Can You File Income Taxes When You Receive SSI?

by Rebecca K. McDowell ; Updated August 24, 2018
SSI benefits are not taxable income.

More than 8 million Americans received Supplemental Security Income benefits in 2017. If you are one of those SSI recipients, whether you are required to file an income tax a return depends on your other sources of income, if any, and how much you receive. Anyone with a Social Security number can file a tax return, but not all citizens are required to do so. Understanding the relationship between SSI and income tax is critical for individuals who may be in a position to benefit from these payments.

Claiming Supplement Security Income

SSI is a federal program managed by the Social Security Administration and funded by the U.S. Treasury. The program provides a monthly payment to individuals who have low income and low resources and who are either over 65, blind or disabled. SSI recipients can receive Social Security Disability payments concurrently with SSI benefits, and they may also work and earn some income. You can use a supplemental security income calculator to learn more about what benefits may be available to you.

Deducting Your Benefits

Some portion of Social Security benefits is considered taxable income by the IRS. However, SSI is not a Social Security benefit. Any benefit you receive for SSI is not taxable. Social Security Disability and Social Security retirement benefits are taxable to a certain extent. If you are receiving SSI but are also receiving Social Security benefits, you may have to file a tax return.

The different types of benefits can be hard to keep straight. Make sure you know the difference between supplemental security income vs. social security benefits. While Social Security benefits are taxable income, SSI is not.

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Filing Your Tax Return

You are required by law to file a tax return for the 2017 tax year if:

  • You're single and your gross taxable income for 2017 was at least $10,400 (or $11,950 if you're 65 or older).
  • You file as head of household and your gross taxable income was at least $13,400 (or $14,950 if you're 65 or older).
  • You file jointly with your spouse and your gross taxable income was at least $20,800 (if either you or your spouse is 65 or older, the number changes to $22,050, but if you're both over 65, it's $23,300).
  • You're married, but you file separately, regardless of age, and your gross taxable income was at least $4,050.
  • You're widowed and your gross taxable income was at least $16,750 (or $18,000 if you're 65 or older).

In determining your taxable income, you do not include SSI. If you collect Social Security benefits in addition to SSI, the Social Security benefits income is taxable under certain circumstances. If you're married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year, or if half of your Social Security benefits plus your other gross taxable income is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if you're married filing jointly), you need to file a tax return.

Example: Joe is single and is 70 years old. His only sources of income are SSI, which is not taxable, and Social Security Disability, which is only taxable for certain married individuals or individuals with other income sources. Because none of his benefits are taxable, he is not required to file a tax return.

Based on the minimum income figures, if you collect SSI, you only need to file a tax return if your income from other sources raises your gross income above the limits. For example, if you collect SSI but you also work at a part-time job that paid you more than $10,400 in 2017, you have to file a return. However, if your only source of income is SSI, you are not required by law to file a tax return. You may file one if you so choose, which you might do if you're entitled to a refund.

About the Author

Rebecca K. McDowell is an attorney focused on debts and finance. She has a B.A. in English and a J.D.

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