Ask Larry

Does Social Security Pay Up To 6 Months Of Retroactive Benefits If A Person Files Late?

I am doing annual Roth conversions, but staying within my current 22% tax bracket, before I turn 70 (July 2023), about which time I plan to claim SS benefits. If I don't do these conversions, I will be in a higher tax bracket when I start taking RMDs at 72 (I have a pension now + Soc. Sec. @ 70 + a higher RMD @ 72, which will put me permanently in 24% bracket). Does Soc. Sec. pay up to 6 months retroactive benefits if a person files late? My thinking is I delay filing until January 2024, so that I have the entire 2023 tax year with just my pension for income, which means I can do a larger Roth conversion in 2023 up to the top of the 22% bracket. I understand there is no permanent increase in benefits beyond age 70.
I searched the Filing Strategies section to find my scenario, but the closest I found was: "Would there be any difference if I retire in the month I reach age 70 vs. retiring 2 months later?" The answer did not include whether or not benefits are paid retroactively back to the point where he turned 70 (i.e., two months of back pay included in the first check.)
Please advise; thank you.
Forgot to mention in my previous question about retroactive payments if filing late that I am a single male.

Hi. Yes, as long as the person is over their full retirement age (FRA) when they apply. A person can't be paid retroactively for any months prior to the month the reach FRA, but that's not a problem in your case since you're already more than 6 months past your FRA.

So, in your case you could apply for benefits in January 2024 and be paid retroactively for the months July 2023 through December 2023. And, since those benefits would be paid in 2024, the earliest that they could be taxable is on your tax return for the year 2024.

You may want to strongly consider using our Maxifi Planner software ( to analyze and compare all of your various options in order to determine your best overall financial plan.

Best, Jerry

Jul 2 2022 - 10:49am
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