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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Apr. 7, 2016 3 years ago

Tips for seniors who owe taxes on Social Security

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How to owe when you owe and when you don't
by: Matilda Charles

One of the perks of retirement for many seniors is not having to pay taxes any longer ... except when we do. And sometimes when we discover that we have to pay taxes after all, it's a tough situation.

According to a Social Security assistant deputy commissioner in a recent newsletter, one-third of seniors receiving benefits have to pay taxes because of disability and survivor benefits, as well as income that is in addition to Social Security.

You'll need your benefit statement (Form SSA-1099), which you likely received in January, to calculate whether you need to pay taxes. This document is similar to a regular Form 1099 in that it's used to send information about your income to the Internal Revenue Service. The amount listed is what you received the previous year.

Specifically, if your benefits and any additional income exceed $25,000 (or $32,000 for a married couple filing jointly), you'll have to pay tax. Depending on your income, you might be taxed on up to 50 percent of your benefits. You'll never pay taxes on more than 85 percent of your Social Security benefits.

If you didn't get your benefits statement in the mail or have misplaced it, there are two ways to find out the amount of your benefits. You can go to your My Social Security account (if you don't have one, you can open one online) and select "Replacement Documents" to get a new form, or you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and ask that one be sent to you.

Even if you don't have to pay federal taxes on your Social Security benefits, beware of state taxes. There are more than a dozen states that may tax that income.

How healthy is it where you live?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has unveiled a new online mapping tool to show the levels of health in various parts of the country. Medicare beneficiaries are grouped by geographic location, race, health outcomes, sex, age and more. Eighteen health conditions are defined, as well as use of hospitals and emergency rooms, rate of readmissions and mortality rates. The best feature is that the mapping tool can even be broken down into the county level of each state.

While the map developers planned to use it to identify areas where there are problems (below-average health because of lack of access to health care, for example), the tool is also a good way for us to compare our own health to those around us and around the country.

To use the map, go online to www.cms.gov and put Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool in the search box. Then click Get Started. Using the dropdown list, put in your parameters. Select year, state or county, condition, sex, age, race and more. At that point you have a choice: You can either click download or mouse over the various states or counties, depending on which you selected. (If you chose the county level, you can expand the screen to make it easier to see.)

For more help, you also can click the Quick Start Guide.

Under Other Resources (below the Get Started button), look for County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, and click on your state. You'll find rankings for your county for health factors and outcomes.

If you haven't retired and plan to move, this tool can help you decide if the areas you've considered living are more or less healthy than where you currently live.

(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.

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