Paying federal income taxes on Social Security benefits is a source of great irritation for millions of retirees. After years of coughing up payroll taxes to support the system, some retirees find it galling to be on the hook for an additional levy once they begin receiving benefits.
Even worse, depending on where you live, you might have to pay state income taxes on Social Security benefits, too.
Not every state has such a tax. In fact, many states do not tax Social Security benefits. Other states tax benefits to varying degrees.
This year, some states are considering reducing or eliminating such taxes. Following are a handful of states where government officials may give retirees a break on Social Security taxes.
1. West Virginia
In West Virginia, falling Social Security taxes are not simply a possibility, but a reality. As we have reported, the Mountain State has been phasing out all taxes on Social Security income for qualifying taxpayers: those with income of $100,000 or less, if their tax-filing status is married filing jointly, and those with income of $50,000 or less, if they have any other tax-filing status.
For the 2020 tax year, 35% of a qualifying taxpayer’s benefits are exempt from income taxes. For the 2021 tax year — the one for which your return is due in April 2022 — that figure rises to 65%. And by the 2022 tax year, the tax will be gone altogether for qualifying taxpayers.
New legislation in Utah provides a Social Security tax break to retirees earning up to $50,000 annually. The bill passed the state House and Senate and has been signed into law.
The House bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Walt Brooks, told St. George News:
“It’s a big step forward. … Technically, Social Security is something you’ve already paid over your lifetime.”
3. New Mexico
New Mexico House Bill 49, which is being debated in the House Tax and Revenue Committee, would eliminate state Social Security taxes for all residents. If it passes the committee, it will move to the full House for consideration.
The bill faces some opposition, as opponents say it would cost New Mexico around $100 million in revenue. The notion of eliminating state Social Security taxes first arose in the 2020 Legislature but did not make significant progress.
In his recent “state of the state” speech to Colorado lawmakers, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis proposed eliminating state taxes on Social Security benefits.
Polis said the proposal is part of a package of ideas intended to jump-start Colorado’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic:
“As Coloradans face tough times, we need to help folks get back on their feet and make life more affordable in our state, from job training to more affordable housing to reducing the tax burden on middle-class families.”
One Colorado newspaper noted that eliminating the state Social Security tax wouldn’t be especially costly. The state already exempts from taxation the first $24,000 in benefits from private, government and military retirement plans.
It is looking more likely that Nebraska will phase out its taxes on Social Security income. Recently, state lawmakers voted 47-0 to approve a bill eliminating such taxes over a decade.
Reports say the benefit might be curbed for high-income earners. The measure will receive two more votes. If it passes those hurdles, it will go to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts for his signature.