SSA Statements – in the mail or online

Last September the Social Security Administration announced the resumption of mailed Social Security Statements. The first ones went to people of specified ages having a December birthday.

Most people will not receive a mailed Statement every year. You will receive yours when reaching ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 if not receiving Social Security benefits and if not registered for a my Social Security account.

The Statement will arrive in the mail about 3 months before your birthday. After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year. The agency expects to send nearly 48 million Statements each year. 

The Statement is a great family financial planning tool at all ages up to retirement, especially for people with young families and years away from retirement. Social Security is more than retirement. The Statement includes estimates for disability and survivors benefits also. My post of October 20, 2014, discussed using the Statement to estimate family benefits and to check your work record for accuracy.

Information on the Statement is so important that it is far better to see yours more often than every five years. And you can. Online. Whenever you want.

Do so by creating your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/. View your own Statement online at least once a year or as often as you want. Doing this will help you plan for your Someday retirement and for your Today.

 

Is there still a Social Security funeral benefit?

Q: Does Social Security still pay a funeral benefit? A friend said that none was payable when his grandmother recently died.

A: You are referring to the Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDP) and, yes, it still exists when specific requirements are met.  

The Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDP) is a one-time payment of $255 to help offset funeral costs. While this is a small amount towards a funeral today, the payment dates back many years to when that amount covered a more significant portion of costs. 

The benefit is payable only on the record of someone with insured status, meaning she or he had enough work for benefits to be payable on their record. Even then, the LSDP is payable to a limited group. 

When the deceased had enough work, the LSDP can first be paid to the surviving spouse if they were living in the same household at time of death, although exceptions exist.

If no spouse survives, the LSDP can be paid to a child if he or she was eligible for benefits based on the work record of the deceased for the month of death. 

Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDP) examples:

  1. The deceased was receiving her or his own SSA retirement and lived with their husband or wife. The surviving spouse can receive the Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDP).
  2. The deceased was eligible for Social Security as a spouse or widow / widower but not eligible based on their own work record.  A LSDP is not payable.
  3. The deceased received their own SSA retirement, has no surviving spouse but did have an adult disabled child receiving through her or his record. The surviving child can receive the LSDP because they were already receiving benefits from the parent’s record.
  4. The deceased received their own SSA retirement, has no surviving spouse but has grown children, none of whom receives Social Security child benefits. A LSDP is not payable.  

The LSDP is separate from ongoing Social Security survivor benefits 

Always contact Social Security when there is a death in the family. The SSA representative can discuss potential benefits, whether for now or the future, be sure that ongoing benefits are properly ended and answer questions.

When will 1099’s for 2014 be mailed?

The new year always brings questions about taxation of Social Security benefits and receipt of 1099’s.

Earlier this week, I wrote about when people might have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. 

The SSA-1099 for Tax Year 2014 will be mailed by January 31, 2015.  

Referring to my post of January 5, these are sent to your mailing address as shown on Social Security records so I hope yours is correct. 

You can request a replacement SSA-1099 for Tax Year 2014 on or after February 1, 2015. 

If you need a replacement SSA-1099 for Tax Year 2013 or earlier, see instructions here.

Do I pay income tax on my Social Security benefits?

Q: Do I pay income tax on my Social Security benefits? 

A: Perhaps. Here is information from the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov. Including links to IRS information, more details are at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/taxes.htm 

Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits. 

No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. 

If you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income is

·  between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.

·  more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable. 

If you file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income that is

·  between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits

·  more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable. 

If you are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.

 

Is payroll tax withheld if I work and receive Social Security?

Q: I stopped working full-time at the end of 2014 and started Social Security retirement. For the next few months I will work part-time and then retire completely.

Will Social Security payroll tax be held from my paycheck? If yes, will this increase my retirement amount? 

A: Yes, you continue to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. Your employer will continue doing so too. Everyone working in employment or self-employment covered by Social Security must pay payroll taxes regardless of age or eligibility to Social Security benefits. Current and historical Social Security and Medicare tax rates are shown here. 

If you are younger than full retirement age, remember annual earnings test limits.

Your new earnings would have to be better than the ones already used to compute your retirement amount to increase your monthly retirement amount. While possible, it is doubtful that a few months of part-time work will change your monthly retirement amount since the best 35 years of your working career are used.  

Benefit amounts of everyone receiving Social Security benefits are automatically reviewed when new earnings are posted to their work record even when low earnings are involved. Due to this, your retirement amount will be automatically reviewed once these 2015 earnings appear on your work record. 

Since you worked full-time all of 2014, it is much more likely that your 2014 earnings will increase your retirement amount when automatically reviewed. 

Employers report your earnings to the Social Security Administration as part of the W-2 process. Different employer deadlines apply based on how reporting is completed. Employers have a March 31 deadline if electronically reporting 2014 W-2 information using Social Security Business Services Online (BSO). If reporting by paper, the deadline is the last day of February.

However reported, national posting of all wage information is usually complete in approximately October, with automatic reviews of benefit amounts starting once wage posting is complete. If 2014 earnings increase retirement benefits, you will receive the increase in approximately December 2015, with payment retroactive to January 2015. 

 

Did Social Security always have a COLA?

With the 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2015 about to begin, it is worth noting that many pensions do not have a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) provision. Unlike the inflation protection provided by Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits, for pensions lacking a COLA your starting amount is your final amount, even if you receive the pension for many years. 

One of the many valuable aspects of Social Security benefits, the annual, automatic review of Social Security amounts for a possible cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is now such an accepted feature of the program that it is difficult to imagine a time when there were no COLAs. However, such a time existed. Social Security beneficiaries did not originally receive cost-of-living adjustments.  

Although the first SSA benefit was paid in January 1940, the first cost-of-living adjustment related increase was not until 1950 followed by a second in 1952. Part of the 1950 Amendments, the first Social Security COLA was signed into law by President Truman. Neither of these two increases was automatic. Both times, Congress enacted special legislation for the purpose.  

Automatic Social Security COLAs began in 1975, based on 1972 legislation. Signed into law by President Nixon, this legislation established automatic COLAs based on the annual increase in the consumer price index, if any. 

Since then the automatic cost-of-living adjustment has increased Social Security benefits in almost all years. Learn COLA percentages for 1975-2014 at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola/automatic-cola.htm 

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment for 2015 begins with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014.

Details about the 2015 COLA are here.

More than monthly payment amounts change due to a COLA. Other related changes are here.

 

 

 

Reminder about 2015 Social Security & SSI payment dates

I posted the 2015 schedule of payment dates for Social Security and Supplemental Security income in September. As 2015 gets closer, I am getting many requests for the schedule so here it is again. The link is http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10031-2015.pdf.

A link to the 2015 payment calendar is on my Areavoices homepage blogroll. 

With several exceptions, since 1997 Social Security payment dates are based on the number holder’s (NH) date of birth. You are the NH if receiving Social Security on your own work record. If receiving based on the work of someone else, that person is the NH.    

Therefore, if you receive Social Security retirement or disability through your own work, the payment date is based on your birth date. A child or spouse receiving benefits on your record will also have a payment date based on your birth date. 

 A couple can receive Social Security payment on different days if each person is receiving his or her own retirement benefit.   

Social Security benefits are generally paid on the second Wednesday if the number holder was born within the first 10 days of a month, the third Wednesday if born within the 11-20th days and on the fourth Wednesday if born within the 21-31st days.  

Not all Social Security payment dates are birth date based. If you received Social Security before May 1997, your payment date remained the third of the month. People eligible for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) generally receive SSI on the first and their Social Security on the third of the month.  

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funds are usually paid on the first of a month. 

Regular payment dates for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are advanced if the usual date falls on a day when financial institutions such as banks or credit unions are closed so, for example, SSI payments for January 2015 will arrive on December 31, rather than on January 1. 

One more item about payments: routine Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits are paid in the following month, meaning benefits for January arrive in February. Routine Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are for the month paid so SSI arriving in February is for February.

 

 

 

 

 

Employers – remember SSA Business Services Online

Employers: You can still register for Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) and transmit your 2014 W-2 information electronically.  

Once registered, you can also immediately verify the Social Security number (SSN) of new and existing employees online or overnight, without seeing the paper SSN card, preventing future reporting problems due to having a wrong SSN or name. If an employee name and SSN do not correctly verify, have the employee contact Social Security. 

Firms providing payroll services register once to use BSO for all their clients.

There is no charge to use Social Security Business Services Online.

 Business Service Online details are at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/business.html. Registration instructions, tutorials and support contacts are in the Employer section. 

No open season needed for Medicare Part D Extra Help

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) ended on December 7 and I hope those of you with existing plans reviewed your options for 2015. People becoming eligible for Medicare in the coming months will have opportunity to purchase Part D coverage.  

Medicare Part A (Hospital) or Part B (Medical) provides the same coverage all across the country. Part D coverage is sold through private insurers so shop for a plan that suits you best. Having a Medicare drug plan is voluntary and you pay an additional premium for coverage. Everyone enrolled in Medicare can purchase a Part D plan. The Medicare website, www.medicare.gov, has detailed Part D information 

This post is not about choosing a Part D policy or coverage. It is to tell you about Extra Help, a low-income subsidy for some expenses related to Medicare prescription drug coverage. It does not pay for all expenses but can help pay for part of monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. 

People with Medicare prescription drug coverage can apply for this Extra Help at any time of year. There is not a special time to enroll or open season. 

Social Security administers the Extra Help portion of Part D for people with limited income and resources.   

Income and resource levels for 2015 are not available yet but 2014 levels follow:  

Your resources must be limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 for a married couple living together. Resources include your combined savings, investments, and real estate and such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds but not all resources are counted. 

Do NOT count your home, vehicles, personal possessions, life insurance, burial plots, irrevocable burial contracts or back payments from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

 Your annual income must be limited to $17,505 for an individual or $23,595 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Some examples where your income may be higher are if you or your spouse support other family members who live with you or if you have earnings from work.                          

If you have Medicare and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare and Medicaid, you automatically will get the Extra Help and do not need to apply.   

Extra Help details and an application are at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/prescriptionhelp/. You can also call the SSA national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or your local office.  

Applying for Extra Help does not enroll you in a drug plan.

What is the maximum 2015 Social Security retirement amount?

For the last several years, I have published the maximum monthly Social Security retirement amount payable during the coming year. This generates a lot of interest so today I am providing the 2015 amount.  

To be clear, this will be the maximum amount payable to a person retiring exactly at full retirement age (FRA) in 2015. Full retirement age is 66 for people born in 1943 – 1954. It does not include reductions for early retirement or increases for delaying retirement past past full retirement age. Learn about these increases, called delayed retirement credits, here. 

The maximum monthly Social Security retirement amount changes each year. The 2015 maximum is more than the 2014 maximum, but will be less than the 2016 amount. Several reasons are responsible for this with a major one being that another year of potentially higher earnings becomes available for use in computing retirement amounts. Not only might actual earnings be higher but, depending on the maximum taxable earnings base for that year, more of the earnings could be credited for use in the Social Security computation.

An early step in determining a retirement amount is to compute the person’s amount at full retirement age, without reductions or increases. To do this, Social Security uses the person’s best 35 years of earnings, weighted for inflation. Then, to compute the amount for the person’s actual retirement date, Social Security adjusts the full retirement age amount by the number of months that the person is away from FRA. The FRA amount is reduced or increased if the person is younger or older than FRA. 

So, what is the maximum 2015 Social Security retirement amount? If starting Social Security retirement in 2015 exactly when full retirement age is reached, and if the person earned at least the maximum SSA taxable earnings (the taxable base) in each of the 35 years used in the calculation, then the highest 2015 Social Security retirement amount is $2,663 per month. For comparison, the highest 2014 Social Security retirement amount is $2,642 per month. The estimated average SSA retirement amount as of January 2015 is $1,328 per month.

Knowing the highest 2015 Social Security retirement amount is interesting. Estimating your own retirement amount is more useful. Do so with the calculators included in the SSA Retirement Planner 

The Retirement Estimator is very good because it uses your actual Social Security earnings record. Automatic estimates are shown for age 62, your full retirement age, and age 70. You can adjust these for different ages or different future earnings.  

To adjust your estimate by the number of months that you are away from FRA use the “Compute the effect of early or delayed retirement” calculator. There, primary insurance amount is the same as amount at full retirement age, and normal retirement age is the same as FRA.   

Want to see the earnings on your Social Security record? Create a personal my Social Security account and view your online Social Security Statement. The Statement provides your earnings record, plus family estimates for SSA retirement, survivors and disability benefits. 

Ready to file for your Social Security retirement? Go online.