The Tax Attic – July 2, 2009

Who qualifies to receive Social Security benefits?

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent
Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

My wife, Deb, looked around our yard the other day and noted that our yard was an example of nature gone wild. The peonies have never had more flowers and those flowers were large and magnificent. All of the varieties of hostas are huge. There were flowers on lilac bushes that haven’t had flowers on them in years. The decorative crab apples had lots of blooms and it seems like the branches have grown a foot a day. The shrubs have more fresh growth on them than I have ever seen. Deb is hoping the cosmos, begonias and impatiens she just planted will grow as well as the rest of the plants in our yard. 

Even the lawn looks great. It’s funny, but I buy the same amount and type of fertilizer from Pete’s Ace Hardware every year, apply it in the same manner every year, and apply it at the same time every year. Some years it just seems to work better than others. Being a tax professional and not a trained green thumb type person, I have no idea of how that is possible. If I put the same figures into a tax return using the same forms, I am going to get the same answer every time. However, my lawn seems to look different every year.

Of course, the one variable that I don’t have to contend with on my tax returns is something called the weather. It’s been a cool spring with lots of rain lately. It must be perfect growing conditions, at least in my yard.

I want to finish up my articles on Social Security by making a few general points and then going over the survivor’s benefits rules.

Today, there are approximately 50 million people who receive a monthly Social Security benefit. According to the Social Security Administration, that monthly benefit on the average replaces approximately 40 percent of their retirement income. Obviously it’s going to be a tough go if the taxpayer’s only retirement income is his/her Social Security benefit.

Most people do begin drawing at the age of 62. However, there are some rare individuals who continue working past the age of 62-past the age of full retirement of age 66 for someone born in 1943-right up until the age of 70. These taxpayers are rewarded by making the decision to delay receiving a benefit.

By waiting until the age of 66, the taxpayer’s benefit is increased by 25% over the amount to be received at the age of 62. By waiting until the age of 70, the taxpayer’s benefit is further increased by 8% per year. The total increase for the four years is then 32%. That’s a nice total increase by waiting for a few years to begin drawing.

Of course, the downside of waiting is the taxpayer may decease before beginning to draw. If a taxpayer dies, family members may still qualify to receive benefits. If the surviving widow or widower is at least 60 or older, he or she should qualify for benefits. If the surviving widow or widower is disabled and age 50 or older, he or she should qualify for benefits. The surviving widow or widower can be any age if he/she has a child who is younger than age 16 or the child is disabled of any age.

Surviving children also may qualify to receive benefits. Children younger than age 18 qualify for benefits. Children age 18 and 19 who are full-time students in secondary or elementary schools qualify for benefits as well. Disabled children age 18 or older, as long as the disability began before the age of 22, also qualify for survivor’s benefits.

In somewhat of a quirk, a survivor’s parents may even qualify for benefits if the parents were dependent upon the deceased for more than one-half of his/her support.

Information about complicated situations can be obtained by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or going to their website at This is Jerry Coon signing off.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. He owns
Action Tax Service on Northland Drive in Rockford.
His e-mail address is

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