If you are freelancing, own an online store, or otherwise running your own business? Congratulations, you're a part of the millions of Americans who work for themselves.
But now that you're self-employed, you'll find yourself paying a few extra taxes. If your side gig is your only source of income, these "self-employment taxes" can be a bit confusing. They aren't deducted from your paycheck, so you may wonder how to actually pay them.
Luckily, it's not as complicated as your high school math homework was. In this self-employed taxes for dummies guide, we'll review all your self-employed tax obligations. We'll go over who is subject to self-employment taxes and how to pay them.
Note: if you are a small business owner that wants tax software to help you estimate your self-employment tax rate, send you filing reminders, and record all your business expenses, try Bonsai Tax. Our app can help you pay estimated taxes on time, never miss a deadline and track all your tax deductions for you. In fact, users save $5,600 on average (which is more than just a little bit of money). Claim your 14-day free trial here.
Before we get into the details of self-employment taxes, it's important to understand what it means to be "self-employed" in our context. At its core, being self-employed is simply an umbrella term for people whose work isn't performed on someone else's payroll.
This can mean a lot of things. Some types of side jobs are considered self-employment, while others aren't.
Here are a few examples of activities that could make you self-employed:
As a full-time employee, both you and your employee pay FICA taxes (Federal Insurance Contributions Act). FICA consists of two taxes: Social Security and Medicare tax. During the year, the IRS automatically withholds payroll taxes from your paycheck.
The Social Security tax rate for employees is 6.2%, with Medicare tax being 1.45%. Your employer is required to match this combined rate of 7.65%, so they also pay FICA tax.
Self-employment tax applies to self-employed individuals who pay themselves. When you're self-employed, you act as both the employer and employee, meaning you're expected to pay both halves. That's a whopping 15.3% FICA rate for freelancers and independent contractors.
Luckily, though, self-employment tax is deductible. The IRS allows self-employed individuals to deduct the "employer" portion of their self-employment tax, or 7.65 percent (calculated as half of 15.3%) when calculating their income taxes.
That said, generally, whenever the phrase "self-employment tax" is used, it only refers to Social Security and Medicare taxes, rather than any other taxes (like income tax).
When thinking about who must pay tax, it's easiest to break it down by income. Like regular income tax, you must file self-employment taxes if your income is over a certain threshold.
Generally, if either of these two circumstances occurs during the year, you must pay self-employment tax:
The amount you pay in self-employment tax is subject to your net earnings. Your net earnings are calculated by deducting your total business expenses from your gross income. You can track your income and expenses with our free ledger template.
Once you've determined your net income, you can apply the 15.3% rate for taxes to determine how much you owe the IRS in self-employment tax.
For example, say you earn $2,000 in side income from your Etsy shop this year. You had business expenses of $800, which means your net earnings are $1,200. Now that you've determined your net earnings for the year, 15.3% of those earnings will be considered self-employment tax and paid to the IRS.
Self-employment tax or Social Security and Medicare taxes is paid on Form 1040, Schedule SE. Just like with regular income tax, you'll need to complete this form and submit it with your yearly taxes
If you're due a refund for self-employment tax after filing your return, the IRS will send you a check or deposit any refund amount directly into your checking or savings account. Self-employed people have to file quarterly taxes throughout the year.
If you owe more than $1,000 in self-employment tax after filing a return, you must pay the difference to the IRS by estimated quarterly payments.
You can set up a payment plan by completing Form 9465 and sending it along with your tax return. This must be completed before April 15th of each year. Make sure to save enough for your required quarterly payment so you don't get hit with penalties.
Bonsai provides a free self-employment tax calculator online. You can enter in your estimated income, filing status, and business deductions to estimate how much tax you'll owe.
Since the IRS requires quarterly taxes, you'll need to pay any unpaid tax from each quarter by that date.
To avoid penalties or fees for late payment, submit a quarterly payment using Form 1040-ES. You can either mail a check with the form or set up an electronic funds transfer through your bank. If you don't have a checking account, you can also pay by phone or through a debit or credit card.
The worksheet in Form 1040-ES may be used to calculate your estimated tax. You must estimate the amount of money you expect to earn throughout the year. If you predicted your self-employment earnings too highly, complete another Form 1040-ES worksheet to recalculate your estimated tax for the next three months.
If you guessed your income too low, you can get hold of another Form 1040-ES worksheet and recalculate the taxes you likely owe for the next quarter.
For the 2022 tax year, here's when your quarterly estimated tax payments are due:
That said, if you're a U.S. citizen or resident alien and had no tax liability for the previous full tax year, you don't have to make estimated payments to the IRS.
Most accountants recommend self-employed people set aside 30% of their net self-employment income throughout the year in order to pay their Social Security, Medicare and income taxes.
The best way to reduce self-employment tax is by lowering your taxable income. You can do this by deducting expenses from your total business income to determine the net profit or loss of the business.
Here are a few strategies and commonly missed tax deductions you can use to reduce your bill:
That said, here are the deductions you can claim on your Schedule C when you're self-employed (you can use our self-employed deductions worksheet to track your expenses).
Note: if you need help tracking all your tax deductions for your self-employed taxes, try Bonsai Tax. Our app will automatically scan your credit card/bank statements to discover potential tax write offs and help you maximize your savings. The majority of users save $5,600 from their self-employment tax bill. Try a 14-day free trial today.
This deduction allows you to claim money you spend on your home office as a business expense. If you use this deduction, make sure you only claim expenses that are related to your self-employment activity. Try our online home office deduction worksheet to track your expenses.
If you pay for online blogs, magazines, or newspapers that are business-related in any way, you can deduct these fees as a business expense.
If you're self-employed, you get to deduct the startup costs for your business from your taxes. These include things like legal and professional services, business structure set up (i.e. limited liability company), advertising expenses (including website design), computer equipment and software, and business cards.
If you go to dinner with a client or hold an event for prospective customers, you can deduct the costs of your meal as long as it's directly related to your business (e.g., spending time discussing work-related matters). Note that meals and entertainment expenses are 50% deductible.
If you have to travel for business, you can claim a deduction for transportation, lodging, and meals.
Almost any office supply can be deducted as a business expense, including pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, stamps, and printing supplies.
Professional fees include any payment you make to accountants or lawyers for tax advice.
If you have a self-employed retirement plan, such as a SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA, you can deduct your contributions on your taxes.
If you need to take a course as part of your self-employment activity, or if you have to pay tuition for any courses required by your business, you can claim an education expense deduction of those costs from your taxes.
If you take out a business insurance plan, you can deduct those premiums as a business expense.
All advertising costs are deductible, whether you buy print ads, post billboards, or pay for TV commercials.
This deduction allows those who are self-employed to claim health insurance costs as a business expense.
If your phone bill or internet costs are business-related, you can deduct them from your taxes.
A self-employed person can deduct the cost of postage to send out invoices and other work-related documents.
From how these taxes work to how you might be able to reduce the amount of self-employment tax you pay, this guide will help you understand the mechanics behind one of the most confusing parts of being a solo business owner.
Paying self-employment taxes doesn't have to be a pain if you know the process, requirements, and deductions available to you.
We always recommend you reach out to a professional for tax purposes if you have questions about your self-employment tax obligations. An accountant, lawyer or CPA can keep you up to date with the constantly changing tax laws.
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?