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Taxing Differently - Social Security

KhaosMage
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2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Why is it that the rich are taxed "more"?
I am not referring to the progressive tax code itself, but more with an equal protection angle.

For example, the "rich":
have a lower personal exemption deduction (which applies to themselves, spouses, and dependents)
are disqualified for many credits, most notably the child tax credit
There is a "saver's credit", but it doesn't apply to most, as it it capped at about $26K
can have their deductions limited

But, the one I want to focus on today is social security.
Social security is collected when retirees reach a certain age and start collecting. This is based on their SS wages, on which they pay SS taxtes (and their employer as well).
It is important to note that this money is taxed! You pay income taxes on your gross earnings, not net.
Since the money is post-tax, it stands to reason that SS benefits are tax-free, similar to a Roth IRA.

However, social security is not tax-free for the "rich".
Social security is not counted as income unless it reaches the threshhold of $34,000 in TOTAL income.
The worksheet is a bit confusing, but 85% of you social security benefits could be taxable income, or 50% based on other factors, or none. The major factor is TOTAL income, being over $32K for a married couple.

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.
Never mind the fact that social security benefits are regressive in nature. Someone who pays 4.5x more in SS taxes while working receives a benefit only 2.5x larger.

How is this equal application of the law?
gingerbread-man
Posts: 301
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2/6/2015 4:43:31 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
Why is it that the rich are taxed "more"?
I am not referring to the progressive tax code itself, but more with an equal protection angle.

For example, the "rich":
have a lower personal exemption deduction (which applies to themselves, spouses, and dependents)
are disqualified for many credits, most notably the child tax credit
There is a "saver's credit", but it doesn't apply to most, as it it capped at about $26K
can have their deductions limited

But, the one I want to focus on today is social security.
Social security is collected when retirees reach a certain age and start collecting. This is based on their SS wages, on which they pay SS taxtes (and their employer as well).
It is important to note that this money is taxed! You pay income taxes on your gross earnings, not net.
Since the money is post-tax, it stands to reason that SS benefits are tax-free, similar to a Roth IRA.

However, social security is not tax-free for the "rich".
Social security is not counted as income unless it reaches the threshhold of $34,000 in TOTAL income.
The worksheet is a bit confusing, but 85% of you social security benefits could be taxable income, or 50% based on other factors, or none. The major factor is TOTAL income, being over $32K for a married couple.

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.
Never mind the fact that social security benefits are regressive in nature. Someone who pays 4.5x more in SS taxes while working receives a benefit only 2.5x larger.

How is this equal application of the law?

The law applies to everyone equally, the same law applies to you whether you are rich or poor. Taxation may not seem fair for the rich as they indeed do pay the majority of taxes, but alternatively wealth distribution naturally goes to a very few - this is not due to anything they have done in a dodgey sense, it is just a natural law. So just as they unfairly receive a dispropotionate benefit from this natural distribution law, so they should pay more tax to even out the scales.
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wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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2/6/2015 5:07:33 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Social security is part of welfare policy, i.e. it's meant as a safety net for retirees as opposed to some sort of catch-all retirement plan for everyone.

I think what you're saying makes sense (to the extent I can follow your logic, it's not exactly clear to me) in that you seem to be saying that social security should be taxed like income for everyone...

The thing is, social security is a much more burdensome tax for the lower quintiles of society than they are for the upper quintiles of society...most people in the lower quintiles generally get tax credits instead of paying tax on most issues EXCEPT for social security, where they consistently pay tax and generally speaking consists of ALL of their tax bill.

So, given how our tax system is structured and how credits take into account need-based spending by the poor, that those that need the money the most still pay their full share of social security makes it more understandable that they receive tax-free benefits when the time comes to receive them.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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2/6/2015 5:26:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.

I just want to point out that people who earn a lot of money don't pay FICA taxes on most of their income (income above $118,500), so to say that social security is "already taxed" is not really true when it comes to the rich.

http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/6/2015 10:04:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/6/2015 4:43:31 PM, gingerbread-man wrote:

The law applies to everyone equally, the same law applies to you whether you are rich or poor. Taxation may not seem fair for the rich as they indeed do pay the majority of taxes, but alternatively wealth distribution naturally goes to a very few - this is not due to anything they have done in a dodgey sense, it is just a natural law. So just as they unfairly receive a dispropotionate benefit from this natural distribution law, so they should pay more tax to even out the scales.

In one instance, the benefits are wholly not taxable income. In the other, part of it is. That is not applied the same. Keep in mind, these benefits were already taxed.

A senior who wins a $50K dollar jackpot in bingo is not rich, but some of his SS benefits will be taxable income.
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/6/2015 10:27:09 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/6/2015 5:26:13 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.

I just want to point out that people who earn a lot of money don't pay FICA taxes on most of their income (income above $118,500), so to say that social security is "already taxed" is not really true when it comes to the rich.

http://www.socialsecurity.gov...

I just want to point out that social security benefits are only calculated based on wages that social security taxes were collected.
http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
You will see no change between 150K, 500K, and 900K for benefits.

Also, most rich people don't earn their money through salaries, so those dividends, capital gains, and interest collected are all exempt from social security anyway.

The issue is, you pay taxes on the FICA taxes withheld. This is akin to a roth IRA. You do not pay taxes on roth IRA distributions, if taken at the "correct" time, yet, you MIGHT pay for SS benefits. This is wrong, and unequal.

(compare this to a 401k, which are funded with pre-tax dollars, and thus, the distributions ARE taxable)
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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2/7/2015 4:53:08 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/6/2015 10:27:09 PM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/6/2015 5:26:13 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.

I just want to point out that people who earn a lot of money don't pay FICA taxes on most of their income (income above $118,500), so to say that social security is "already taxed" is not really true when it comes to the rich.

http://www.socialsecurity.gov...

I just want to point out that social security benefits are only calculated based on wages that social security taxes were collected.
http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
You will see no change between 150K, 500K, and 900K for benefits.

Also, most rich people don't earn their money through salaries, so those dividends, capital gains, and interest collected are all exempt from social security anyway.

The issue is, you pay taxes on the FICA taxes withheld. This is akin to a roth IRA. You do not pay taxes on roth IRA distributions, if taken at the "correct" time, yet, you MIGHT pay for SS benefits. This is wrong, and unequal.

(compare this to a 401k, which are funded with pre-tax dollars, and thus, the distributions ARE taxable)

Again, social security is a form of welfare as opposed to being some sort of catch-all retirement plan. Welfare is not meant to be equal, it's meant to help those that need it. Rich people by definition do not need welfare.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/7/2015 8:21:24 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 4:53:08 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:27:09 PM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/6/2015 5:26:13 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.

I just want to point out that people who earn a lot of money don't pay FICA taxes on most of their income (income above $118,500), so to say that social security is "already taxed" is not really true when it comes to the rich.

http://www.socialsecurity.gov...

I just want to point out that social security benefits are only calculated based on wages that social security taxes were collected.
http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
You will see no change between 150K, 500K, and 900K for benefits.

Also, most rich people don't earn their money through salaries, so those dividends, capital gains, and interest collected are all exempt from social security anyway.

The issue is, you pay taxes on the FICA taxes withheld. This is akin to a roth IRA. You do not pay taxes on roth IRA distributions, if taken at the "correct" time, yet, you MIGHT pay for SS benefits. This is wrong, and unequal.

(compare this to a 401k, which are funded with pre-tax dollars, and thus, the distributions ARE taxable)

Again, social security is a form of welfare as opposed to being some sort of catch-all retirement plan. Welfare is not meant to be equal, it's meant to help those that need it. Rich people by definition do not need welfare.

First, I am not talking about the level of benefits (which the rich get less for the money they put in), which is already the welfare aspect. I am talking about the fundamental treatment of said income.
Second, unemployment benefits and scholarships (used for room and board) are taxable income. Clearly, not all welfare is not taxed.
Third, the issue is TREATMENT of this income, not the welfare aspect. If the rich don't need it, then don't give it to them, which they do get "less" as it is. The issue is, both people receive the same income, both "generated" said income in the same manner (mandatory), and this income may be taxed at different rates already. The issue is that, for some, SS benefits DO NOT EVEN COUNT AS INCOME. That is the issue.
Lastly, assume a man had half his SS benefits ($15K) as taxable income, and he had $5K from other sources. Guess what, that man would still be paying zero income taxes.

The issue is tax treatment of these dollars, not the amount of which they may be taxed.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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2/7/2015 8:32:58 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 8:21:24 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 4:53:08 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:27:09 PM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/6/2015 5:26:13 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/6/2015 10:24:52 AM, KhaosMage wrote:

Why is social security, money that is already taxed, only taxed for those seniors that have "too much" income, be it capital gains, a hobby, or work part-time at Wal-Mart.

I just want to point out that people who earn a lot of money don't pay FICA taxes on most of their income (income above $118,500), so to say that social security is "already taxed" is not really true when it comes to the rich.

http://www.socialsecurity.gov...

I just want to point out that social security benefits are only calculated based on wages that social security taxes were collected.
http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
You will see no change between 150K, 500K, and 900K for benefits.

Also, most rich people don't earn their money through salaries, so those dividends, capital gains, and interest collected are all exempt from social security anyway.

The issue is, you pay taxes on the FICA taxes withheld. This is akin to a roth IRA. You do not pay taxes on roth IRA distributions, if taken at the "correct" time, yet, you MIGHT pay for SS benefits. This is wrong, and unequal.

(compare this to a 401k, which are funded with pre-tax dollars, and thus, the distributions ARE taxable)

Again, social security is a form of welfare as opposed to being some sort of catch-all retirement plan. Welfare is not meant to be equal, it's meant to help those that need it. Rich people by definition do not need welfare.

First, I am not talking about the level of benefits (which the rich get less for the money they put in), which is already the welfare aspect. I am talking about the fundamental treatment of said income.

Well, the treatment of income as you've pointed out so far bears strong resemblance to how dividends are taxed...up to a certain point, most people simply aren't taxed for them, meaning that it's an "upper class tax".

The whole point is that the upper class should pay more taxes, I don't see how it's "unfair" that they do.

Third, the issue is TREATMENT of this income, not the welfare aspect. If the rich don't need it, then don't give it to them, which they do get "less" as it is. The issue is, both people receive the same income, both "generated" said income in the same manner (mandatory), and this income may be taxed at different rates already. The issue is that, for some, SS benefits DO NOT EVEN COUNT AS INCOME. That is the issue.
Lastly, assume a man had half his SS benefits ($15K) as taxable income, and he had $5K from other sources. Guess what, that man would still be paying zero income taxes.

The issue is tax treatment of these dollars, not the amount of which they may be taxed.

Do you think the entire concept of a progressive tax is unfair?
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/7/2015 8:38:57 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 8:32:58 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

Well, the treatment of income as you've pointed out so far bears strong resemblance to how dividends are taxed...up to a certain point, most people simply aren't taxed for them, meaning that it's an "upper class tax".

No.
The issue is not in tax rate, which dividends are generally treated as ordinary income or offsets to capital gains, which have different rates.

This is treatment of income as a whole.
SS is NOT taxable income for some. For others it is.
This has no bearing on tax rates or amounts owed.
It would be like saying unemployment benefits are not taxed if you only make a certain amount of OTHER money. This is different from saying, for example, the first $X of unemployment is not taxed (for EVERYBODY).

The whole point is that the upper class should pay more taxes, I don't see how it's "unfair" that they do.
This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Third, the issue is TREATMENT of this income, not the welfare aspect. If the rich don't need it, then don't give it to them, which they do get "less" as it is. The issue is, both people receive the same income, both "generated" said income in the same manner (mandatory), and this income may be taxed at different rates already. The issue is that, for some, SS benefits DO NOT EVEN COUNT AS INCOME. That is the issue.
Lastly, assume a man had half his SS benefits ($15K) as taxable income, and he had $5K from other sources. Guess what, that man would still be paying zero income taxes.

The issue is tax treatment of these dollars, not the amount of which they may be taxed.

Do you think the entire concept of a progressive tax is unfair?
No.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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2/7/2015 8:43:31 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 8:38:57 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:32:58 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

Well, the treatment of income as you've pointed out so far bears strong resemblance to how dividends are taxed...up to a certain point, most people simply aren't taxed for them, meaning that it's an "upper class tax".

No.
The issue is not in tax rate, which dividends are generally treated as ordinary income or offsets to capital gains, which have different rates.

I don't think you quite get the point I'm making...

"In the case of qualified dividends and long-term capital gains, individuals in the 25% or higher tax bracket currently pay a 15% tax, whereas those in lower brackets are exempt from any tax."
http://www.investopedia.com...

This is treatment of income as a whole.
SS is NOT taxable income for some. For others it is.
This has no bearing on tax rates or amounts owed.
It would be like saying unemployment benefits are not taxed if you only make a certain amount of OTHER money. This is different from saying, for example, the first $X of unemployment is not taxed (for EVERYBODY).

What do you mean by "OTHER money"?

The whole point is that the upper class should pay more taxes, I don't see how it's "unfair" that they do.
This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Does it matter? Why is this point important to a discussion about "fair" tax treatment?
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/7/2015 8:57:01 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 8:43:31 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:38:57 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:32:58 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

Well, the treatment of income as you've pointed out so far bears strong resemblance to how dividends are taxed...up to a certain point, most people simply aren't taxed for them, meaning that it's an "upper class tax".

No.
The issue is not in tax rate, which dividends are generally treated as ordinary income or offsets to capital gains, which have different rates.

I don't think you quite get the point I'm making...

"In the case of qualified dividends and long-term capital gains, individuals in the 25% or higher tax bracket currently pay a 15% tax, whereas those in lower brackets are exempt from any tax."
http://www.investopedia.com...

I am aware of this. This is not the issue.
A rich man's taxable SS income may be taxed at 39.6%, while a lessor man's may only be taxed at 15%.

Again, the issue is not tax rate. It is what is INCOME.
A tax rate of 0% is still an issue of tax rates, not not treating it as income.


This is treatment of income as a whole.
SS is NOT taxable income for some. For others it is.
This has no bearing on tax rates or amounts owed.
It would be like saying unemployment benefits are not taxed if you only make a certain amount of OTHER money. This is different from saying, for example, the first $X of unemployment is not taxed (for EVERYBODY).

What do you mean by "OTHER money"?
Money from other sources, or "too much" unemployment. (imagine UI of $50K)

The whole point is that the upper class should pay more taxes, I don't see how it's "unfair" that they do.
This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Does it matter? Why is this point important to a discussion about "fair" tax treatment?
You don't think that treating some money as income, while treating that same money not as income if different circumstances arise, is an issue of fairness?
When AGI is used as figures for tax credits (there is also MAGI for some), it can affect qualifying for tax credits, or even affect the requirement of filing, let alone the taxes paid on the OTHER income.
wrichcirw
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2/7/2015 9:04:55 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 8:57:01 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:43:31 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Does it matter? Why is this point important to a discussion about "fair" tax treatment?
You don't think that treating some money as income, while treating that same money not as income if different circumstances arise, is an issue of fairness?
When AGI is used as figures for tax credits (there is also MAGI for some), it can affect qualifying for tax credits, or even affect the requirement of filing, let alone the taxes paid on the OTHER income.

I don't think this is an issue, no. It's the same as the AMT, the entire basis upon which the upper class is taxed becomes different from the rest of society.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/7/2015 9:07:27 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 9:04:55 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:57:01 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:43:31 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Does it matter? Why is this point important to a discussion about "fair" tax treatment?
You don't think that treating some money as income, while treating that same money not as income if different circumstances arise, is an issue of fairness?
When AGI is used as figures for tax credits (there is also MAGI for some), it can affect qualifying for tax credits, or even affect the requirement of filing, let alone the taxes paid on the OTHER income.

I don't think this is an issue, no. It's the same as the AMT, the entire basis upon which the upper class is taxed becomes different from the rest of society.

$50,000 for a married couple is not rich. In fact, it's not even median.
wrichcirw
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2/7/2015 9:12:04 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 9:07:27 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 9:04:55 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:57:01 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 8:43:31 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

This isn't about taxes owed.
It is about what constitutes taxable income.

Does it matter? Why is this point important to a discussion about "fair" tax treatment?
You don't think that treating some money as income, while treating that same money not as income if different circumstances arise, is an issue of fairness?
When AGI is used as figures for tax credits (there is also MAGI for some), it can affect qualifying for tax credits, or even affect the requirement of filing, let alone the taxes paid on the OTHER income.

I don't think this is an issue, no. It's the same as the AMT, the entire basis upon which the upper class is taxed becomes different from the rest of society.

$50,000 for a married couple is not rich. In fact, it's not even median.

What is the basis for this figure?
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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2/7/2015 9:41:19 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 9:12:04 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

$50,000 for a married couple is not rich. In fact, it's not even median.

What is the basis for this figure?

The worksheet for lines 20a and 20b.
http://www.irs.gov...

On second look, it appears that SS benefits are taxed at 50% (or 85%) if the following calculation is over $32K for MFJ or $25K for single:
1/2 of SS benefit
+ all other income (except qualified dividends)
- any statutory deductions

At this point, at least 1/2 of SS benefits are taxable income, while at most 85% are. Due to other calculations, it can be somewhere in the middle.

So, if me and my wife work part time and make $32K combined, our SS benefits will be taxed. If our SS benefits are $20K combined, and we make over $22K in other income, they will be taxed.

Note: I have been using the term "taxed" and "taxable income" loosely. What I mean is "income that is treated as income for tax purposes".
Just because you have "income that is treated as income for tax purposes" does not mean you will actually owe any taxes.
wrichcirw
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2/7/2015 9:55:15 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/7/2015 9:41:19 AM, KhaosMage wrote:
At 2/7/2015 9:12:04 AM, wrichcirw wrote:

$50,000 for a married couple is not rich. In fact, it's not even median.

What is the basis for this figure?

The worksheet for lines 20a and 20b.
http://www.irs.gov...

On second look, it appears that SS benefits are taxed at 50% (or 85%) if the following calculation is over $32K for MFJ or $25K for single:
1/2 of SS benefit
+ all other income (except qualified dividends)
- any statutory deductions

At this point, at least 1/2 of SS benefits are taxable income, while at most 85% are. Due to other calculations, it can be somewhere in the middle.

So, if me and my wife work part time and make $32K combined, our SS benefits will be taxed. If our SS benefits are $20K combined, and we make over $22K in other income, they will be taxed.

Social security is retirement income. The whole idea is that you shouldn't have to be working when you're eligible for social security. If you absolutely have to/want to work, you'd best be making very good use of your time, so good in fact that you're not going to miss the pittance that constitutes social security payments.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?