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Ask the Expert: Medicare Part B premiums and tax returns

I'm 62 and will take Social Security in four years at 66½. I'm wondering how much will be deducted from my benefit for Medicare Part B. I've read that if my wife and I file our taxes married/separate, it could cost us a huge Part B premium forever more. In 2018, we filed separately for the first time. Was that stupid?

Not to worry. Annual Medicare Part B premiums are normally based on the tax return you filed two years earlier. Your 2018 return might affect your 2020 premiums. But if you're 62, you won't start on Medicare until 2022. Your 2022 premium will be based on your 2020 return. You can change your filing status that year.

In 2019, Part B costs $135.50 a month for individual taxpayers, for married taxpayers filing separately whose income is $85,000 or less, and for married taxpayers filing jointly whose income is $170,000 or less.

People with higher income pay monthly premiums ranging from $189.60 to $460.50 per month, depending on their income and their filing status. The highest premium — $460.50 a month — is paid by individuals with income of $500,000 or more, by joint filers with income of $750,000 or more, and by people who are married filing separately with income of $415,000 or more.

An important footnote for other readers: If your 2019 Medicare premium has risen because you reported higher income on your 2017 tax return, but your situation has significantly changed since then — because you've married or divorced, for example, or you've stopped working, or work fewer hours — you can ask the Social Security Administration for a premium adjustment.

The bottom line

Your annual Medicare Part B premium is usually based on the information reported on your tax return two years earlier.

More information

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday, 6 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747, or email Include your name, address and phone numbers. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own consultants for your specific needs.

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