Are a child’s Social Security benefits taxed?

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Q. My wife of 30 years died suddenly on Sept. 1. We have a 15-year-old daughter. I was able to get her Social Security survivor benefits of about $1,700 a month until she’s 18 or graduates high school. Does she have to submit a regular 1040 tax form? She doesn’t have any other earnings.
— Dad

A. We’re sorry to hear about your wife.

A child won’t generally receive enough additional income to make the child’s Social Security benefits taxable, said Martin Hauptman, a partner in the trusts/estates and taxation groups at Mandelbaum Salsburg in Roseland.

He said the taxability of benefits must be determined using the income of the person entitled to receive the benefits.

“If you and your child both receive benefits, you should calculate the taxability of your benefits separately from the taxability of your child’s benefits,” Hauptman said. “The amount of income tax that your child must pay on that part of the benefits that belongs to your child depends on the child’s total amount of income and benefits for the taxable year.”

Hauptman said to find whether any of your child’s benefits may be taxable, you can compare the base amount for the child’s filing status with the total of one-half of the child’s benefits plus all of the child’s other income, including tax-exempt interest.

If the child is single, he said, the base amount for the child’s filing status is $25,000.

“If the total of one-half of the child’s Social Security benefits and all the child’s other income is greater than the base amount that applies to the child’s filing status, part of the child’s Social Security benefits may be taxable,” Hauptman said.

But if your child has no other income as you said, she should be free of taxes.

Even if no tax is owed, a return may need to be filed. Most people do file if their gross income is larger than a combination of standard deduction and a personal exemption.

We recommend you check with your tax preparer to be sure for your specific situation.

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This post was first published in January 2018. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.