Teens & Taxes: What Qualifies a Teen for Social Security Payments & Do They Pay Tax on Their Benefits?

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Many people think of Social Security strictly as a retirement benefit. And it’s true that it is a crucial element to many people’s retirement plans, funding roughly 40% of the average person’s retirement expenses. But 29.1% of Social Security beneficiaries in 2021 were not retired workers. These individuals included people who had become disabled and survivors of deceased workers. And millions of them were teens.

See: Teens & Taxes — Are My Teenager’s Scholarships and Grants Taxable?
Find: Teens & Taxes — Why Teens Should e-File in 2022

In 2019, 2.8 million people under the age of 18 were collecting Social Security benefits, with an average monthly benefit of $627.52, according to a Social Security fact sheet. Additionally, more than 113,000 students ages 18 and 19 were receiving Social Security benefits.

A teen or child may qualify for Social Security payments if they were born blind or disabled, depending on the income of the parents in their household.

If a parent dies, a surviving child may be eligible for their Social Security retirement benefits. The child or teen may receive up to 75% of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit, according to the Social Security Administration. However, a family can only receive a total of 150% to 180% of the deceased parent’s full benefit amount, distributed between all eligible family members.  

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Social Security benefits above certain thresholds are taxed, and the income should be reported on Form 1040. A teen or child, just like an adult, must file a tax return for their Social Security income if the total of half their Social Security benefits plus all their other income is greater than $25,000. This is the “base amount” that applies to the filing status for single taxpayers.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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