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4 tax matters that matter for the self-employed

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Many things, like family considerations, prompt people to go into business for themselves. Whatever your reason for being your own boss, here are some tax matters to consider.

The millions of taxpayers who hold wage-paying jobs where income taxes are withheld from their checks obviously will benefit from the Internal Revenue Service new tax withholding estimator.

But what if you don't have a job where there's withholding? That's the case for millions of individuals who are self-employed

See Also: 5 things to consider if you're thinking 
about becoming an independent contractor

The work freedom of being your own boss comes with some new tax responsibilities.

U.S. taxes are on a pay-as-you-earn system regardless of whether you get your income from an employer or as an independent worker. So when you work for yourself, you are responsible for the myriad tax implications.

Here are four tax matters that require the attention of self-employed workers, particularly those who get all their income from entrepreneurial enterprises.

1. Pay your estimated taxes.
Income tax payments obviously are top of the list if you earn enough to meet the federal income tax filing threshold.

Be sure to budget for your quarterly estimated tax payments.

See Also: The scoop on paying estimated taxes

Estimated taxes must be paid if you think you'll owe $1,000 in taxes or more, or if your tax liability was greater than $0 in the prior year. Fail to do so, or don't make the payments on time, and you'll end up owing penalties and interest.

There are four estimated tax due dates, but the IRS' quarters don't strictly follow the calendar. Estimated taxes are due April, June, September and the following January, usually on the 15th unless that day falls on a weekend or holiday.

2. Account for your SE taxes.
Those estimated taxes also must take into account your associated self-employment (SE) taxes — both the employee and employer portions — that you now much pick up yourself.

SE taxes are the independent worker's counterpart of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes that salaried workers see withheld on their paychecks for Social Security and Medicare.

See Also: Estimated tax payment due:
Don't forget to figure SE taxes

These tax rates are 12.4 percent for the retirement fund component and 2.9 percent for the federal health care insurance for older Americans.

When you work for someone else, you and your boss split payment of the percentages equally. But when you work for yourself, you must pay both employer and employee portions.

The employer half, however, can be deducted by folks who report their SE income on their annual personal income tax return as an above-the-line deduction.

3. Understand what business structure means.
When you're self-employed, you can choose the type of business entity for your enterprise. Your selection will affect how you pay your taxes and sometimes the amounts you owe.

The easiest option is to file as a sole proprietor. It's easy, requires little paperwork and you file your business income on Schedule C or C-EZ as part of your annual individual tax return.

If you have a trusted colleague, a partnership also is a possibility.

See Also: Business structures and
other small business tax considerations

There's also the incorporation option. Incorporating your business provides liability protection. An S corp, for example, can provide more tax flexibility, such as paying yourself a reasonable salary and take some profits out of your company in the form of distributions, upon which you don't pay FICA tax.

Of course, the various business tax structures can quickly get complicated. Before you make any changes, for tax or other reasons, it's a good idea to consult a tax and accounting professional.

4. Consider combination earning implications.
If you're self-employment income is not your full-time job, but simply a way to pick up a bit of pocket money, you're not necessarily off the self-employment tax hook.

Even if you don't hit the earnings amount requiring your file a tax return on your self-employment income, you still could owe Social Security and Medicare taxes. These taxes must be paid if you make $400 or more through self-employment enterprises.

See Also: 5 tax tips for freelancers,
gig economy workers

In these cases of combined wage and SE earnings, the IRS' new withholding estimator can help. The new online tax calculator does take into account SE income that you have in addition to a wage-paying job where taxes are withheld.

If you're one of these workers with a side hustle, you can include that gig money in the withholding estimator to get an idea of how to adjust your payroll withholding to take it into account, too.

Regardless of what route your self-employment journey takes, be sure to take these issues into account to make for smoother tax traveling.





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Kay Bell

D'oh! I was thinking of the 1099 reporting trigger. Thanks, Jay, for catching that. Correcting now.

Jay Wiedwald

Isn't the threshold for owing SE taxes $400 rather than $600?

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