Social Security Set to Eliminate Retirement Benefit Pay-Back Option

A little-known strategy that allows Social Security recipients to boost their income by repaying retirement benefits received in earlier years and then claiming a bigger monthly retirement check based on their greater age may soon disappear. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is moving to eliminate the do-over strategy. If the agency gets its way, the rule could take effect within months. If you or someone you know might benefit from the payback strategy, now is the time to consider it and come to a decision. Putting it off could mean letting the government make the decision for you — by eliminating the opportunity. Retirees can collect Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but monthly payments are reduced by 25 percent compared with what they would be if claimed at full retirement age, which is 66 for those who claim benefits this year. Those who are willing to wait past age 66 can boost their benefits by 8 percent for every year they delay, up to age 70, increasing annual benefits to 132 percent of their base amount. In 2007, about 500 people — out of more than 37 million retirees and their dependents receiving benefits — took advantage of the payback option. By 2009, the number had nearly doubled as more retirees learned how they could repay their benefits, interest- and penalty-free, and restart them at a higher level. As a bonus, those who repay benefits can claim a tax credit or a tax deduction — whichever results in a bigger tax break — for any income taxes paid on the benefits as they received them.

Source: Washington Post (August 29, 2010)