One of the essential parts of filing freelancer taxes is a tax return.
An important component of that is filing a Schedule C (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), which is how you report your business income.
Don’t be intimidated by the numbered forms and lettered schedules required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). We’re here to help with Schedule C instructions, to make tax time easier.
Schedule C is the specific form used to report profit or loss from your sole proprietorship. Your business is considered such if you are engaging in it with the intention of making a profit and you conduct business on a continual and regular basis.
The IRS does not require Schedule C if you’re pursuing a hobby or a not-for-profit activity. But as a freelancer, that likely doesn’t include you. As a sole proprietor operating with the intention of making a profit from your business, you’ll have to file a Schedule C.
The information you submit on Schedule C is used by the IRS to determine how much profit you made for the purposes of assessing whether you owe taxes or will receive a tax refund. If you own more than one business, you must complete a separate Schedule C for each business.
The IRS used to make it even simpler with a Schedule C-EZ, which was just as it’s called: EASY. It was a simpler version intended for smaller businesses, such as those that didn’t claim home office deductions. But beginning with the 2019 tax year, you have to use Schedule C if you have a sole proprietorship.
There are different types of business entities, and Schedule C refers specifically to a sole proprietor.
Here’s the definition of a sole proprietor: someone who owns an unincorporated business by himself or herself.
Other business entities include a partnership and a corporation. And if you’re an employee of an organization, you obviously don’t need to file a Schedule C unless you run your business on the side.
As a sole proprietor, you annually file your personal income tax return, known as a Form 1040, the United States Individual Income Tax Return (or in the case of seniors, a 1040-SR).
Along with it, you file Schedule C (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). Self-employed individuals are required to file an annual return.
You’re obligated to to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment are $400 or more. To figure out your net earnings, you subtract your business expenses from your business income. You can do a rough calculation to determine if it’s more than $400.
Then you’re ready to proceed with filing Schedule C.
Before you get started filling out Schedule C, you will need the following information:
There are also specific areas of the IRS instructions that you’ll need to complete the form, such as the business codes section.
It’s a good idea to walk through our Schedule C instructions in their entirety, and then return and go through the Schedule C instructions as you complete the form.
That’s because there are some sections later in the form (Parts 3 and 5, for instance), which are calculated and then added into the calculations in Parts 1 and 2.
Let’s dive into our Schedule C instructions by starting with Sections A-J, the introductory part of the form. Most of these boxes are straightforward, where you include your name, your Social Security Number, and your business name and other information.
Here are some of the fields in the form for which you made need clarification:
A & B go together, where you insert your principal business in A, and assign it a code in B. The code is based on IRS instructions which provide codes for different businesses, defining your principal business or profession, including services or products that you sell. You simply check the IRS instruction guide and complete the code.
For instance, a freelance photographer would be found under Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services, and be assigned the code 541920 - Photographic services. A consultant falls in the same category and would be assigned Code 541600 - Management, scientific, & technical consulting services.
D: Employer Identification Number: The EIN is used to identify a business entity, and most businesses need an EIN.
Most of the other fields are straightforward, such as whether you started the business in that tax year and whether you materially participated in the business.
This section takes you through a calculation of your business income, including gross income (receipts from clients or sales), returns and allowances, and cost of goods sold.
As you work your way through the form, you do the math as instructed.
Here’s how it goes:
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? You could use a tax write-off template or have an app record all your expenses for you automatically.
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 income and 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 tax will do all the calculations for you, and we'll provide you with an overview of your tax estimates, a list of tax deductions you can use for the upcoming tax season, and reminders for all the upcoming filling dates.
Simple, right? If you're ready to check out Bonsai and explore all the features, go ahead and sign up for the free trial!
This section is where you report your business expenses. Lines 8 through 27b allow you to report expenses like Advertising, Commissions and Fees, Legal and Professional Services, Taxes and Licenses, and more. If you have expenses that aren’t reflected in the boxes, you’ll record those later in Part 5, and then record those on line 27a.
In Line 28, you add lines 8 through 27a to determine your total expenses before including any expenses for your business use of your home. Then you subtract line 28 from line 7 to arrive at line 29 which is your tentative or estimated profit or (loss).
Line 30 is dedicated to expenses incurred for using your home as your office or other business space, such as a studio. There are two ways to calculate this:
Using either form 8829, or the Simplified Method Worksheet in the IRS instructions, you will arrive at an amount that is entered on line 30.
You then subtract those expenses (line 30) from your tentative profit (line 29) to arrive at your net profit, if expenses are less than your income. That amount then gets reported on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
If your calculation determines that expenses are more than your income, then the net loss can usually be deducted from your gross income on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
This section is specific to those sole proprietorships that sell goods. If your business falls in this category, you will need information such as the inventory at the beginning and end of the year, costs of labor, materials, supplies and more.
You’ll arrive at Line 42, the cost of goods sold, which is the amount that you insert back in part 1, line 4.
If you’re claiming car and truck expenses in Part 2, this is where you complete the documentation required by the IRS.
Note that if you do use a personal car for your business, you can either take a mile deduction or claim the exact expenses. Either way, you need to have documentation that proves your case.
The final section of Schedule C allows you to list any business expenses that are not included on lines 8-26 in Part 2, Expenses, or on Line 30, business use of your home.
The total of these expenses get recorded in the Expenses section on Line 27a.
With these detailed Schedule C instructions, you’ll be able to complete the necessary documentation for your sole proprietorship, along with your personal income tax return.
Schedule C highlights the fact that it’s important for you to keep detailed records all year long, by keeping receipts from clients, accounting for expenses, tracking mileage for business use of your vehicle, and determining costs of using your home as your business space.
Armed with this knowledge, tax time should be easier for any freelancer. Now, sign up to a free trial of Bonsai to see how we can put your freelancing on autopilot.
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?