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Ask the Expert: More questions about Social Security benefits

I'm retired, living in New York and collecting Social Security. I plan on moving to Florida, which has no state income tax. Does my withholding stop on Social Security, or will the state withholding continue because I initially signed up in New York?

New York State doesn't tax Social Security benefits. If some of your benefit is withheld, it's to cover federal income tax, which of course also applies in Florida. But you can ask Social Security to stop withholding money from your benefit for taxes anytime you wish.

You've written that a surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the Social Security benefit amount the deceased spouse was collecting. Does that 100% survivor benefit depend on when the survivor collected their own benefit? I'm thinking of a scenario where the lower-earning spouse collects Social Security at age 62, while the larger-earning spouse waits until age 70.

Let's flesh out your scenario with an example.

Amy starts collecting her Social Security benefit at age 62. Bob waits until he's 70 to file for Social Security. Will Amy be entitled to collect a 100% widow's benefit when Bob dies, even though she applied early for her own benefit?

The answer is yes, if she doesn't apply for the widow's benefit until she reaches her own full retirement age (FRA). The fact that she collected her own benefit before reaching her FRA won't affect her survivor benefit.

A special rule allows surviving spouses to take their own benefit early and switch to a larger survivor benefit after reaching their FRA. They can also do the opposite: take an early (less than 100%) survivor benefit, and later switch to their own full benefit if it's a larger amount.

The bottom line

Surviving spouses have options other Social Security recipients do not.

More information

ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/ifyou.html

ssa.gov/benefits/survivors

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to act2@newsday.com. 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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