Can You Receive Social Security Benefits if You Retire Abroad?

If you are considering retiring abroad, one of your biggest concerns may be receiving your Social Security benefits–and rightfully so! David McKeegan, Co-Founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services, answers one veteran’s question about whether or not expats are eligible to receive Social Security benefits when living overseas.


Hi, everybody. My name is David McKeegan. I’m with Greenback Expat Tax Services, and our question today is, “I’m a veteran considering retiring abroad. Will I still receive Social Security overseas?” The answer is yes, as long as you aren’t living in one of the countries where Social Security cannot be sent. Those countries are Azerbazan, Belarus, Cuba, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and a handful of other ones.

Have a look at the Social Security website if you need to know the specific countries, but that list will give you a bit of an idea about what countries are not included in places where you can receive Social Security. It’s also important to know if the country you plan on retiring in is one of the 24 countries that have a tax treaty with the US. If so, your Social Security payments may not be taxed by the host country or the country you’re living in.

You should also know that if you have other income, your Social Security payments may be taxed by the US Government. For 2014, a married couple filing jointly with a combined income under $32,000 won’t pay income tax on their benefits, and that’s $25,000 for a single filer. However, if the combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000, then up to 50% of the Social Security benefit can be taxed at ordinary income rates, and that’s $25,000 to $34,000 for a single filer.

If your income exceeds $44,000 a year, or $34,000 a year for single filer, then up to 85% of the benefit may be taxed, so you’re losing a lot of your Social Security there if you have income over $44,000 as a married couple filing jointly. Now the current tax code prevents taxation of anything more than 85% of your Social Security income, and notice this isn’t an 85% tax rate, it’s 85% of your benefit can be taxed.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions, please let us know and, as always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.

Want more information about retiring?

Download our free US expat tax guide for Americans retiring abroad for a detailed look at all the expat tax information you need to enjoy your retirement overseas!