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New Deemed Filing Rules

deemed filingWhen the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was passed, there were a few changes made to Social Security rules. One of the rules that changed significantly is the deemed filing rule.

The old deemed filing rule

The current or old deemed filing rule works as follows:

When an individual who is under Full Retirement Age (FRA) is eligible for a spousal benefit in addition to a benefit based upon his or her own record files for either benefit, he or she is deemed to have filed for all benefits that he or she is eligible for at that time.

At any other time (other than the time of application for benefits) deemed filing does not apply.

For example, Anna and John are both nearing 62 years of age. Anna has a PIA (FRA benefit) of $800, and John has a PIA of $2,000. Anna is planning to file for her own benefit when she reaches 62. If John files for his benefit before Anna, deemed filing will require Anna to file not only for her own benefit but also for the spousal benefit, since she’s under FRA and she’s eligible for the spousal benefit.

On the other hand, if John had not already filed for his benefit, Anna can only file for her own benefit. Later, when John files for his own benefit, Anna has the option to file for spousal benefits, but is not required to. Deemed filing only applies upon the first month of entitlement, the month that your benefit first begins. If Anna wishes, she can delay filing for the spousal benefit in order to increase the amount of spousal benefits she can receive.

It may seem trivial, but in the example above where Anna has the choice to delay, it can mean a difference of $100 per month. If deemed filing applies, Anna will have $700 per month in benefits from her filing date through the rest of her life; if she delays filing for the spousal benefit, beginning at FRA she could receive $800 per month.

In addition, if Anna delayed filing for any benefit until she was at least FRA, then deemed filing would not apply to her at all, regardless of whether John had filed for his benefits. This would allow Anna to, at FRA, file an application for spousal benefits only, which is known as a Restricted Application. In doing so, she could receive spousal benefits while accruing delay credits on her own benefit.

The new deemed filing rule

The law in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15) changed the deemed filing so that it applies at any age, including after FRA. This means that the Restricted Application option is no longer available. The new deemed filing rule applies to anyone born on or after January 2, 1954.

So back to our example – assuming that Anna and John were born after January 2, 1954 – Anna can still file for her own benefit at age 62. If John has already filed, deemed filing applies as it did in the past. But if John has not filed for his benefit and then he files for his benefit, say 3 months later, Anna will be forced to take the spousal benefit at that time. This is due to the fact that she 1) has filed for benefits, and 2) she’s eligible for a spousal benefit, by virtue of the fact that John has filed for his benefit.

This takes away the planning strategy detailed earlier which would allow Anna to choose between receiving $700 now or $800 at FRA. She can only take the $700 now.

More significantly, if Anna had delayed until her FRA, under the new deemed filing rule, if she wants to file for benefits at FRA (or any age) she must file for all benefits which she is eligible for – in other words, no Restricted Application is allowed.

Exceptions to the new deemed filing rule

There are a few exceptions to the deemed filing rule, listed below:

  • If Anna (from our example above) is under FRA and is receiving a spousal benefit based upon the child-in-care rule, meaning that she and John have child who is under age 16 and John has applied for benefits. If this is the way that Anna is receiving spousal benefits, deemed filing does not apply to Anna. When she reaches FRA or the child reaches age 16, Anna is no longer eligible for the child-in-care benefit; any benefit that she applies for will be subject to deemed filing.
  • Likewise, if Anna was receiving a disability benefit (under FRA), deemed filing would not apply. Upon reaching FRA, Anna’s disability benefit will automatically switch over to a retirement benefit, and if she’s eligible for spousal benefits at that time, deemed filing will require her to receive the spousal benefit at that time.
  • Deemed filing also doesn’t apply to survivor benefits. If John had died before Anna reached age 62, Anna could still file for her own benefit at 62 and then delay receiving survivor benefits until they are maximized at her FRA.

15 Comments

  1. Debbie says:

    I am thinking the paragraph below (last paragraph in the article) will apply to me, but can you confirm?
    My ex-spouse died when we were 47 and we were married more than 10 years. I have my own SS benefit and am thinking of applying for my own benefits at 62 and working part time, then switching to survivor benefit at age 65 or 66 when that benefit will be more robust.

    “”Deemed filing also doesn’t apply to survivor benefits. If John had died before Anna reached age 62, Anna could still file for her own benefit at 62 and then delay receiving survivor benefits until they are maximized at her FRA.””

    Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that paragraph does seem to apply to your situation. You should be able to file with the strategy you’ve outlined.

  2. Mary says:

    This is one of the most clear explanations of the new rules, though I need to ensure I understand fully. I am 57, lower earner, FRA of 66 yrs 10 mos; husband is 53, much higher earner, and FRA of 67. Definitely want to wait till age 70 for him to file (partly for survivor “insurance”). The big question is when I should file for my own benefits, and how to plan for possible spousal benefits.

    Do I understand correctly that I may not file for spousal until he has filed (I’ll be 74 when he’s 70). So…deemed filing won’t coming into play if he hasn’t yet filed when I first file for my own benefits? And when he does file, at that point I can choose to file for spousal benefits?

    And on a separate note, do I understand correctly that my spousal benefits will never be higher than 1/2 of his at his FRA of age 67 (vs. age 70)? I had all this worked out under the old rules, and now I’m trying to alter the planning to ensure we aren’t caught up short! Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      You are correct that you will not be eligible for spousal benefits until your husband has filed. This benefit will be 50% of his PIA (his age 67 benefit). If your own benefit is something more than that amount, you will not receive a spousal benefit at all.

      Keep in mind that annual COLAs (cost of living adjustments) will be applied to all of these benefits, so the amounts in question will change over time.

  3. Fritche says:

    My husband is 67 and I’m 58. I would like to retire at 62 so I can spend time with my husband what do you recommend?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I have to imagine your husband is a nice enough fellow to spend time with, so I think you should go for it. ;)

      Sorry – just being a bit of a smart-alec there. I don’t understand what you’re asking me. If you can elaborate, I’ll try to help.

  4. David S. says:

    This is a great clarification. I’m still wondering about my specific situation: I was born before 1954, so I can still make a restricted application. My wife was born after 1954, and she turns 62 a month before I turn 66. She would get more from the spousal benefit than from her own. If my wife applies first at 62, she will receive her own benefit. If I then make a restricted application for spousal benefits at 66, would that have any effect on my wife’s benefit? In other words, I’m hoping she won’t be forced to take the spousal benefit since I wouldn’t have applied for my own benefit yet, and I can continue to accumulate delayed retirement credits while taking the spousal benefit. Is this correct? Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You filing a restricted application for spousal benefits will have no effect on your wife’s benefit – deemed filing will only apply to her when you file for your own benefit, not the spousal benefit.

      1. David S. says:

        Thanks again for the great info. One more clarification, if I may: in the situation above, I understand that if my wife collects her own benefit at 62, that reduces her own benefit. Can you please address whether her having filed for her own benefit at 62 will also reduce her spousal benefit – assuming she applies for the spousal benefit about 4 years later when I file for my own benefit at 70?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Technically her spousal benefit is not reduced, but you need to understand how the benefits work in order to understand why she will not receive 50% of your PIA under those circumstances.

          When a person’s own benefit is reduced from early filing, the reduction follows all of her benefits that she would receive later (except for survivor benefits). So if her own benefit was reduced by $200 and the full spousal benefit is $1,200 (half of your PIA, just example figures) then her resulting benefit would be $1,000 – the $200 reduction is applied.

  5. George Williams says:

    My wife and I will turn 66 in June and July respectively. We both stopped working at 63, and my wife started collecting social security. Her FRA benefit is about a third of mine. I had planned to file and suspend before the rule changes. If I submit a restricted application for spousal benefits at 66 the amount I would collect would be similar to the increase my wife would have collected if we were able to do a file and suspend. When I called Social Security to discuss this strategy I was told I had to be working. I have read a lot of information regarding these changes, and I have not found anything that states I have to still be working. I’d appreciate if you can you clear this up for me.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your employment status has nothing to do with your ability to file a restricted application. Call back and get a different operator.

  6. Bill says:

    Thank you Jim for clearing this up. I will pass this on (if they haven’t already read it here).

  7. Bill says:

    You have been a great help to us in how we are going to take our SS. Thank you. We do have questions that may have been addressed, but we have overlooked. A couple we know, he is 67 and has filed and suspended and will work until age 70 when he begins SS benefits. She (retired) will be 66 in May but took her SS early (less than 12 months ago) and will take her spousal benefit when he turns 70. Her PIA is less than 50% of his. My suggestion to them was for her to wait and take her spousal benefit starting in May for the rest of her life or until he dies, but they were told at the SS office that she could not file for a restricted application or a spousal benefit as long as he continues to work. Is this true? Another couple we know has received the same response from the same SS office. If this is not true, could she receive a reduced spousal benefit in May or “Do-Over” now and receive an unreduced spousal benefit in May? Your help is much appreciated.

    1. jblankenship says:

      The fact that the husband is working has no bearing on the situation. If he has filed and suspended, she is eligible for a reduced spousal benefit now, or she could (as you suggest) pay back what she’s received to date and withdraw her application, wait until May and begin receiving the unreduced spousal benefit.

      She could also just wait until May and begin receiving a slightly larger benefit (but not the full 50%) as a spousal excess addition to her current benefit.

      jb

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