

Unless your combined income for 2024 is less than $25,000 (less than $32,000 for married couples filing jointly), a percentage of your Social Security payments will be subject to income tax.

Does Social Security count as income for taxes? ›

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.

How do I 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.

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.

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

How much is the additional standard deduction? For tax year 2023, the additional standard deduction amounts for taxpayers who are 65 and older or blind are: $1,850 for single or head of household.

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.

What happens if you don't file your taxes but don't owe anything? ›

There's no penalty for failure to file if you're due a refund. However, you risk losing a refund altogether if you file a return or otherwise claim a refund after the statute of limitations has expired.

Do you have to pay Social Security tax after age 66? ›

As long as you continue to work, even if you are receiving benefits, you will continue to pay Social Security taxes on your earnings. However, we will check your record every year to see whether the additional earnings you had will increase your monthly benefit.

How much money can a 70 year old make without paying taxes? ›

For retirees 65 and older, here's when you can stop filing taxes: Single retirees who earn less than $14,250. Married retirees filing jointly, who earn less than $26,450 if one spouse is 65 or older or who earn less than $27,800 if both spouses are age 65 or older. Married retirees filing separately who earn less than ...

How much money can a 72 year old make without paying taxes? ›

Seniors don't have to file a return until their income exceeds $14,050. Married filers over 65 do not need to file a joint return unless their income exceeds $27,400. If your sole or primary income source is Social Security or a pension, this may mean you do not have to file a return at all.

Do you pay less federal tax when you turn 65? ›

In the tax year you reach age 65, you get an increase in the standard deduction, which results in lower taxes. The amount of the increase depends on your tax filing status.

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