Frequently Asked Questions

Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits Taxable?

Workers' compensation benefits in Pennsylvania are not considered taxable income. For federal income tax purposes, workers’ compensation awarded under a workers’ compensation act or statute due to work-related sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you throughout every step of the process. As soon as an injury occurs, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney. 

Is there an exception to the tax-exempt status? 

If the injured worker receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in addition to workers’ compensation, he or she may end up paying taxes. If your workers' comp and SSDI benefits exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings before you became disabled, then you would experience an offset.

The taxable amount of your workers' comp benefits would be equivalent to the amount that Social Security reduces your SSDI payments. For example, if your SSDI benefits were reduced by $300, then $300 of your workers' comp benefits are now taxable.

Most people who receive both workers' comp and SSDI benefits do not have enough to owe federal taxes. 

What are average current earnings?

Your average current earnings are determined using a formula from the Social Security Administration. The sum is typically calculated as:

  • the average monthly wage used to calculate your benefits, OR
  • one-sixtieth of your total wages for your highest-earning five consecutive years, OR
  • one-twelfth of your total wages from your highest-earning year out of the preceding five 

The formula the Social Security Administration will use to determine your average current earnings depends on your individual circumstances.

Examples of a workers' comp offset

Susan’s average current earnings amount to $3,000. She qualifies for $2,000 in SSDI benefits and receives $800 per month in workers’ compensation. Her total benefits equal $2800 per month.

She would experience an offset because her total monthly benefits exceed 80 percent of her average current earnings (80 percent of $3,000 = $2,400). In most states, Susan’s SSDI benefits would be reduced by $400 so that she does not exceed 80 percent of her average current earnings ($2,800-$2,400= $400).

Susan would be taxed on $400 of her $800 per month workers’ comp benefits because her SSDI benefits were reduced by $400. Her final totals would be $800 in workers’ comp ($400 of which would be taxable) and $1600 in SSDI benefits.

Returning to work and taxation 

Some injured workers have the ability to return to work on a light duty job. For example, if a police officer broke his leg and suffered severe bruising while on patrol, he may be able to return to work at a desk job. The police officer can still collect workers’ compensation benefits and wages while performing light duty. Any wages received from the job would be taxable. The workers’ compensation benefits would not be taxed.

Can a workers' compensation attorney help me reduce my taxable income?

An experienced workers' compensation attorney can structure your workers' comp settlement in a way that minimizes any offsets to your benefits and reduces your taxable income. Most people do not have to pay taxes on their workers' compensation payments, but other forms of income may impact your taxable income.

It can beneficial to contact an attorney to see how SSDI or other benefits could affect your workers' compensation payments. 

Can A Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help Me Reduce My Taxable Income? 

Yes, and a workers’ compensation attorney can help you throughout every step of the process. Moreover, an experienced workers' compensation attorney may be able to structure your workers' compensation settlement in a way that minimizes the offset and reduces your taxable income. Thus, while a portion of your workers' comp may considered taxable income, in practice the taxes paid on workers' comp are usually small or non-existent.

As soon as an injury occurs, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney. There may be a lot of confusing and misleading information provided by the insurance company, and an attorney can ensure that your rights are protected. There is no fee unless your case is won. All fees must be approved by a judge.

You can also contact an attorney if your employer/insurance company attempts to stop or modify your workers’ compensation benefits.

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