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Howard Kossover: Earnings test results go by calendar year

Q: If I retire this May, will this year’s earnings count against my 2013 Social Security retirement benefits?

     A: This is about the annual earnings test, also called the retirement test, and how calendar year earnings affect Social Security payable for that year.

     Earnings test amounts vary on whether you are under full retirement age (FRA) for the entire year, reach FRA during the year, and once you reach FRA.

     Amounts involved usually change each year.

     The earnings test applies to calendar year earnings.

     Many people retiring mid-year have already earned more than their yearly earnings limit.

     For them, there is a special rule for one year, usually the first year of retirement.

     This special rule lets you receive a full Social Security check for any whole month you are retired, regardless of your calendar year earnings.

     The result is that if a person, at least age 62 and otherwise eligible, retires in May, his or her Social Security is payable for the following months despite high earnings before retirement.

     If under full retirement age for all of 2013, you are considered retired in months that your earnings are $1,260 or less and you are not performing substantial services in self-employment.

     If reaching full retirement age in 2013, you are considered retired if monthly earnings are $3,340 or less and you are not performing substantial services in self-employment.

     Self-employment substantial services are based on hours worked and should be discussed with a Social Security representative.

     See the “work after you retire” section of the Social Security retirement planner at for earnings test information and the one-time, special monthly rule.

     The publication “How Work Affects Your Benefits” at will also be helpful.

     Did You Know? Anyone needing to replace a SSA-1099 for 2012 can request a replacement at

     The 1099 will arrive in the mail in about 10 days to your address as shown on SSA records.

     If recently moved, call Social Security to report your new address and request a 1099 at the same time.

                Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at