Is a Lump Sum Social Security Disability Payment Taxable?

Knowing the Rules May Save You Money

Couple receiving tax advice.
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Did you just receive a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) award with a lump sum payment? While it is a relief to finally get your benefits, it brings the question of how much tax you might owe on it. This money is not tax-free, but whether you will have to pay tax depends on your income, deductions, and several other factors. The IRS provides a worksheet to determine how much you will owe.

Applying for SSDI benefits and waiting for a judgment can be a long process, sometimes taking months or years. Many people who are awarded SSDI benefits receive a lump-sum payment to cover back payment for the months between their official date of disability onset and when they were finally awarded benefits. Some of that big check, however, may be going back to Uncle Sam as taxes. Income tax is not automatically withheld, so you do not want a nasty surprise a few months down the road.

Half of Your SSDI Benefits Are Taxable Each Year

According to tax attorney Paul Gada of the Allsup Disability Life Planning Center, the regular monthly SSDI payments do not cause as much concern because, at an average of $1,165 per month (for 2015), many people who rely on it as their sole source of income won't owe taxes. However, reporting the lump sum as income for one tax year can result in owing taxes. You could end up paying more than you need to pay if you don't get the right advice.

Up to 50 percent of Social Security Disability benefits are taxable each year. "The actual amount is determined by adding one-half of the taxpayer’s SSDI benefits to all of his or her other income sources. A federal income tax return must be filed if gross income is over a certain amount per IRS rules," Gada says.

Whether you owe tax due to the lump sum payment will depend on how much you receive and how much income you had during the tax years the payment covered.

Use IRS Publication 915 Worksheets to Figure Your Tax

It may be to your advantage to claim all of the lump sum in the current tax year or to use the IRS worksheets to spread it over previous tax years. You won't be amending your previous tax returns, you will figure out which is to your advantage using a worksheet filed with your current tax return. You will pay the lesser amount as determined by the worksheet.

If you received a lump-sum SSDI payment, you will see the amount included in Box 3 of the Form SSA-1099 received from the Social Security Administration. Worksheets provided in IRS Publication 915 can be used to determine the taxable portion of a retroactive SSDI payment.

Gada notes that it can be difficult or confusing to do this by hand. It is best handled with tax preparation software or using a tax professional to prepare your return.

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