Self-employment is like ice cream; it comes in a large variety of flavors. You can be a freelance writer, a graphic designer, a landscaper or a dog walker. Some people are self-employed full time, while others work part-time around their “day job”. Whatever your flavor of self-employment is, there are some definite tax tips you need to know.
If You Earn It, You Have to Declare It
If you do work for businesses, they will generally send you a 1099 form that you have to file at the end of the year. However, even if you work for individuals, or a business that does not send you a 1099 form, you still have to declare that income. Do not be fooled by thinking, “If I make less than $600 from one person (or business) during the year then I don’t have to declare it.” That is an often-misunderstood concept. The IRS expects you to declare every penny you earn.
Track Your Income and Expenses
You do not want to hand your accountant envelopes full of unsorted receipts and cashed checks come tax season. The accountant may miss some deductions because he or she could not find the right slip of paper. Even relatively inexpensive programs like Quicken work great. Keep track of all your hard copy paperwork and keep it organized as well. The IRS has very specific rules about business tax deductions and whoever does your tax return will need as clear a picture as possible to maximize your deductions.
Estimate Your Taxes
There are two ways to avoid being hit with a whopping tax debt at the end of the year. Either you have to be frugal enough to put away a certain percentage of every payment you receive, or you have to arrange with the IRS to pay quarterly estimated tax throughout the year. Most people choose the latter in order to avoid yearly penalties for underpayment. It may be tempting to spend all your money as quick as you earn it, but remember that just because no one took taxes out when you earned it, that does not mean you will not have to pay later. Estimating and paying your taxes is one way of avoiding having to file a tax extension form in the future.
Pick Your Name
If you are doing business under your own name, that is great. You just file a Schedule C form with the IRS and life is simple. However, if you are doing business under a company name, then you should have some sort of business license in order to avoid problems with the IRS. It can be a simple DBA (doing business as) license, but you want to make sure that you have all your legal paperwork in order before filing your taxes.
The IRS does charge a special tax rate for people who are self-employed. You will have to pay the self-employment tax, but you can deduct half of when figuring out your adjusted gross income. Form 1040 Schedule SE, available on the IRS website, will help you figure out exactly how much your self-employment tax will be.
Filing a tax return when you are self-employed is trickier than filing a regular tax return. Many people find that going to a professional tax accountant is well worth the initial fees in order to get the highest possible return they can. Unless you are very knowledgeable about business tax laws, you should keep yourself as organized as possible and seek the help of a reputable professional when it comes time to file your taxes.
About the Author: Annita Grosh is an accountant who specializes in working with self-employed invididuals. She loves watching as an idea becomes a workable and profitable business.
- Unusual Tax Deductions You Should Not Claim (2012taxes.org)
- Use TurboTax To Help With Taxes (2011taxes.org)