Wouldn’t it be nice to be your own boss? You’d get to set your own hours, decide what work to take on and do only what you want to do. While you may be able to avoid someone else telling you what to do as a self-employed individual, you can’t avoid paying your taxes. In fact, self-employed individuals often have to pay more in taxes than someone who is a W-2 wage earner. This additional tax burden is called the self-employment tax.
Details for Tax Filing this Year
Tax season is here again with the dreaded April 15 deadline fast approaching. Some of the more proactive taxpayers out there have already filed their 2016 tax returns and maybe already have their tax refund checks, too. But for those who haven’t yet done the deed, here are a few pointers about filing your return this year.
What’s Needed to File?
By now, taxpayers should have all the necessary tax documents to file their taxes, such as any 1099 forms for contract work and W-2 forms for payroll work. These forms are usually sent by employers or clients in late January. If you don’t receive these documents, keep in mind it does not relieve you from the responsibility of declaring your income in your tax return. Also, if you already know what your income is (this can often be readily determined by looking at your invoices and pay stubs), you technically don’t need your W-2 or 1099 forms.
When to File?
The deadline to file your federal tax return is the same every year: April 15. An exception to this rule is when April 15 falls on a holiday or weekend. In that case, the tax filing deadline is actually the next business day. So the deadline for filing your 2016 taxes is Monday, April 17, right? Nope. April 17 is the Washington DC Emancipation Day holiday. Therefore, the actual deadline for filing your taxes this year is April 18.
What If I Need More Time to File?
Luckily, the IRS allows taxpayers to obtain an extension by submitting Form 4868 with their tax payment. However, taxpayers should still pay as much of their 2016 tax bill as they can by April 18. This is due to the fact that even though the IRS may grant an extension to file the return, they do not grant an extension to submit the tax payment.
So even if the IRS grants a tax filing extension, the taxpayer will still have to pay interest and late-payment penalties if their entire tax bill isn’t paid by April 18. The tax extension doesn’t sound so advantageous after all, and is all the more reason to get your taxes prepared and filed on time.
Ways to File?
There are two primary methods of filing your federal tax return. The first is the good ol’ fashioned way of mailing it in. If you do this, don’t forget to sign the return. When filing as a married couple, your spouse will need to sign as well. Keep in mind that when mailing in your return, it will often slow down the speed in which you get a tax refund check. On the other hand, it may theoretically decrease the odds of you getting audited, since the IRS must spend more time and effort to examine a paper return versus an electronic return.
The alternative way to file is electronically. It’s usually more accurate and faster with respect to the time it takes to get your tax refund check. By filing electronically, a taxpayer can expect a tax refund check several weeks sooner than if they filed through the mail with a paper return.
Taxpayers have an extra few days to file their taxes this year with a deadline of April 18. By now, taxpayers should be well on their way to preparing and submitting their 2016 tax returns. And if you need more time to file, you can often get an extension. But understand that the extension only applies to filing your return, not actually paying your taxes.
Working for yourself is great. You get to be your own boss, decide how much (or how little) work you want to do and control your own professional destiny. But working for yourself has its price, one of the biggest being the self-employment tax.
What Is Self-Employment?
According to the IRS, you are self-employed if you run a business as a sole proprietor, independent contractor or partnership and make $400 or more. Basically, if you’re your own boss, even in a part-time business, you have self-employment earnings as far the IRS is concerned.
What Exactly Is the Self-Employment Tax?
The self-employment tax is a 15.3% tax on your income that is really a combination of two taxes: Social Security (12.4%) and Medicare (2.9%). Even if you aren’t self-employed, you’re likely still paying these two taxes, but in much lower amounts.
For the most part, for every $100 anyone earns, the IRS gets $15.30 in Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you are a W-2 wage earner, such as someone who works as an employee for an employer who takes your taxes out for you, you only have to pay half that, or $7.65. The remaining $7.65 is paid by your employer.
If you are self-employed, you have no “employer” to pay half of the 15.3% Social Security and Medicare tax bill. As a result, you’re stuck with paying the entire 15.3% of the Social Security and Medicare taxes, instead of the 7.65% if you were a W-2 wage earner.
If you make over a certain amount ($118,500 in 2015), what you pay in self-employment taxes drops a large amount. Anything you make over that amount is subject to only Medicare taxes and not Social Security taxes.
Finally, the self-employment tax rules apply no matter how old the taxpayer is or if the taxpayer is already receiving Medicare and/or Social Security payments.
How Do I Pay Self-Employment Taxes?
If you are subject to the self-employment tax and have an expected end-of-year tax liability of $1,000 or more (after taking all withholdings) you generally have to pay your taxes quarterly. Even if you plan on paying your entire tax liability on April 15th, you must make estimated quarterly tax payments or pay a penalty.
One exception to this quarterly estimate tax payment requirement is when other income tax withholdings amount to 90% or more of your total tax bill. For example, if you make $100,000 per year, but $91,000 comes from a W-2 job and $9,000 comes from self-employment work, you won’t need to make estimated quarterly tax payments. This exception applies even if you will have more than $1,000 in expected end-of-year tax liability.
The Self-Employment Tax Deduction
The self-employment tax isn’t all bad news. The 7.65% in extra taxes you have to pay (compared to a W-2 wage earner) can be taken as a tax deduction. This doesn’t alleviate the entire self-employment tax burden, but it helps.
The self-employment tax isn’t the most complicated tax requirement ever handed down by the IRS, but things can get a little tricky if you have multiple jobs and are really close to the estimated quarterly tax payment threshold. If you’re not sure whether you’re subject to the self-employment tax, are required to make estimated quarterly tax payments or how much those estimated quarterly tax payments should be, you probably want to speak with a tax professional.