Once you have retired, assuming you are only living off a government pension and 401k, 457 and IRA savings do you still have to pay social security taxes and medicare taxes?

I usually see these taxes withheld when earning income from a job.

I don't know if drawing from accounts works the same way and I was wondering if pensions for example from the City of New York are taxed differently than regular income?

Do the answers to these questions depend on where you live (assuming its within the United States)?

  • 1
    If you don't know already, you may have to pay taxes on your social security benefits and you will have to pay medicare premiums if you sign up for parts b, c, or d.
    – mkennedy
    Apr 30, 2023 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


IRS Definition of Earned Income:

For the year you are filing, earned income includes all income from employment, but only if it is includable in gross income.

Examples of earned income are:

  • wages
  • salaries
  • tips
  • other taxable employee compensation
  • net earnings from self-employment

Earned income does not include amounts such as pensions and annuities, welfare benefits, unemployment compensation, worker's compensation benefits, or social security benefits.

  • Technically this definition applies to EITC, for the purpose of FICA and SE taxes there are different definitions. But that's semantics, functionally your answer describes what in most cases would be called "earned income".
    – littleadv
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:51
  • True. I thought it would be helpful in this conversation as an overview. Amazing how specific some terms are, like Modified AGI - defined in different contexts so many different ways!
    – C.S.
    Apr 28, 2023 at 19:48

I usually see these taxes withheld when earning income from a job.

Not usually, always. These taxes are on earned income and are either paid as withholdings for salaried employees or as part of Schedule SE taxes for self-employed individuals. For people with high enough earnings there's additional 0.9% medicare tax on income over $200K ($250K for MFJ).

If you have no earned income then you don't pay these taxes. These are Federal taxes, so it doesn't matter where in the US you live (in some cases you won't pay them on earned income if you don't live in the US at all, but are still a US taxpayer).

  • so since taking distributions from non roth accounts qualifies as income will these taxes be taken the normal way from them? Apr 28, 2023 at 1:19
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    @SidharthGhoshal these are not income taxes. Please read the answer again.
    – littleadv
    Apr 28, 2023 at 1:24
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    @SidharthGhoshal why would you believe that withdrawals from 401k are earned income? Earned income is income paid to you as compensation for personal services, your 401k plan is not paying you for any services.
    – littleadv
    Apr 28, 2023 at 1:33
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    @SidharthGhoshal, payroll taxes are withheld when you earn the income; look at your most recent W2--boxes 3 & 5 will show the amount of income on which payroll taxes (social security, medicare) were withheld; box 1 the amount (lower if you have a pre-tax deductions, such as 401k contributions) on which income taxes were withheld. Apr 28, 2023 at 9:00
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    @SidharthGhoshal you're not asking about income taxes though, you're asking about FICA taxes (social security and medicare contributions). These taxes are paid when the money is earned. I.e.: you already paid your social security and medicare taxes on the amounts you contributed to 401k or IRA (but you may have deferred the income tax).
    – littleadv
    Apr 21 at 19:02

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