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Exempt Amounts Under the Earnings Test

Automatic Increases

  Lower exempt amount
  Higher exempt amount

Exempt amounts in 1975-99

Indexed program amounts

How Work Affects Your Benefits

How the earnings test works
The retirement earnings test applies only to people below normal retirement age (NRA), which ranges from age 65 to 67 depending on year of birth. Social Security withholds benefits if your earnings exceed a certain level, called a retirement earnings test exempt amount, and if you are under your NRA. One of two different exempt amounts apply, depending on the year you attain your NRA. These exempt amounts generally increase annually with increases in the national average wage index.

Exempt Amounts for 2008
We determine the exempt amounts using procedures defined in the Social Security Act. For people attaining NRA after 2008, the annual exempt amount in 2008 is $13,560. For people attaining NRA in 2008, the annual exempt amount is $36,120. This higher exempt amount applies only to earnings made in months prior to the month of NRA attainment.

Benefits Withheld When Earnings Exceed Exempt Amounts
We withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings in excess of the lower exempt amount. We withhold $1 in benefits for every $3 of earnings in excess of the higher exempt amount. Earnings in or after the month you reach NRA do not count toward the retirement test.

Annual Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amounts

Year Lower amount 1 Higher amount 2
2000 $10,080 $17,000
2001 10,680 25,000
2002 11,280 30,000
2003 11,520 30,720
2004 11,640 31,080
2005 12,000 31,800
2006 12,480 33,240
2007 12,960 34,440
2008 13,560 36,120
1 Applies in years before the year of attaining NRA.
2 Applies in the year of attaining NRA, for months prior to such attainment.

From 1983-1999 the higher exempt amounts applied at ages 65 through 69, as shown in our historical series of exempt amounts. Portal to U.S. government agencies Privacy Policy  | Website Policies & Other Important Information  | Site Map
Last reviewed or modified Thursday Jul 24, 2008
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