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Taxes for the Self-Employed and Independent Contractors

Self-employed and Independent Contractor Income Tax Information

If you work on your own and you are not an employee, you will pay taxes a little differently than employees do. As a self employed individual, you are required to pay federal incomes taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes on your own, either through quarterly estimated tax payments or when you file your tax return. Taxes must be paid on income as you earn it. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you could be assessed penalties. You must file a tax return if your total self-employment income is a least $400.  This is different compared to if you are an employee and these payments are automatically withheld from your pay and paid for you by your employer.

The easiest and most accurate way to pay self employment taxes with your tax return is to start a free tax return on efile.com. Based on your answers to the tax questions, we will determine whether or not you have to pay self employment taxes and will calculate the amounts. You can then pay them when you file your return and we will also generate estimated tax payment amounts and vouchers that you can use to pay your taxes throughout the year.

Want to know more about being self employed and how it affects your taxes, read on!

Self-Employed Or Employee

You are considered self-employed if you carry on a trade or business (not just a hobby), or you are in business for yourself whether it is full time or part-time.  A self employed person can be a sole proprietorship, an independent contractor or a freelancer. You are considered self employed even if you are paid in cash and do not receive a 1099-MISC.

Here is a quick look at how you are paid being self employed versus as an employee:

Employment Type How Income is Reported How Taxes are Withheld or Paid Possible Forms to Include with Tax Return
Employee Form W-2 Taxes withheld via W-4 Form and paid with tax return if taxes are owed Form 1040
Self-Employed Business Owner

Schedule K-1

Note: Files 1120 business tax return via Schedule K-1 if they have a corporation

Taxes paid via Quarterly Estimated Taxes and paid with tax return if taxes are owed

Form 1040

Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ

Schedule SE

Self-Employed Independent Contractor 1099-MISC or receipts Taxes paid via Quarterly Estimated Taxes and paid with tax return if taxes are owed

Form 1040

Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ

Schedule SE

To be self-employed (business owner or independent contractor) depends on these three factors:

  • Behavioral Control: How does the company or organization for which you work direct and control what work you do and how your work is done (using instructions, training, or other methods)?
  • Financial Control: Who has the right to direct and control the business and financial aspects of your job?
  • Type of Relationship: How do you and the business relate based on your work or job? Are there contracts that describe the working relationship between you and the company? How do these documents characterize your role in the business?

Refer to the chart below to find out how these 3 factors determine if you are self-employed:

Employment Type Behavioral Control Financial Control Type of Relationship

Employee

W-2 Form(s)

 

Company or business controls the work you do and how the work is performed (i.e. what tools to use, what assistants to hire, when to purchase supplies or services). You also receive training and extensive supervision. Company has the right to direct and control all business and financial aspects of the job. Expected to be permanent (or at least relatively long-term). You are also given employee benefits (insurance, pension, paid vacation, and sick pay). The services you provide are a key aspect of the regular business of the company.

Self Employed Business Owner-Schedule K-1 (own a corporation, files 1120 business tax return via Schedule K-1)

OR

Independent Contractor-1099-MISC or receipts

You direct and control your own work. You have the right to direct and control the business and financial aspects of your job. You may also have unreimbursed business expenses, invest in the facilities, equipment, or tools used in performing your job, make your services available to the open market, set your own rate and prices for services, taxes are not withheld from your pay, or have the possibility of incurring a loss. Services you provide are not a key aspect of the regular business of the company. The relationship may not be permanent and the company does not give you employee benefits.

Independent Contractor

You are considered an independent contractor if the person or organization that pays you has the right to direct and control only the result of the work and not what work will be done or how it will be done.

  • Examples of Independent Contractors - Self-employed independent contractors include (but are not limited to): doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, public notaries, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, stonemasons, home remodelers, housecleaners, lawn care providers, babysitters, newscarriers, software developers, web designers, graphic artists, entertainers, guest speakers, truckers, cab drivers, farm workers, interpreters, project managers, hairstylists, salespeople, freelance writers, etc.
  • Independent Contractor Income - Independent contractor income is compensation you receive for doing work or providing services as a self-employed individual, not as an employee. If you are self-employed and an independent contractor, your compensation is reported on Form 1099-MISC (along with rents, royalties, and other types of income). If you received a 1099-MISC efile it instead of a W-2 efile it, the payer of your income did not consider you an employee and did not withhold federal income tax or Social Security and Medicare tax. A 1099-MISC means that you are classified as an independent contractor, and independent contractors are self-employed.

Trade or Business

A trade or business, in general terms, is an activity carried out to make a profit. Even if you don't actually actually make a profit, you are still carrying out a trade or business as long as your motive is to make a profit and you make regular, ongoing efforts to further the interests of your business. A trade or business may be full-time or part-time, and it may be carried out in addition to regular employment.

Hobby Income

A hobby is not a trade or business. If you carry on an activity that occasionally produces income, but your main purpose for pursuing the activity is not for profit, then you might be engaged in a hobby. Hobby income should be reported as Other Income on your tax return. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of your hobby income. See the tax return filing requirements to find out if your hobby income requires you to file a tax return.

Self-Employment and Taxes

As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for paying income taxes and self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes are paid in addition to regular income taxes. Self-employment tax is made up of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

When you prepare your return on efile.com, you will be asked if you own a business or have received a Form 1099-MISC efile it, or a Schedule K-1 efile it. Based on the answers you provide, efile.com will help you report your business income and expenses by providing the forms that you will need and asking for the information that needs to be reported on each form.

A Schedule SE efile it is used to calculate your self-employment tax. We will generate the Schedule SE for you. You can also adjust any of the amounts on your Schedule SE that are automatically calculated if this is necessary.

Estimated Taxes

If you are self-employed, and you expect to owe $1,000 or more in taxes when you file your return, then the IRS requires you to make quarterly estimated tax payments. Estimated tax payments are used to pay income tax and self-employment tax. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year via estimated tax payments to cover your tax liability, then you will be charged a penalty by the IRS. The tax penalty is calculated on your tax return, and added to the amount you owe (or subtracted from your refund).

How To Pay Estimated Taxes

When you prepare and efile your return on efile.com and include your self employment income, we will calculate your quarterly estimated taxes that you should pay in the next tax year, and we will also prepare vouchers you can use to mail in your payments to the IRS on the dates that they are due. You don't need to do any calculations, we do all the work for you.

You can also make your estimated tax payments electronically online. You can pay online using a credit card, debit card, or electronic funds withdrawal. If you make your payments online, you do not have to mail vouchers to the IRS. To pay online, go to www.irs.gov/epay.

You can calculate and make estimated tax payments on your own using Form 1040-ES efile it. Use the included worksheet to figure the amount of your estimated tax payments. You don't need to send this worksheet to the IRS, but you should keep it for your records. The booklet also contains four payment vouchers, which you can use to make your quarterly payments if you are paying by check or money order. Fill out the appropriate voucher and enclose it in the envelope with your check or money order made out to "United States Treasury". You can find the mailing address to use on the "Where to File..." chart included in the 1040-ES booklet.

When To Pay Estimated Taxes

You may have to pay estimated income tax four times throughout the year (quarterly) because you do not have taxes withheld from your pay by an employer. The quarterly tax payment periods for the Tax Year are in the chart below:

Payment Period Due Date
January 1 – March 31 April 18
April 1 – May 31 June 15
June 1 – August 31 September 15
September 1 – December 31 January 16 (of the following year)

If you are making an estimated tax payment by mail, your payment will be considered on time if it is postmarked on the due date. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you will be on time if your payment is made on the next business day. If you want or need to make additional payments than just the quarterly ones, make a copy of a payment voucher and mail it in with your additional payment or pay online. However, make sure that you pay enough by each due date to cover the preceding payment period.

More Information on Self-Employment Taxes: