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Windfall Elimination Provision

SSA Publication No. 05-10045, January 2008, ICN 460275 [View .pdf Get Accessible Adobe Acrobat Reader (En EspaƱol)



Your Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be reduced   Skip contents links
When your benefits may be affected
Why a different formula is used
How does it work?
Some exceptions...
...and a guarantee
Contacting Social Security


Your Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be reduced

If you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, the pension you get based on that work may reduce your Social Security benefits.

The Windfall Elimination Provision affects how the amount of your retirement or disability benefit is calculated if you receive a pension from work where Social Security taxes were not taken out of your pay. A modified formula is used to calculate your benefit amount, resulting in a lower Social Security benefit than you otherwise would receive.

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When your benefits may be affected

The Windfall Elimination Provision primarily affects you if you earned a pension in any job where you did not pay Social Security taxes and you also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a retirement or disability benefit.

For example, this provision affects Social Security ­benefits when any part of a person’s federal service after 1956 is covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). However, federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld (Federal Employees’ Retirement System or CSRS Offset) will not reduce your Social Security benefit amounts.

The Windfall Elimination Provision may apply if:

  • You reached 62 after 1985; or
  • You became disabled after 1985; and
  • You first became eligible for a monthly pension based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes after 1985, even if you are still working.


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Why a different formula is used

Social Security benefits are intended to replace only a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement earnings. The way Social Security benefit amounts are figured, lower-paid workers get a higher return than highly paid workers. For example, lower-paid workers could get a Social Security benefit that equals about 55 percent of their pre-retirement earnings. The average replacement rate for highly paid workers is about 25 percent.

Before 1983, people who worked mainly in a job not covered by Social Security had their Social Security benefits calculated as if they were long-term, low-wage workers. They had the advantage of receiving a Social Security benefit representing a higher percentage of their earnings, plus a pension from a job where they did not pay Social Security taxes. Congress passed the Windfall Elimination Provision to remove that advantage.


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How does it work?

Social Security benefits are based on the worker’s average monthly earnings adjusted for inflation. We separate your average earnings into three amounts and multiply the amounts using three factors. For example, for a worker who turns 62 in 2008, the first $711 of average monthly earnings is multiplied by 90 percent; the next $3,577 by 32 ­percent; and the remainder by 15 percent. The sum of the three amounts equals the total monthly payment amount.

The 90 percent factor is reduced in the modified formula and phased in for workers who reached age 62 or became disabled between 1986 and 1989. For those who reach 62 or became disabled in 1990 or later, the 90 percent factor is reduced to 40 percent.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the 90 percent factor is not reduced if you have 30 or more years of “substantial” earnings in a job where you paid Social Security taxes. See the first table that lists the amount of substantial earnings for each year.

The second table shows the percentage used depending on the number of years of substantial earnings. If you have 21 to 29 years of substantial earnings, the 90 percent factor is reduced to between 45 and 85 percent.

To see the maximum amount your benefit could be reduced, visit


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Year Substantial
1937-50 $ 900
1951-54    900
1955-58 1,050
1959-65 1,200
1966-67 1,650
1968-71 1,950
1972 2,250
1973 2,700
1974 3,300
1975 3,525
1976 3,825
1977 4,125
1978 4,425
1979 4,725
1980 5,100
1981 5,550
1982 6,075
1983 6,675
1984 7,050
1985 7,425
1986 7,875
1987 8,175
1988 8,400
1989 8,925
1990 9,525
1991 9,900
1992 10,350
1993 10,725
1994 11,250
1995 11,325
1996 11,625
1997 12,150
1998 12,675
1999 13,425
2000 14,175
2001 14,925
2002 15,750
2003 16,125
2004 16,275
2005 16,725
2006 17,475
2007 18,150
2008 18,975

Years of substantial
30 or more 90 percent
29 85 percent
28 80 percent
27 75 percent
26 70 percent
25 65 percent
24 60 percent
23 55 percent
22 50 percent
21 45 percent
20 or less 40 percent

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Some exceptions...

The Windfall Elimination Provision does not apply to survivors benefits. It also does not apply if:

  • You are a federal worker first hired after December 31, 1983;
  • You were employed on December 31, 1983, by a nonprofit organization that did not withhold Social Security taxes from your pay at first, but then began withholding Social Security taxes from your pay;
  • Your only pension is based on railroad employment;
  • The only work you did where you did not pay Social Security taxes was before 1957; or
  • You have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
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... and a guarantee

If you get a relatively low pension, you are protected. The reduction in your Social Security benefit cannot be more than one-half of the amount of your pension based on your earnings after 1956 on which you did not pay Social Security taxes.

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Contacting Social Security

Our website is a valuable resource for information about all of Social Security’s programs. There are a number of things you can do online.

In addition to using our website, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. (You can use our automated response system to tell us a new address or request a replacement Medicare card.) If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

We treat all calls confidentially. We also want to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some telephone calls.


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