Is survivor annuity taxable?


Q. Are survivor annuities paid to surviving spouse taxable? Distribution code on 1099-R is 4-Death Benefit and no federal income taxes were withheld.

A. Yes, they are. However, if there are any unexpended retirement contributions in the late spouse’s account, a portion of the annuity would be tax-free. For more information, go to


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to


  1. I read an article on line stating that suvivor annuities were not taxable. I am an 85 year old widow also receiving a pension and a small social security check. In my situation are suvivor annuities taxable.

  2. Caroll Peacock on

    It is clear to me that my mother’s social security is not taxable but I am not sure about her death benefit survivor annuity. Does it have to exceed a certain amount to be taxed? No taxes are withheld. Does that mean it isn’t taxable?

    • Both her Social Security benefit and her survivor annuity are taxable. However, the amount of that tax will vary from individual to individual. To find out how your mother’s benefits will be taxed, go to and read Publication 721.

  3. Why would they not give you an option to have taxes withheld if a survivor annuity it taxable??? What a huge shock that I owe $6000.00!

    • Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I was out of the country when you email arrived and I just got home yesterday, In answer to your question, here’s what OPM had to say: “Once the survivor benefit has been finalized, the “Your Federal Survivor Benefits” booklet is sent to the survivor, and it includes information about Federal taxes and how they can be withheld.” Didn’t you get a copy of that publication?

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