The people's voice of reason

Social Security Questions and Answers

Question: I’m gathering everything I’ll need to file my taxes this month. Do I have to pay taxes on Social Security benefits? Also, where can I get a replacement 1099?

Answer: Some people who get Social Security must pay federal income taxes on their benefits. Still, no one pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits.

You must pay taxes on some portion of your benefits if you file an individual federal tax return and your combined income exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have combined income of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits. You can read more about tax preparation in relation to Social Security at

Social Security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. They don’t include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are not taxable. You can also get a replacement 1099 or 1042S when you open your own personal my Social Security account at;

Question: I know I shouldn’t carry my Social Security card with me, and I always keep it in a safe place. Somehow, I lost it. How do I get a replacement card?

Answer: As long as you know your Social Security number, you probably don’t need a replacement. For most purposes, your number is your card. If you do need to get a replacement, you can do so for free. Although you can’t apply for a card online, you can learn what identification documents you’ll need, and you can fill out the replacement card application at;

Question: I’ve been planning my retirement throughout my career, and I’m finally nearing the age when I can stop working. What is the earliest age I can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer: You can receive Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. Keep in mind that if you retire at age 62, we’ll reduce your benefits by as much as 30 percent of what you’d get if you wait until your full retirement age. If you wait until your full retirement age (66 for people born between 1943 and 1954), you’ll get your full benefit. You can also wait until age 70 to start your benefits. Then, we’ll increase your benefit because you earned delayed retirement credits.

When you’re ready to apply for retirement benefits, use our online retirement application, the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to apply. Visit

Question: I want to make sure I have enough credits to receive Social Security retirement benefits when I need them. How can I get a record of my Social Security earnings?

Answer: The best way for you to check whether you have earned enough credits (40 total, equaling 10 years of work) is to open a free my Social Security account at to review your Social Security Statement any time you want.

Once you create an account, you can:

• Keep track of your earnings to make sure your benefit is calculated correctly. The amount of your payment is based on your lifetime earnings;

• Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;

• Get a replacement 1099 or 1042S.

• Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and

• Manage your benefits:

• Change your address; and

• Start or change your direct deposit.

Accessing my Social Security is quick, convenient, and secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.

Question: I’m applying for disability benefits, and I read about “substantial gainful activity.” What is that?

Answer: The term “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. If you are working and earn more than a certain amount, we generally consider that you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. In this case, you wouldn’t be eligible for disability benefits. You can read more about how we define substantial gainful activity at

Join the Millions! Create your own my Social Security account at;

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by e-mail at


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