Could Your Stimulus Check Affect Your Social Security Taxes?

The federal government can typically tax up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefits based on your 'provisional income,' a figure equal to your adjusted gross income.

"Once you qualify and start claiming payments for it, whether or not you're taxed on the payments that you get from Social Security or Social Security benefits, depends on how much income you have, based on a modified adjusted gross income formula," Caroline Bruckner, an accounting and tax professor at American University, told Newsweek.

However, if you're below a certain income threshold, none of your Social Security benefits are taxed. Bruckner says this is because the federal government recognizes the insurance program is a major factor of your income.

If you are a single person with a provisional income of less than $25,000, none of your Social Security benefits will be taxed. However, if your provisional income is between $25,000 and $34,000, then up 50 percent of your Social Security benefits can taxed and that percentage can go up to 85 percent if your provisional income is greater than $34,000.

Bruckner notes income thresholds are higher if you are married. Couples filing a joint return will not have their Social Security benefits taxed if provisional income remains under $32,000. Once their provisional income moves into the $32,000 to $44,000 bracket, Social Security benefits can be taxed up to 50 percent and up to 85 percent when provisional income exceeds $44,000.

The question in regards to whether a stimulus check will adversely affect how much you're taxed on your Social Security benefits lies in whether the payment is factored into your adjusted gross income.

Federal stimulus checks have been issued in amounts of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for joint taxpayers and an additional $500 for each qualifying child.

Luckily, stimulus checks are not included in taxable income, which means federal payments will not increase your provisional income and effectively, will not increase the taxes on your Social Security benefits either.

"The stimulus check is not income in a traditional sense and it is not related to your Social Security income," Bruckner said. "It is a separate refundable tax credit that you claim on your 2020 tax returns."

Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service headquarters building in Washington, D.C., appears mostly empty on April 27. The IRS has extended the annual tax filing deadline to July 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service has postponed this year's tax deadlines from April 15 to July 15. The postponements are automatic and apply to all taxpayers.

When it comes to filing taxes next year, Bruckner says taxpayers will indicate if they received a stimulus check, and those who are eligible but did not receive one will have one sent to them by the government.

"Keep in mind, Social Security benefits were never originally meant to be taxed," she said. "Congress had to go back over time and develop formulas for taxing Social Security benefits to shore up the solvency of the Social Security funds."

Bruckner confirmed the stimulus checks will not affect the taxes on Social Security benefits.