EA - The Small Business Owner's Guide to Self Employment Taxes

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Self-Employment Taxes

Self-employment taxes are a necessary and unavoidable part of being a business owner. Building the business feels fun and glamorous, but many entrepreneurs agree that taxes can be both stressful and burdensome. The key is to plan ahead for the tax burden you will be carrying, so the costs and paperwork don’t catch you off-guard. The right financial plan can make it easy to keep up with your self-employment taxes, ensuring that you have money set aside when it is time to make the payments.

Do You Fall in the “Self-Employment” Category?

It is important to understand the IRS’s definition of self-employment to see if these taxes apply to your situation. Knowing the federal regulations and guidelines means that you won’t skip past the tax obligations by mistake.

If you have the goal of bringing in money through work that you do for yourself, then you are considered self-employed. The work that you complete falls in the category of self-employment when you are not a shareholder or an employee.

Keep in mind that your business doesn’t need to actually be profitable for you to be considered self-employed. When you have the goal of earning a profit, and you are putting in regular work towards that goal, then the IRS views your efforts as self-employment. Even if you work as an employee for another company (either full-time or part-time), you still fall under the category of self-employment if you do work outside of your regular job to earn money on the side.

It’s one thing to be paid for a one-off day of work helping a friend with manual labor. A one-time opportunity to earn a bit of extra cash isn’t regular enough to fall in the category of self-employment. But, if you are consistently putting in the effort to engage in activities that bring in a profit, then you are self-employed.

Overview of Self-Employment Taxes

The tax rates can change from one year to the next, which is why it is best to work with a financial professional who will ensure that you are paying the correct rates. Self-employment taxes are calculated by combining your requirements for both Medicare and Social Security taxes.

Both self-employed workers and employees need to pay Social Security and Medicare. When you are working as an employee, your employer pays 50% of the tax burden, and the other half is deducted from your paycheck. On the other hand, self-employed workers need to pay the full 100%.

These self-employment taxes are calculated based on the profits of your business efforts. This is the calculation that is used:

  • Gross (total) revenue – qualifying tax deductions = profit that can be taxed

Since the taxable amount is calculated without the deductions, many business owners look for ways to leverage the deductions as much as possible. It is important to stay within the legal guidelines, and your small business accountant can offer guidelines and recommendations that apply to your situation.

Classifications: When Self-Employment Taxes are Required

You tax classification plays a role in whether you are obligated to pay self-employment tax. If one or more of these classifications apply to your tax filing, then it is smart to talk to a tax accountant for information about self-employment taxes:

  • Independent contractor (freelancer)
  • Sole proprietor
  • Member of a partnership
  • Member or partner of an LLC (single, or multi-member organization) and you haven’t changed your default tax classification

Income Tax vs. Self-Employment Taxes

Don’t mistakenly think that income taxes and self-employment taxes are the same time. Even though there is a difference in the way self-employment taxes are calculated, income tax works the same for everyone.

This income tax rate is also based on the taxable profits, using the calculation listed above. Once the taxable income is determined, then tax credits and personal deductions are calculated in to determine the amount that needs to be paid.

50% of your self-employment tax can be used as a deduction, which helps to reduce the total taxable income for the income tax calculations.

The filing status and tax rates vary, depending on the tax bracket in which you fall. These federal brackets can change each year. In 2019, the progressive range of income tax rates falls between 10 – 37%.

Why You Shouldn’t Kick Taxes to the Backburner

W-2 employees don’t have much to worry about regarding ongoing tax calculations and payments, because these amounts are automatically deducted from their paychecks by their employers. On the other hand, self-employed individuals don’t have the convenience of automatic tax calculations and deductions. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you are keeping track of what you owe and staying current with paying these amounts on time.

You already have a lot to worry about with business-building efforts, marketing, employee management, and more. It might be tempting to push self-employment taxes to the back-burner. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you can deal with taxes at a later date. If you want to avoid a stressful and costly audit by the IRS, then you need to be sure that Uncle Sam is getting his share of your profitable income.

Also, consider the consequences of incorrect tax filings. If you don’t have experience with tax calculations and paperwork, there is a high risk that you might make a mistake. In the case where that mistake is discovered by the IRS in the future, it means that you could be facing expensive fines, interest costs, and penalties. Save yourself time, money, and stress by ensuring that your taxes are calculated, filed, and paid correctly the first time around.

How Often Do Self-Employment Taxes Need to Be Paid?

Most people only think about taxes once a year: in April when the tax filing deadline happens each year. But, if you owe more than $1,000 on the tax return filing, then you will be required to make quarterly tax payments. So, you need to be prepared to pay taxes four times per year.

These payments are calculated by looking at your previous year’s taxable income, then calculating the amount that will need to be paid each quarter. Of course, you can’t predict the exact amount you will earn in a given year, which is why these quarterly payments are called estimated tax payments.

This is the payment schedule for estimated tax payments. You will need to send the payment before or by the end of the day on:

  • Jan 15th
  • April 15th
  • June 15th
  • Sept 15th

Sometimes, these calendar dates fall on a weekend or federal holiday. In that situation, the due date for estimated taxes is pushed to the next day that is not a weekend or holiday. Small business accounting services makes it easy to keep up with these tax deadlines because you will receive estimated tax payment vouchers that list the specific dates for each calendar year.

Other Taxes for Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, and Start-ups

Keep in mind that the IRS only oversees the enforcement of federal taxes. It is possible that you will need to pay state and/or income tax depending on where you live. A few of the states don’t charge personal income tax, so you might consider moving your business efforts to those locations if you have the flexibility of an online income.

Other tax burdens need to be considered as well. For example, if you have employees, then you will need to pay and manage the paperwork for employer payroll taxes. Also, sales tax might need to be calculated on the products and services that are sold, depending on your location.

Be Prepared for Future Payments

With self-employment, it’s easy to make the mistake of confusing take-home pay with the gross revenue. Even though the money is coming into your bank account, it doesn’t mean that it is all yours to pocket. Too often, self-employed business owners spend the cash, then face big cash flow issues in the future when it is time to pay the IRS.

Never make the mistake of making big business decisions based on the money sitting in your bank account, without considering upcoming tax obligations. A good small business accounting software can help you stay current with financial reports and upcoming costs. Use this information to gain a clear picture of the true profits of your business efforts, helping you avoid the pitfalls of not having enough to pay the bills when tax time rolls around.

One of the best things that you can do is set aside a percentage of your money for future tax bills. Since self-employment income is often variable, you can create a system that automatically saves your tax money in a separate account.

Find an Outsourced Accounting Team to Help

Not only is it stressful to keep up with the deadlines for tax payments, but the government forms can be intimidating. Most self-employed business owners choose to hire the help of a local accountant or outsourced accounting services through a reputable provider. Our experienced team at Easier Accounting is always here to assist. If you need help designing the right financial system to keep up with your self-employment taxes and business reports, then we invite you to contact us right away: (888) 620-0770.

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