Taxes, Ex-Spouse Benefits And You

Taxes, Ex-Spouse Benefits And You

Photo of Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay
Courtesy: Social Security Administration

Did you know that if you are an ex-spouse, Social Security pays benefits to eligible former spouses, but you may need to claim this income when it’s time to do your taxes?

If you are age 62, unmarried and divorced from someone who is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on his or her record. To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you have remarried, you cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce or death. Also, if you are entitled to benefits based on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. In other words, Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefits for which you are eligible, but not both.

You can apply for benefits on your former spouse’s record even if he or she hasn’t retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. You can also elect to receive only the divorced spouse benefits and delay benefits on your own record until after your full retirement age, which may translate to a higher monthly amount for you. If, however, you decide to wait until full retirement age to apply as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount or disability benefit. The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.

The amount of benefits you receive will not affect the benefits of your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse. Visit “Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced” at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm to find all of the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse. Our benefits planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you can still quality for widow’s benefits. You’ll find information on that in a note at the bottom of the website.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm today to learn if you are eligible for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

RETIREMENT

Question: Although I stopped working a few years ago, I had additional seasonal earnings after my retirement. Will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit increase?
Answer: Possibly, and you can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings could increase their monthly benefit amounts. If an increase is due, we calculate a new benefit amount and pay the increase retroactive to the January following the year of earnings. You can learn more about how work affects your benefits by reading our publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

GENERAL

Question: Now that my husband and I have a large family, we’ve hired a housekeeper, who comes once a week. Do we have to withhold Social Security taxes from our housekeeper’s earnings?
Answer: It depends on how much you are paying the housekeeper. If you pay a housekeeper or other household worker $1,900 or more in cash wages throughout the year, you must deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes. This holds true for a cleaning person, cook, gardener, babysitter or anyone else who provides services for you. In addition, you must report these wages once a year. There are exceptions, however — for example, when you are hiring a company or an independent contractor and paying them a fee for services, instead of wages to an individual. You can learn more about household workers and tax deductions by reading our publication, Household Workers, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

MEDICARE

Question: I need proof that I receive Medicare benefits. Where can I get a letter proving that?
Answer: If you need proof that you receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income or Medicare, get an instant benefit verification letter online by using your personal my Social Security account. If you do not receive benefits, your letter will serve as proof that you do not receive benefits. If you recently applied for benefits, the letter will make that clear, as well. The information on your benefit verification letter will include information that applies to your situation. You can set up your secure and personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

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