Tax Breaks for People With Disabilities Who Receive SSDI or SSI Benefits

Tax breaks for the disabled include tax deductions, income exemptions, and tax-advantaged accounts.

By , J.D. · USC Gould School of Law
Updated by Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

A number of tax deductions and exclusions benefit people who are on SSDI or SSI, and they can also gain from a few special rules for tax-advantaged savings and retirement accounts. These deductions and rules are in addition to several tax credits that help recipients of disability benefits.

Special Deductions for People With Disabilities

First we'll look at deductions. A tax deduction reduces your taxable income, so the more deductions you have, the less income you'll have to be taxed, and the less tax you'll have to pay. The amount a deduction will save depends on your top tax rate. For example, if you're in the 12% tax bracket, a $100 deduction will save you $12 in income tax.

Is There a Tax Deduction for Being Disabled?

People with disabilities can benefit from a deduction for money they spend to be able to work, called "impairment-related work expenses," and people with low vision can benefit from a higher standard deduction. In addition, there's a tax credit for the disabled and a disabled dependent tax credit (discussed in our article on tax credits for the disabled).

Impairment-Related Work Expenses Deduction

If you have a disability that limits your ability to work or substantially limits a major life activity, such as walking, breathing, learning, or using your hands, the IRS allows you to deduct your impairment-related work expenses (IRWE) from any employment income or self-employment income.

IRWEs are the costs of disability-related services that you need to do your work. For example, a person who is hard of hearing could deduct the cost of a text telephone or assistive computer software. People with low vision can deduct blindness-related work expenses (BWE), such as the cost of Braille translation of work materials.

If you work as an employee, you can deduct these expenses only if you itemize your personal deductions on IRS Schedule A, instead of taking the standard deduction. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the standard deduction by a large amount, fewer people now claim IRWEs (you should itemize your deductions only if all your personal deductions exceed the standard deduction).

If you do itemize your deductions, you can deduct the full amount of your unreimbursed impairment-related expenses from your income.

If you're self-employed, you can deduct IRWEs as business expenses on IRS Schedule C. IRWEs are deductible in full. They not only reduce your income taxes, but your self-employment (Social Security and Medicare) taxes as well.

Impairment-related work expenses can also be deducted from your income for the purposes of benefits eligibility. The Social Security Administration will consider IRWEs (and blind work expenses, or BWEs) when it assesses whether your work is substantial gainful activity (SGA) and whether your income is above the SSI income limits. In addition, IRWEs will be considered when you're applying for Medicaid or Medicare Part D subsidies.

Larger Standard Deduction for the Blind

If you're blind or have low vision that the IRS counts as blindness, you qualify for a larger "standard deduction."

Who Qualifies for the Standard Deduction for the Blind?

To qualify for the larger standard deduction for blindness, the IRS uses a definition similar to Social Security's requirement for blindness: you must not be able to see better than 20/200 in the better eye with glasses or contact lenses, or your field of vision must be 20 degrees or less.

What Is the Standard Deduction?

The standard deduction is the dollar amount you're allowed to deduct each year to account for personal expenses such as medical expenses, home mortgage interest and property taxes, and charitable contributions. You take the standard deduction instead of totaling up and deducting your actual personal expenses.

The amount you're allowed to deduct depends on your filing status and is adjusted for inflation each year. For instance, for the 2023 tax year, the standard deduction for a single person is $13,850. The standard deduction for a married couple filing a joint tax return is $27,700.

For the 2024 tax year, the standard deduction for a single person is $14,600. The standard deduction for a married couple filing a joint tax return is $29,200.

How Much Is the Blind Standard Deduction?

If you're blind, you get an additional deduction of $1,850 for the 2023 tax year. So if you're single, your standard deduction would be $15,700 for 2023. But if you're blind and married, each spouse who is blind gets only a $1,500 increase, for a total standard deduction of $30,700 for a blind couple in 2023.

The additional standard deduction for blind people increases a bit for the 2024 tax year. And if you're over 65 and blind, you get an even higher standard deduction.

Here are the figures for the 2024 tax year:

Marital Status

Type of Deduction

Amount of Deduction (2024)








Blind senior









Blind senior


If your total income is less than these amounts, you actually don't need to file a tax return to report your income, but you do need to file a tax return to request tax credits.

What Is the Extra Standard Deduction for Seniors?

If you're over 65, you also qualify for the extra standard deduction for seniors over 65. If you're single, you get an additional deduction of $1,850 for the 2023 tax year, and if you're married, each spouse over 65 gets an additional deduction of $1,500 for the 2023 tax year.

What if you're blind and over 65? You can get the additional deductions for both blindness and being over 65.

Exclusions From Income for People With Disabilities

Next, we'll look at exclusions: income that you don't need to include on your tax return.

SSI Benefits Are Excluded From Income Entirely

All of your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are excluded from your income, making them not taxable. You shouldn't include SSI benefits in your income when you prepare your tax return (if you're required to file a return).

SSDI Benefits Are Partly Excluded From Income

You're able to exclude half of your SSDI benefits from your income. And your Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) are partly taxable—and taxable only if you (and your spouse) earn enough income in addition to your benefits.

To know whether you might be subject to income taxes, you have to figure your combined income. To do this, add one-half of the total Social Security benefits you received during the year to all your other income. If your combined income exceeds $25,000 if you're single or $32,000 if you're married, you'll have to pay tax on part of your benefits.

The actual amount of income tax you have to pay on your benefits depends on your top "marginal" tax rate. For most people receiving SSDI, the top rate would be 10% to 22%. Many states also totally or partially exclude SSDI income from state income taxes. For more information, see our articles on federal taxation of Social Security benefits and state taxation of Social Security benefits.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts for People With Disabilities

The IRS has special rules for people with disabilities who need to withdraw money early from their retirement accounts, and also supports a relatively new tax-advantaged savings account for people who were disabled by age 26.

ABLE Accounts for People With Disabilities

ABLE accounts (named for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act) are special tax-advantaged savings accounts for people with disabilities. If you became blind or disabled before age 26, you can establish an ABLE Account, or others can do so on your behalf. (Starting in the year 2026, to qualify to use an ABLE account, you only need to have been disabled before age 46, rather than age 26.)

Contributions to an ABLE account don't affect your eligibility to receive SSI, SNAP (food stamps), or Medicaid benefits, which are usually available only to people with financial assets of $2,000 or less. (But you'll lose your eligibility to receive SSI cash benefits if you happen to save more than $100,000 in your ABLE account.)

Contributions to ABLE accounts aren't federally tax deductible, but some states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia, allow a full or partial deduction against the state income tax.

The money in your ABLE account or any interest it earns isn't taxed. You can withdraw the money in your account at any time tax-free to pay for education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services (such as home health aides), health care expenses, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, and funeral expenses.

For more information on ABLE accounts, see our article on ABLE savings accounts.

Special Retirement Plan Rules for People With Disabilities

Generally, if you take a distribution from a retirement plan before you turn 59 ½, you'll have to pay a penalty of 10% for "early distribution"—in addition to paying regular income tax. Fortunately, individuals with qualifying disabilities get an exception from the 10% early distribution penalty.

The IRS gives a break to people who are totally and permanently disabled and need to take money out of IRAs, 401(k) plans and other qualified plans, or SEP, SIMPLE IRA, and SARSEP plans. For more information, see our article on the disability exception to the early distribution tax.

Updated January 3, 2024

Read on to learn about tax credits for people with disabilities.

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