There are a lot of administrative tasks to manage when you run your own business, such as creating invoice templates, drafting and signing agreement templates, or crafting winning scope of work templates and quotation templates. Unfortunately, filing self employment taxes as a freelancer is also one of those tasks.
And paying taxes is a big one.
Let’s say you’ve determined that you are in fact a freelance business, that you earn enough income to result in the need to claim that income. Now you need to know how to do taxes as a freelancer. By law, you need to file taxes. Hopefully, you’ve tracked your business expenses along with your income and freelance tax deductions throughout the year.
Now it’s time to actually file the taxes. And filing taxes now includes income tax and self-employment taxes. It’s a lot to figure out.
Note: if you would like an all-in-one solution to make your freelancer taxes a breeze, try Bonsai Tax. We can help you record all of your tax deductions, remind you of filing deadlines, estimate quarterly taxes, and much more. Claim your 14 day free trial here.
So it’s time to understand the 5 things you must know about filing taxes as a freelancer.
If your business earns $400 or more in a year, you’ll be filing taxes for freelance work, and you’ll be paying income tax and self-employment tax. It is vitally important to know how much to set aside for 1099 taxes. It might be smart to have a savings account you dedicate to set aside money and pay taxes for.
It doesn’t matter what your expenses are, the threshold is $400 of income.
It also doesn’t matter if you are a full-time employee who freelances on the side. You’ll have to learn how to file taxes as a freelancer.
So the first thing you need to do before filing taxes for freelance work is to ensure you have complete records. When you’re an employee, that’s easy enough to do. You’ll get a single W-2 form and that’s what you would include with your tax return. Plus, you'll usually get a tax refund at the end of the year. But when you’re filing taxes as a freelancer, you’ll need to ensure you get a 1099-MISC or 1099-NEC form from each client that has paid you more than $600. Prior to 2020, non-employee compensation was reported on a 1099-MISC. Now, the form has been replaced by a Form 1099-NEC. As for how to report freelance income without a 1099, you still need to do it!
Freelancers must record all income, including that income for which you don’t get a 1099. And if none of your clients paid you more than $600, but your annual income was still over $400, you have to file taxes without 1099 forms. Your clients will also request that you complete a W-9 form, which is how they record your name, address, and Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). This is the information they use when it’s time to complete the 1099. You’ll also need to track all of your 1099 expenses, as this information will be important when it comes time to figure out how to file taxes as a freelancer.
Here is a list of 1099 deductions to claim during the tax year:
We recommend you consult with a tax professional to discuss how to lower your tax bill.
And when you’re ready to actually handle filing taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the federal agency to which you do the filing. With all these forms and other information to track, you can understand why record keeping is so important when it comes to filing taxes for independent small businesses.
Did you know that you can use Bonsai for accounting? Or that Bonsai can help you be prepared for self-employment tax by providing tax estimates, filling date reminders, and identifying your tax write-offs?
Let's see how that works. First, head to your main Bonsai dashboard and have a close look on the left side - we'll be working with the accounting and taxes sections. First click on "Accounting".
Inside the accounting section, you'll see a breakdown of your freelance income and business expenses. Both can either be automatically imported from your bank account, or manually added. Work you got paid for via Bonsai will also be registered here.
Make sure this section is properly filled in and click on "Taxes" next.
This is where the magic happens: Bonsai will do all the calculations for you, and we'll provide you with an overview of your tax estimates or how much you should expect to owe, a list of tax deductions you can use for the upcoming tax season, and reminders for all the upcoming filling dates. You'll add these deductions to your Schedule C.
Simple, right? If you're ready to check out Bonsai and explore all the features, go ahead and sign up for the free trial!
One of the biggest learning curves when figuring out how to file taxes for freelance work is that you have to pay self-employment tax.
In fact, it will surprise you when you realize you’re paying more than you did as an employee, and that’s because you have to pay all of your Social Security and Medicare deductions. You no longer have an employer to share those costs and you are responsible for paying all of it.
The current self-employment tax rate in the U.S. is 15.3%; it’s divided into an amount of 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare. Social Security is applied to the first $133,000 in earnings, and the Medicare portion is applied no matter how much you earn. Earnings are defined as both freelance income and any money you make as an employee.
In terms of the actual tax paperwork, the self-employment tax is calculated on Schedule SE (the rate you'll need to pay) and then reported on the “Other Taxes” section of Form 1040. As a freelancer, you pay both sides of your self-employment taxes on Form SE; you will get a deduction for half of these taxes on the front of the 1040.
SE tax, or self-employment/ Social Security and Medicare tax, is therefore kept separate from income tax.
To help with those, you could use a professional service like Bonsai, which has integrated services developed specifically for freelancers or independent contractors, including a product focused on freelance taxes. Bonsai tax can provide estimates by looking at incomes, expenses, and deductions from a linked bank account, and all you have to do is complete the forms. Sign up for a free trial of Bonsai now, to help ease the burden of filing taxes as a freelancer.
On top of handling your Social Security and Medicare taxes, another key part is to calculate and pay estimated taxes throughout the year, on a quarterly basis.
To pay estimated taxes, you use what’s known as form 1040-ES. Paying quarterly will ensure you are up to date with income taxes. It also reduces any chance that you face a penalty or additional taxes, because if you don't make estimated tax payments that are due, you may be subject to an IRS penalty come tax time. There's no need to pay more money to the IRS than you need to.
Since your income is completely untaxed, you have to figure out how much tax you owe on that income and make quarterly estimated tax payments. Tax rates can vary by state and income bracket.
The IRS, where you file your taxes, has a handy tool known as a Tax Withholding Estimator, that can help you figure out what you owe. It’s particularly useful for those who are employees as well as freelancers.
You can use the tool to enter self-employment income as well as wages, and it calculates the self-employment tax, estimated tax and the self-employment tax deduction, to provide an overall tax liability estimate. You’ll also find out if you qualify for any tax benefits.
You can also use an online tool like Bonsai tax to calculate the estimated taxes of what you owe for freelance taxes, whether you’re learning how to file taxes as a freelance artist, freelance writer or freelance photographer.
When it comes to filing taxes as a freelancer, you need to keep track of important dates. Let’s say you’re planning for the coming year, and you want to know what to add to your calendar.
Your quarterly payments to the IRS will be due on the following dates in 2020:
And even though you handle this filing quarterly, you still have to ensure you file your annual tax return by April 15 every year.
Rules around how to file taxes as a freelancer don’t stay the same forever. So it’s a good idea to stay on top of any news about tax changes or impending tax changes.
After all, there are almost always tax reforms being discussed, and some of those could benefit your business if they become law.
One of the most important skills to learn when you start your own business is how to file taxes for freelance work. That’s true whether you’re learning how to file taxes as a freelance writer, how to file taxes as a freelance artist, or how to file taxes for one of the many other types of gig economy jobs.
Understanding our 5 key things you must know about filing taxes as a freelancer will help set you on the path to gathering the right information, and figuring out the important steps how to file taxes as a freelancer. If you have any questions about your income tax return or quarterly tax payments, we advise you to speak with a tax professional
As freelancer CJ Haughey says, “Naturally, it takes a little time to get acquainted with managing your own taxes and filing returns.” But you can do it!
To ease the stress of knowing all the steps to filing taxes, consider the option of the integrated tools available to you as part of Bonsai’s freelance suite by signing up for a free trial now - start with expense tracking, identify tax deductions, and estimate quarterly taxes.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?