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taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100097860
Publication 915

 
Social Security 
and 
Equivalent Railroad 
Retirement Benefits

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Reminders(p1)


taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink1000264734
Future developments.(p1)
For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 915, such as legislation enacted after it was published, go to www.irs.gov/pub915.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100041017
my Social Security account.(p1)
Social Security beneficiaries may quickly and easily obtain various information from the SSA's website with a my Social Security account to:
  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them;
  • Change your address;
  • Start or change your direct deposit;
  • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  • Get a replacement Form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for the tax season.
For more information and to set up an account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
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Photographs of missing children.(p1)
The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.

taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink1000270166Introduction

This publication explains the federal income tax rules for social security benefits and equivalent tier 1 railroad retirement benefits. It is prepared through the joint efforts of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).
Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. They do not include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are not taxable.
Equivalent tier 1 railroad retirement benefits are the part of tier 1 benefits that a railroad employee or beneficiary would have been entitled to receive under the social security system. They are commonly called the social security equivalent benefit (SSEB) portion of tier 1 benefits.
If you received these benefits during 2015, you should have received a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement; Form RRB-1099, Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board; Form SSA-1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement; or Form RRB-1042S, Statement for Nonresident Alien Recipients of Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board, showing the amount.
Note.When the term "benefits" is used in this publication, it applies to both social security benefits and the SSEB portion of tier 1 railroad retirement benefits.
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What is covered in this publication.(p2)

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This publication covers the following topics. The Appendix at the end of this publication explains items shown on your Form SSA-1099, SSA-1042S, RRB-1099, or RRB-1042S.
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What is not covered in this publication.(p2)

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This publication does not cover the tax rules for the following railroad retirement benefits. For information on these taxable pension benefits, see Pub. 575, Pension and Annuity Income.
This publication also does not cover the tax rules for foreign social security benefits. These benefits are taxable as annuities, unless they are exempt from U.S. tax or treated as a U.S. social security benefit under a tax treaty.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100096350

Comments and suggestions.(p2)

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We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can send us comments from www.irs.gov/formspubs. Click on "More Information" and then on "Give us feedback."
Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service
Tax Forms and Publications
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526
Washington, DC 20224


We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink1000264638
Ordering forms and publications.(p2)
Visit www.irs.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to www.irs.gov/orderforms to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.
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Tax questions.(p2)
If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check IRS.gov and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.

taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#TXMP0da2ff6c

Useful items

You may want to see:


Publication
 505 Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax
 575 Pension and Annuity Income
 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
Forms (and Instructions)
 1040-ES: Estimated Tax for Individuals
 SSA-1099: Social Security Benefit Statement
 RRB-1099: Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board
 W-4V: Voluntary Withholding Request
See How To Get Tax Help near the end of this publication for information about getting these publications and forms.
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Are Any of Your Benefits Taxable?(p2)

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To find out whether any of your benefits shown on Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 may be taxable, compare the base amount (explained later) for your filing status with the total of:
  1. One-half of your benefits, plus
  2. All your other income, including tax-exempt interest.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100017154

Exclusions.(p3)

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When making this comparison, do not reduce your other income by any exclusions for:
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink1000246368

Children's benefits.(p3)

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The rules in this publication apply to benefits received by children. See Who is taxed, later.
Deposit
The SSA issues Form SSA-1099 and Form SSA-1042S. The RRB issues Form RRB-1099 and Form RRB-1042S. These forms (tax statements) report the amounts paid and repaid, and taxes withheld for a tax year. You may receive more than one of these forms for the same tax year. See the Appendix at the end of this publication for more information.
Each original Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S is valid unless it has been corrected. The RRB will issue a corrected Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S if there is an error in the original. A corrected Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S is indicated as "CORRECTED" and replaces the corresponding original Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S. You must use the latest corrected Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S you received and any original Form RRB-1099 or Form RRB-1042S that the RRB has not corrected when you determine what amounts to report on your tax return.
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Figuring total income.(p3)

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To figure the total of one-half of your benefits plus your other income, use Worksheet A, discussed later. If the total is more than your base amount, part of your benefits may be taxable.
If you are married and file a joint return for 2015, you and your spouse must combine your incomes and your benefits to figure whether any of your combined benefits are taxable. Even if your spouse did not receive any benefits, you must add your spouse's income to yours to figure whether any of your benefits are taxable.
Deposit
If the only income you received during 2015 was your social security or the SSEB portion of tier 1 railroad retirement benefits, your benefits generally are not taxable and you probably do not have to file a return. If you have income in addition to your benefits, you may have to file a return even if none of your benefits are taxable.
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Base amount.(p3)

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Your base amount is:
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Worksheet A(p3)
You can use Worksheet A to figure the amount of income to compare with your base amount. This is a quick way to check whether some of your benefits may be taxable.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100041019
PencilWorksheet A. A Quick Way To Check if Your Benefits May Be Taxable
Note. If you plan to file a joint income tax return, include your spouse's amounts, if any, on lines A, C, and D.
A. Enter the amount from box 5 of all your Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099. Include the full amount of any lump-sum benefit payments received in 2015, for 2015 and earlier years. (If you received more than one form, combine the amounts from box 5 and enter the total.) A.
Note. If the amount on line A is zero or less, stop here; none of your benefits are taxable this year.
B. Enter one-half of line A B.
C. Enter your total income that is taxable (excluding line A), such as pensions, wages, interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions. Do not reduce your income by any deductions, exclusions (listed earlier), or exemptions C.
D. Enter any tax-exempt interest income such as interest on municipal bondsD.
E. Add lines B, C, and DE.
Note. Compare the amount on line E to your base amount for your filing status. If the amount on line E equals or is less than the base amount for your filing status, none of your benefits are taxable this year. If the amount on line E is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable. You need to complete Worksheet 1, shown later. If none of your benefits are taxable, but you otherwise must file a tax return, see Benefits not taxable, later, under How to Report Your Benefits.
Example. You and your spouse (both over 65) are filing a joint return for 2015 and you both received social security benefits during the year. In January 2016, you received a Form SSA-1099 showing net benefits of $7,500 in box 5. Your spouse received a Form SSA-1099 showing net benefits of $3,500 in box 5. You also received a taxable pension of $22,800 and interest income of $500. You did not have any tax-exempt interest income. Your benefits are not taxable for 2015 because your income, as figured in Worksheet A below, is not more than your base amount ($32,000) for married filing jointly.
  Even though none of your benefits are taxable, you must file a return for 2015 because your taxable gross income ($23,300) exceeds the minimum filing requirement amount for your filing status.
taxmap/pubs/p915-000.htm#en_us_publink100041029
PencilFilled-in Worksheet A. A Quick Way To Check if Your Benefits May Be Taxable
Note. If you plan to file a joint income tax return, include your spouse's amounts, if any, on lines A, C, and D.
A. Enter the amount from box 5 of all your Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099. Include the full amount of any lump-sum benefit payments received in 2015, for 2015 and earlier years. (If you received more than one form, combine the amounts from box 5 and enter the total.) A. $11,000
Note. If the amount on line A is zero or less, stop here; none of your benefits are taxable this year.
B. Enter one-half of line A B. 5,500
C. Enter your total income that is taxable (excluding line A), such pensions, wages, interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions. Do not reduce your income by any deductions, exclusions (listed earlier), or exemptions C. 23,300
D. Enter any tax-exempt interest income such as interest on municipal bondsD. -0-
E. Add lines B, C, and DE. $28,800
Note. Compare the amount on line E to your base amount for your filing status. If the amount on line E equals or is less than the base amount for your filing status, none of your benefits are taxable this year. If the amount on line E is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable. You need to complete Worksheet 1, shown later. If none of your benefits are taxable, but you otherwise must file a tax return, see Benefits not taxable, later, under How To Report Your Benefits.
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Who is taxed.(p5)

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Benefits are included in the taxable income (to the extent they are taxable) of the person who has the legal right to receive the benefits. For example, if you and your child receive benefits, but the check for your child is made out in your name, you must use only your part of the benefits to see whether any benefits are taxable to you. One-half of the part that belongs to your child must be added to your child's other income to see whether any of those benefits are taxable to your child.
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Repayment of benefits.(p5)

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Any repayment of benefits you made during 2015 must be subtracted from the gross benefits you received in 2015. It does not matter whether the repayment was for a benefit you received in 2015 or in an earlier year. If you repaid more than the gross benefits you received in 2015, see Repayments More Than Gross Benefits, later.
Your gross benefits are shown in box 3 of Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099. Your repayments are shown in box 4. The amount in box 5 shows your net benefits for 2015 (box 3 minus box 4). Use the amount in box 5 to figure whether any of your benefits are taxable.
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Example.(p5)

In 2014, you received $3,000 in social security benefits, and in 2015 you received $2,700. In March 2015, SSA notified you that you should have received only $2,500 in benefits in 2014. During 2015, you repaid $500 to SSA. The Form SSA-1099 you received for 2015 shows $2,700 in box 3 (gross amount) and $500 in box 4 (repayment). The amount in box 5 shows your net benefits of $2,200 ($2,700 minus $500).
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Tax withholding and estimated tax.(p5)

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You can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your social security benefits and/or the SSEB portion of your tier 1 railroad retirement benefits. If you choose to do this, you must complete a Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Statement.
If you do not choose to have income tax withheld, you may have to request additional withholding from other income or pay estimated tax during the year. For details, see Pub. 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, or the instructions for Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals.
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U.S. citizens residing abroad.(p5)

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U.S. citizens who are residents of the following countries are exempt from U.S. tax on their benefits.
The SSA will not withhold U.S. tax from your benefits if you are a U.S. citizen.
The RRB will withhold U.S. tax from your benefits unless you file Form RRB-1001, Nonresident Questionnaire, with the RRB to provide citizenship and residency information. If you do not file Form RRB-1001, the RRB will consider you a nonresident alien and withhold tax from your railroad retirement benefits at a 30% rate. Contact the RRB to get this form.
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Lawful permanent residents.(p5)

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For U.S. income tax purposes, lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are considered resident aliens until their lawful permanent resident status under the immigration laws is either taken away or is administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned. Social security benefits paid to a green card holder are not subject to 30% withholding. If you are a green card holder and tax was withheld in error on your social security benefits because you have a foreign address, the withholding tax is refundable by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the IRS. SSA will refund taxes erroneously withheld if the refund can be processed during the same calendar year in which the tax was withheld. If SSA cannot refund the taxes withheld, you must file a Form 1040 or 1040A with the Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301 to determine if you are entitled to a refund. You must also attach the following information to your Form 1040 or 1040A.
"The SSA should not have withheld federal income tax from my social security benefits because I am a U.S. lawful permanent resident and my green card has been neither revoked nor administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned. I am filing a U.S. income tax return for the tax year as a resident alien reporting all of my worldwide income. I have not claimed benefits for the tax year under an income tax treaty as a nonresident alien."
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Nonresident aliens.(p5)

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A nonresident alien is an individual who is not a citizen or resident of the United States. If you are a nonresident alien, the rules discussed in this publication do not apply to you. Instead, 85% of your benefits are taxed at a 30% rate, unless exempt (or subject to a lower rate) by treaty. You will receive a Form SSA-1042S or Form RRB-1042S showing the amount of your benefits. These forms will also show the tax rate and the amount of tax withheld from your benefits.
Under tax treaties with the following countries, residents of these countries are exempt from U.S. tax on their benefits.
Under a treaty with India, benefits paid to individuals who are both residents and nationals of India are exempt from U.S. tax if the benefits are for services performed for the United States, its subdivisions, or local government authorities.
If you are a resident of Switzerland, your total benefit amount will be taxed at a 15% rate.
For more information on whether you are a nonresident alien, see Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
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Exemption from withholding.(p6)
If your social security benefits are exempt from tax because you are a resident of one of the treaty countries listed, the SSA will not withhold U.S. tax from your benefits.
If your railroad retirement benefits are exempt from tax because you are a resident of one of the treaty countries listed, you can claim an exemption from withholding by filing Form RRB-1001 with the RRB. Contact the RRB to get this form.
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Canadian or German social security benefits paid to U.S. residents.(p6)

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Under income tax treaties with Canada and Germany, social security benefits paid by those countries to U.S. residents are treated for U.S. income tax purposes as if they were paid under the social security legislation of the United States. If you receive social security benefits from Canada or Germany, include them on line 1 of Worksheet 1, shown later.