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Periodic Contributor

Elimination of Taxes on SS Benefits - H.R. 8717: You Earned It, You Keep It Act

This bill seems like a fair solution to the unfair Provisional Tax Rates on Social Security Benefits driven entirely by inflation.  Essentially, it would eliminate taxes on Social Security Benefits and offset reduced federal revenue by raising the cap on FICA taxes.  AARP hasn't yet taken a position.  How can the membership of AARP get the attention of AARP Leadership and get them involved in supporting this bill?   HR 8717. You Earned it, You Keep It Act 

 

Periodic Contributor

I just cancelled my AARP Membership. We are being treated as customers and not members. It seems a little silly to be a "member" of an organization that doesn't any accept input from it's members.  Even my National Credit Union, allows us to vote for it's Board of Directors.  

Honored Social Butterfly

@ThomasK336865 

That is a good point - customers vs members.  Seems to me, they are working both of these - 

Some folks do come here for the benefits.  OR are forced to become a member to have a specific benefit.

Advocating for specific issues, I would think would be difficult.  How can AARP effectively advocate for so many of different ages and income levels.  

I mean their advocacy positions are carefully worded IMO -

  • Leading efforts to update Social Security and promote other retirement savings efforts to help everyone achieve lifetime financial security

https://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/company/social-impact/ 

What does that even mean - advocating for stuff like this thread?  OR advocating for SS to be on healthy financial ground?  Expanding benefits or expanding revenues?  OR both?  OR just getting Congress to DO SOMETHING.  

For all those that support eliminating or reforming Taxes on benefits (like this thread) or eliminating the WEP or GPO, there may be a comparable number that would like the Medicare IRMAA (Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts) to be eliminated.  Either of these would be financially difficult for either program because of where they stand financially right now.

 

Perhaps some members here would find the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) to be more in tuned to their positions of advocacy.  I don't think they give any benefits.  Take a look at their Issues at the top of the page.

 

Take a look at my post from 08/29/2022 - AARP.org SS Community - "Social Security - Fixing It"

Would like any comments - 

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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Contributor

I googled the bill. NO major media mentioned it- no msm, not Fox- just obscure twitter & fb which I avoid. My impression is that boomers are being shown the door as millennials take over and the latter don’t want to pay the bill which leads to politicians giving lip service. Note that a major retired people’s association is doing squat about it as the OP indicates.

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Honored Social Butterfly

I doubt the media can keep up with the mountain of legislation that is being thrown at SS right now - we have an election coming up, ya know.

There will NOT be anything passed in SS that is gonna cut revenues - revenues are needed to keep the program afloat right now.  

If our legislators don't do something about the insolvency of the SS program before about 2034, we are all gonna take a benefit cut of around 20% - that's automatic.  

Personally, I just consider this tax on benefits as a contribution to the program which wasn't paid when earned - i.e. the employer FICA match part of the earnings equation.

 

I am a proponent of taxing all employee compensation with payroll FICA taxes - including benefits like employer provided health insurance to shore up the revenues of SS & Medicare.  That should show those Millennials - Right?!

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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@ThomasK336865 Although HR 8717 may provide tax relief for folks that incur Federal Income Taxes (FIT) on their amount of SS Benefits, it is not clear why Representative Angie Craig supports extending this proposed tax relief to higher income folks. I have tried to read the proposed Bill without referencing the various provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and it was difficult. Because I either missed or did not reference the IRC with regard to amending the thresholds, I concluded that this proposed Bill eliminates FIT for all SS Benefits even if one is considered a higher income (i.e., current 22% tax bracket or greater). If I understand the proposed Bill correctly, I do not believe AARP will support such legislation supporting higher income folks. I replied to your August 30, 2022 post which suggested indexing the current thresholds that are used to determine federal tax liability and provided a link at the SS website that provides a history regarding the taxation of SS Benefits https://www.ssa.gov/history/taxationofbenefits.html  As the SS article indicates, Congress did not include indexing of the thresholds; and, IMO, anticipated more FIT as SS Benefits increased due to either greater income and inflation. In 1983, the thresholds ($25,000 and $32,000) that were established for the lower income folks were about 4 to 5 times the poverty level in 1983. I am including a link that provides a history of the poverty levels from 1982 https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines/prior-hhs-poverty-guideline... IMO, amending the thresholds focusing on the lower income folks is a better approach than eliminating FIT on all SS Benefits. 

Although it is difficult to find any articles that address "means testing" for SS Benefits, the current thresholds set bars or levels that use the FIT rules to repay the SS Program should your income exceed such levels. In other words, if you have a higher income, you must repay some of your SS Benefits via the FIT rules. Some may call it another term, but it appears to be "means testing" to me. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with that approach. However, the levels or thresholds have not been amended for almost 40 years. I suspect Congress can amend the thresholds (double) to $50,000/$64,000 and $68,000/$88,000 for the 50% and 85% FIT formulas, respectively, much easier than trying to rewrite the entire FIT provision. You may find AARP support to help the lower income folks.

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Periodic Contributor

Thomas….I’ve been thinking about this for a while and have wondered why AARP and the AARP Foundation who only seem to follow their personal left wing tendencies only focus on issues related to poverty. Not every senior is poverty stricken and we, those of us who actually have to pay taxes are not represented at all anywhere. 

On a previous issue going back about two years, I pushed hard on AARP to get off its ass and talk to Powell at the Fed about what 14 years of zero percent interest rates were doing to seniors and retirees. AARP was adamant in their refusal to touch this issue.

So what’s your thought on this….in theory its our organization….and with only four people here seemingly interested how do we raise this issue to all the members of AARP?

Honored Social Butterfly

Here is the SSA Office of the Chief Actuary and their analysis of the recently proposed legislation entitled  "You Earned It, You Keep It Act of 2022".

 

Since these taxes on benefits are directly deposited into the Social Security Trust Funds & Medicare HI (Part A) Trust Funds, they are helping these Trust Funds to stay solvent for longer.  Since the Trust Funds at present cannot do without these monies, the bill is written that these funds will be replaced by taking money from the US General Fund.

 

Personally, I find this dangerous cause when something like this starts, meaning the combining of General Funds into the Trust Fund earnings revenues, it sets a precedence and one that could be expanded to a point where SS is no longer "an earned benefit".

 

SSA.gov How is Social Security financed? | Press Office | SSA

In 2021, $980.06 billion (90.1 percent) of total Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance income came from payroll taxes. The remainder was provided by interest earnings $70.1 billion (6.4 percent) and revenue from taxation of OASDI benefits $37.6 billion (3.4 percent).

 

It is a small % of Trust Fund revenues but in dollars ($ 37.6 BILLION), it is a lot to pull from the General Fund.  (This is an annual figure - )

 

Like you said, the proposed legislation also expands the earning cap - 

The proposed legislation applies the combined OASDI payroll tax rate on covered earnings above $250,000 paid in 2023 and later; then Tax all covered earnings once the current-law taxable maximum exceeds $250,000. 

 

Now one might think that is lot of new revenue money - but it is not enough to extend the life of the SS Trust Fund past about 25 years because even though several more bend points will be added to the benefits formula - these new contributions will earn a benefit from these highly paid employees.  That's why the earnings cap is there in the 1st place - it directly correlates to the maximum benefit.  So contribute more = a bigger benefit; although progressive in nature.

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Conversationalist

@GailL1 Thanks for providing the Actuary Report. The numbers are difficult to follow and are dynamic as well. The numbers may change depending on which approach is analyzed (i.e., all FIT free to some percentage FIT free). I posted that it does not make financial sense to me to provide higher incomes with tax free SS Benefits. In effect, taxpayers will be subsidizing higher income folks which may or will require an increase in the FIT rates. Second, I would not be worried about whether SS Benefits are an "earned benefit" or not. I am providing a link from the SS website that addresses the concept, "earned benefit". https://www.ssa.gov/history/nestor.html The Supreme Court has already determined that we have no contractual right or property right to SS Benefits even though we paid FICA taxes for many years. Many folks correlate FICA taxes to contributions to an IRA, 401 K, etc. FICA taxes are not contributions to a retirement account. I am sure we all have friends or relatives that did not have a survivor and passed either before beginning SS Benefits or passed shortly thereafter well before receiving their own FICA taxes back. Their beneficiary(s) or estate do not receive any remaining amount of FICA taxes, if any. Moreover, the Federal government via the various agencies receive money (taxes) from the General Fund to pay government pensions (FERS and the  "gold plated" CSRS). As you may already know, the Feds stopped CSRS type employees from participating in the CSRS Plan. The unfunded liability is between $800 billion and $1 Trillion. So, if the SS Program receives some help via the General Fund,it may be between $25 Billion and $40 Billion depending on the provisions of any tax free provision. This is not a huge amount. Although I do not have the dollar amount, I believe the General Fund provides a greater amount to subsidize Medicare Part B. 

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Honored Social Butterfly

@Tonster521 wrote . . . 

. . . .  I would not be worried about whether SS Benefits are an "earned benefit" 

==========================

I only said that so that many people here would understand how money from the General Fund going into the SS Trust Funds could open a can of worms to some action down the road.  Especially if the amount is tied to nothing tangible - The amount to be replaced in this proposed legislation is an undetermined amount - may start out as the amount that is currently being collected in these taxes on benefits - as you say, $ 25 - $ 40 Billion - $ 37.6 Billion in 2021 or 3.6 % of the total SS revenues collected - but what about down the road - they could take more.  

All I am saying here is that co-mingling funds of General Funds with these Trust Funds is dangerous IMO - especially if it is open-ended and not specifically described in the law - as Medicare Part B is - 25%:75%.  

 

I will stick to my previous post - Social Security - Fix it !

This uses the KISS doctrine - Fix the program financially as it is currently set up and once that is done - then IF people want to add benefits or change revenues - we figure out where the increases in revenues necessary will come from and apply it to the (whatever) changes.

 

We cannot keep adding things or changing revenue sources until the basic program as it stands today is FIXED - because if not, come about 2034 - we will all take a 20-25% cut in benefits AUTOMATICALLY based on the law.

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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Periodic Contributor

You may be correct, but this bill is a starting point and I still have my original question; how can the AARP membership get the leadership to take a position on a legislative initiative and possibly advocate for it?  Is there anyway to get their attention?   

Honored Social Butterfly

Speaking just for myself, I think AARP's and other Senior Advocate groups have a specific mission - This one, IMO, would be outside their particular circle and mission.

Yes, they do support or not specific legislation that is supposed to help some seniors - but they seem to be more direct in nature and more targeted as to those in the greatest need or advocating for a wider net.

 

Since this is a proposal that will reduce the revenues of the current program and raise what somebody else will pay, which does have to be made up - whether seniors of greater means, payroll taxes, the populace as a whole in income taxes then to me, it may help some but it hurts others financially.

 

Like i said - I think this particular proposed legislation was ill thought out.  And again, we need to fix the current system of SS as it stands now FINANCIALLY.  Once that is done, ask for other changes - increased benefits, a change in taxes on benefits, whatever - and then it will be clearer and more direct as to where the money for any changes will come from - 

 

The role of AARP in advocacy positions is to produce data that can substantiate their position for or against some proposed legislation that at least gets off the ground somehow.  Most don't.  They also lobby thru various firms.

AARP’s mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

AARP.org Advocacy - Politics & Society

Try this one:  National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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Periodic Contributor

I couldn’t disagree more with your position. When the Fed was starving seniors too death with zero percent interest rates for 14 years I didn’t notice any of the endlessly poor raising their voices in support of us. Nor did I notice anyone at AARP or in mass media monotony even bringing up the subject of how how 50 million + seniors were being annihilated by this financial terrorism. Guaranteed Incomes are okay? Cancellation of $25 Billion in student loans is okay? $20 Trillion in Welfare over the last 50 years is okay? $100 Billion in PPP fraud is okay? But eliminating what is in essence double taxation on miserable mandatory investment that has been mis-managed for the last 30 years is not? 

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Conversationalist

@GailL1 I believe it would be difficult for AARP to produce data that will substantiate a position either for or against the elimination of income taxes on SS Benefits. There are higher income folks that can easily pay income tax on SS Benefits whereas with lower income folks, paying income taxes creates a financial hardship. I believe about 56% of SS Beneficiaries are incurring income taxes on their SS Benefits. IMO, both groups need to be determined and taxation either eliminated or continued, accordingly. Although the initial projection ($37.6 Billion) is less than 1% of Gross Tax Revenue (2021 tax revenue of $4.1 Trillion), eliminating income tax "carte blanche" for all SS Beneficiaries is, as you said, ill thought. I think this link will help readers understand the amounts of tax revenue that is available https://www.irs.gov/statistics/soi-tax-stats-irs-data-book#:~:text=During%20Fiscal%20Year%20(FY)%202...). It should be noted that for 2021, the General Account refunded/paid out about $586 Billion for Economic Impact Payments and Advanced Child Tax Credits which about 15 times greater than the $37.6 Billion estimated in this Bill. If this Bill is approved as is, higher income folks will be subsidized by the General Account which is funded by all taxpayers. Do higher income folks need another subsidized tax deduction? It is the lower income folks that need help and the tax deduction. Because the initial thresholds are almost 40 years old and the economics of today have changed dramatically from 1983 and 1993, more lower income folks are incurring tax liability on their SS Benefits due to smaller gains in income and/or inflation. There have been many articles written and maybe some legislation drafted in the past that discusses taxation of SS benefits, but as you know nothing has happened. I am adding another link from the SS website that addresses taxation of SS Benefits.https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/issuepapers/ip2015-02.html  IMO, the transfer of money from the General Account is not dangerous. In the past when there was surplus FICA tax revenue, the Treasury used/kept such surplus in the General Account and credited the SS Trust Account with a Special Treasury security. Currently, those debits and credits total about $2.8 Trillion. As I understand the accounting, the Treasury has a General Account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and all Treasury activity including SS Benefits is either a debit or credit on that account. IMO, adjusting the existing thresholds will provide some economic help (eliminate income taxes) for the lower income folks which should be subsidized by the General Account. I would think about this just like the EIP and ACTC. 

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Periodic Contributor

Back to the key issue. Whether AARP wants to take a stand on this or not its obviously of importance to a large number of senior citizens most of whom are not even aware of this recent legislation. And whether we agree or not why not leave it up to each individual to act on it as they choose. So why is it that AARP refuses to include this in one of their newsletters with a neutral position of contact your Representative about HR 8717 if you choose to? It doesn't cost AARP anything. 

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