For the past 17 years, I have been writing to our congressional delegation and various others about the unfair taxing of Social Security benefits for married couples as opposed to single taxpayers.
For those who are not aware, the threshold for taxing 50 percent of Social Security benefits is $25,000 for singles and $32,000 for married taxpayers, and for taxing 85 percent of benefits, the threshold is $34,000 for singles and $44,000 for married taxpayers. This means that two single taxpayers have a combined threshold of $50,000 for paying taxes on 50 percent of benefits and $68,000 combined threshold for paying on 85 percent of benefits, a difference of $18,000 and $24,000 respectively.
The threshold is computed by adding all taxable income to one-half of Social Security benefits.
The last time that I checked, my wife and I would have paid $4,000 less in federal and state taxes if we were not married, but simply living together. I showed these figures to then-Rep. Steve Pearce three years ago. I showed him my joint returns for that year and two “dummy” copies separating my wife’s and my income on state and federal returns. My wife is a retired school teacher and I am a retired state employee, both of us receive Social Security and we pay taxes on 85 percent of all our Social Security benefits. Since recent statistics show that only 48 percent of households in this country are headed by heterosexual married couples, down from previously 78 percent, my proposal is that all taxpayers have the same thresholds of $16,000 for paying taxes at 50 percent and $22,000 for paying on 85 percent of benefits. Since the IRS does not recognize same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships, people in these relationships get to file as single taxpayers. I have nothing against these relationships, but I too want equality. My 85 percent taxes on my Social Security benefits would not change. Also, my suggestion for saving Social Security is to have taxes on Social Security benefits returned to the Social Security Trust Fund instead of the General Fund. It would be very easy for the IRS to extract these taxes from affected tax returns. I suggest that married taxpayers on Social Security find out how much more some of you are paying than if you could file as single taxpayers, then I think I would get much more backing to my suggestions. I prepared tax returns as a sideline for 45 years and my average fee for both state and federal returns. I gave it up this year.
Robert E. Gallegos