Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Income — Social Security Benefits; Form 1040, Line 20a

Social Security and Railroad Retirement Benefits

Social Security Benefits

Social security benefits are payments made under Title II of the Social Security Act. They include old-age, survivor, and disability insurance (OASDI) benefits.

Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. They do not include supplemental security income (SSI). Certain government retirees who receive a pension from work are not covered by social security.

Some portion of the social security benefits received may be taxable. Generally, if social security benefits are the only source of income, the benefits are not taxable. In this instance, taxpayers may not be required to file a return. However, if the taxpayers are filing Married Filing Separately and lived with their spouse at any time during the tax year, 85% of the benefits will be taxable.

Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRBs)

Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRBs) are benefits paid to railroad employees who are covered by the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA). The RRA benefits have two components:

  • Tier 1 (social security equivalent benefits) and
  • Tier 2 (treated as a qualified employee plan)

The tier 2 benefits are reported on Form RRB 1099-R. These funds are discussed in the previous lesson on Retirement Income.

Intake and interview sheet, questions about income from pensions, annuities, IRAs, and unemployment compensation, and social security or railroad retirement benefits