Social Security

Social Security FAQ

What is a Restricted Application?

A restricted application, sometimes referred to as "restricting the scope" of your application, means that you are not simultaneously applying for all benefits you are eligible for. You may be eligible for primary benefits and spousal benefits but apply for each at different time in order to maximize your benefits. You’ll have to file for these benefits separately and each application will be “restricted” and will only include one of the benefits at a time.

Will work outside the US affect your Social Security benefits?

The main rule is that if you do not pay Social Security taxes on the income you earn outside of the United States, that income will not count toward your social security benefits.

In many countries, you may get double-taxed. You will have to pay taxes to both U.S. Social Security as well as the equivalent local plan. To avoid this, the United States has made Social Security agreements with a number of other countries.

If you have been sent by your employer in the United States to work in an agreement country for five years or less, you pay only U.S. Social Security tax and you are exempt from foreign tax. On the other hand, if you were hired in one of the agreement countries or sent to that country for more than five years, you generally will pay Social Security taxes only to that country and will be exempt from paying U.S. Social Security taxes.

The agreements also can help you qualify for benefits if you have not worked long enough in a single country to be eligible for its benefits alone. Each country can count your work credits in the other country. As a result, it is possible for you to qualify for a separate benefit payment from both countries. Learn more.

Can you receive Social Security payments if you live abroad?

Yes, If you are a United States citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. However, there are some countries to which they cannot send payments.

Do you need to notify the SSA of your address outside the US?

When you live outside the United States, periodically you’ll receive a questionnaire to confirm your eligibility. Your answers will help the Social Security Administration figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you do not, your payments will stop. Learn more.

Will your Social Security benefits change if you move to a different city/state or country after filing?

No. Your Social Security benefits are based on your earnings, not where you live. They will not be adjusted if you move - even if you move to a different country.

You have a pension from when you worked for the government. Do you still qualify for Social Security benefits?

The general rule is that if you pay Social Security taxes on the income you earn, you can receive benefits. About 20% of government workers do not pay social security taxes. As a result, they are not eligible to receive social security benefits. Instead, they pay into and will receive benefits from their own pension program. To find out if you are paying social security taxes, look at your paycheck stub. If you see deductions for "FICA" or “Social Security” in the taxes section, it means you are paying Social Security taxes.

What are the rules for the "File and Suspend" strategy?

"File & Suspend" is a strategy used to maximize your social security benefits. It allows one spouse to collect spousal benefits earlier while the other spouse continues to accrue delayed retirement credits. Here is an example:

John and Mary are both 66, which is their full retirement age. John can file for his primary benefits now and immediately suspend payments. That allows Mary to file for spousal benefits based on John’s earnings. John can wait until he turns 70 to reinstate his primary benefits and his payments will increase by 8% each year until he retires at 70. Mary can also wait until she turns 70 to file for her own primary benefits allowing her Social Security payments to also increase by 8% each year. Learn more.

How do you suspend your benefits?

It can be done orally or in writing.

How can you restart your benefits after suspending them?

If your benefit payments are suspended, they will start automatically the month you reach age 70. If you change your mind and want the payments to start before age 70, just tell the Social Security Administration when you want your benefits reinstated (orally or in writing). Your request may include benefits for any months when your payments were suspended. Learn more.

Can you collect retirement and disability benefits at the same time?

No, you cannot receive Social Security retirement benefits and disability benefits at the same time.

The only exception is for an individual who took early retirement through Social Security at 62 before being approved for disability benefits. In that case, Social Security will make up the difference between the early retirement amount and the full disability amount for those months the individual was disabled but receiving early retirement benefits (retroactively).

Can you work and receive Social Security benefits at the same time?

Yes, you can work while you receive Social Security retirement (or survivors) benefits. If you are older than your Full Retirement Age, you will receive all of your benefits. However, if you start taking Social Security benefits before your Full Retirement Age, working may reduce your benefits.

Before you reach your full retirement age $1 will be deducted from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above $15,720. In the year you reach full retirement age, $1 will be deducted for every $3 you earn above $41,880. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. Learn more.

Do you have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits?

If you earn more than the following IRS income limits, you will have to pay federal income tax on a portion of your social security benefits. When determining your income versus these limits, you must include your social security benefits.

  • If you file taxes as an individual and you earn:

    • 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 together earn:

    • 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.

Each state has its own rules on how social security income is taxed. Learn more.