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State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Type of Retirement Income

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Retirement income taxes due
Every state has its own method of taxing certain types of retirement income.

Did you know that based on the state in which you decide to retire, your state income tax bill could vary by several thousands of dollars? However, it’s not only a state’s tax rate that’s important. In addition, the type of income you get in retirement, frequently has a greater effect on your state tax liability than the tax rate you pay.

That’s because each state has its own method of taxing certain types of retirement income, explains Kiplinger’s article “State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Types of Retirement Income.” The article examines the way in which states tax two common forms of retirement income: Social Security benefits and retirement plan payouts.

First, let’s look at the taxes on Social Security benefits. While the federal government taxes up to 85% of Social Security benefits, most states don’t tax Social Security benefits at all. Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming don’t tax these benefits because they simply don’t have an income tax. New Hampshire and Tennessee only tax interest and dividends.

Social Security benefits are exempt from tax in the District of Columbia and 28 states (AL, AZ, AR, CA, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR PA, SC, VA, and WI). The remaining 13 states may tax some of Social Security benefits. New Mexico, Utah, and West Virginia currently tax Social Security benefits to the same extent they are taxed on the federal return. However, West Virginia will begin phasing out its tax on Social Security benefits in 2020. Taxation of Social Security benefits in the remaining states (CO, CT, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, RI and VT) depends on a person’s income and on your filing status in many instances.

There are also some states that totally exempt Social Security for taxpayers under specific income thresholds. For example, Kansas says that Social Security benefits are completely exempt from state tax, if your federal adjusted gross income (AGI) is $75,000 or less, regardless of your filing status.  Beginning this year in North Dakota, single residents can fully exclude Social Security benefits from state taxable income, if their federal AGI is $50,000 or less. Married North Dakota residents filing a joint return can claim the exclusion with a federal AGI of $100,000 or less. Missouri has partial exemptions for joint filers with federal AGI above $100,000 and all other filers with AGI over $85,000. Missouri taxpayers with income below these thresholds can get a full state tax exemption. The rest of the states have specific formulas for deciding whose Social Security benefits are taxed and to what extent.

State taxation of payouts from retirement plans, such as pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s, can be more complex. The states without an income tax (FL, AK, NV, SD, TX, WA, WY) or that just tax interest and dividends do not tax retirement plan payouts. However, in other states, there are a wide variety of rules. Mississippi and Pennsylvania generally don’t tax any retirement income. However, California, Washington, D.C., Nebraska, and Vermont have slight or no tax breaks for retirement plan payouts. Many of the states in between offer credits or deductions that can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Georgia has the largest tax break with a $65,000 retirement-income exclusion for anyone age 65 and older (couples can shelter up to $130,000).

To make it more complicated, some states differentiate based on the type of retirement plan. Take Kansas, for example. It exempts income from government pensions but taxes private pension payouts. Alabama taxes defined-contribution plan distributions but not private pension payouts.  Beginning this year, North Dakota exempts military retirement pay but not other retirement plan payouts.

But keep in mind that a state’s or city’s property and sales taxes could outweigh any benefit you receive by paying lower or no income taxes. And some states will tax your estate and/or your beneficiaries when you die. If you’re considering moving to another state due to taxes, meet with an experienced tax professional in that state to get a clearer picture of your particular situation.

Reference: Kiplinger (October 28, 2019) “State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Types of Retirement Income”

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