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Can I stop Social Security and go back to work?

Yes. If you claimed Social Security retirement benefits within the previous 12 months, you can apply for a “withdrawal of benefits.” You will have to repay what you have received so far, and Social Security will treat your application for early benefits as if it never happened.

You can apply to withdraw benefits with Social Security form SSA-521. Send or hand-deliver the completed form to your local Social Security office. Once Social Security approves your withdrawal, you have 60 days to change your mind and retract the withdrawal request.

What if that one-year window has closed? You can no longer withdraw from benefits, but when you reach full retirement age, you can voluntarily suspend your retirement benefits. That will have the effect of earning you delayed retirement credits, which will ultimately increase your Social Security payment when you resume collecting benefits (which you must do by age 70).

You can request a suspension by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visiting your local office. 

[Editor’s note: Local Social Security offices are currently closed to walk-in visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Social Security services are available online and by phone. If you have a "dire need situation" regarding your benefits or need to update information attached to your Social Security number, such as your name or citizenship status, you may be able to schedule an in-person appointment. See Social Security's coronavirus page or call your local office for more information.]

Keep in mind

  • When Social Security says you must “repay benefits,” it means not just what you’ve received but any payments to your spouse and children. They must consent in writing to your application for withdrawal.
  • Your repayment also must include any voluntary tax for a closed tax year — that is, money Social Security withheld from your benefit and paid to the Internal Revenue Service on your behalf.
  • You can only withdraw benefits once in your lifetime.

Updated October 23, 2020

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