37 States That Don’t Tax Social Security Benefits

In retirement, you can say goodbye to bosses, time clocks, and unpleasant office meetings — but you cannot escape taxes. Uncle Sam wants a chunk of your retirement income, whether it comes from your 401(k), traditional IRA, or Social Security benefits. And your home state might get a piece of the action, too.

Taxes are an easily overlooked retirement expense. You might make plans generally to live off $70,000 annually in your golden years.

But if that money is coming from a 401(k), traditional IRA, or Social Security, your first budget line item has to be those income taxes.

Otherwise, you may not have enough cash to cover your living expenses, or you’ll owe a bunch come tax day.

Your 401(k) and IRA distributions are generally taxed as ordinary income, like a paycheck. But taxes on Social Security benefits get more complicated.

The federal government has one set of rules, and the states each have another. Here’s how it breaks down.

How the feds tax your Social Security benefit

Your “combined income” determines whether you get taxed on a portion of your Social Security benefit. As defined by the Internal Revenue Service, combined income is your adjusted gross income (AGI) plus nontaxable interest plus half of your Social Security benefits. If your combined income is greater than $25,000 for single filers or $32,000 for joint filers, you will owe taxes on up to 85% of your benefit. The table below shows the specific thresholds for combined income.

TABLE DATA SOURCE: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

In addition to any federal taxes, you may also have to pony up state income tax on your Social Security, depending on where you live. Some states consider your Social Security benefit fully taxable, and others don’t tax it at all. Let’s start with the states that are least friendly to Social Security beneficiaries.

These states consider Social Security fully taxable

In Utah, your Social Security benefit is included in your AGI and taxed as normal income at 5%.

New Mexico also taxes your Social Security benefit. Taxpayers over the age of 65 may qualify for an exemption of up to $8,000, depending on their income level.

These states tax Social Security like the feds do

Three states follow the federal government’s tiered system and tax up to 85% of the benefit, based on combined income: Minnesota, North Dakota, and West Virginia.

Minnesota does allow Social Security recipients to exclude a portion of their benefits from state taxes, depending on income level. Single filers whose provisional income is less than $61,080 can subtract $4,020 from their income to calculate their state tax. Married filers who make less than $78,180 can subtract $5,150. Those deductions get reduced at higher income levels and phase out completely at an income of $81,180 for single filers, or $103,930 for joint filers.

These states only tax Social Security at certain income levels

Nine states tax your Social Security benefits based on your income, as shown in the table below.

These 37 states don’t tax your Social Security benefits

If you want to protect your Social Security benefit as much as possible, consider relocating to one of these 37 states — your entire benefit will be exempt from state income tax.

Budget for income taxes

You’re likely to pay some form of taxes in your golden years. Budget for them now so you’re not caught off-guard after you’ve left the workforce.

— Catherine Brock

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Source: Money Morning