Self-Employment Tax 101 for Small Business Owners

When you’ve made the transition from working for someone else to being your own boss, you gain the freedom to create your own professional path. You also get additional responsibilities, like paying self-employment tax.  

Self-employed individuals are required to not only submit the income tax they owe to the federal, state, and local governments, they must also submit self-employment tax to the IRS. 

Who Is a “Self-Employed Individual”?

The IRS defines a self-employed individual as someone who conducts business as a sole proprietor, independent contractor, member of a partnership, or as someone who otherwise is in business for herself or himself. 

What is Self-Employment Tax?

According to IRS.gov, “Self-employment tax is a tax consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners.”

Employees of a company pay half of their Social Security and Medicare taxes (usually withheld from their wages) and the employer pays the other half. However, as a self-employed individual, a business owner must remit the entire amount. 

Most self-employed persons, because their tax typically isn’t withheld from paychecks, must estimate their self-employment and income tax amounts due and pay them on a quarterly basis. 

Similar to the FICA tax that wage earners working for employers pay, the self-employment tax rate for tax year 2018 is 15.3 percent on the individual’s first $128,400 of net income and then 2.9 percent on net income beyond that. The rate consists of two parts: 12.4 percent for social security and 2.9 percent for Medicare. 

To pay self-employment tax, you must have a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number. Schedule SE (Form 1040) can be used to calculate self-employment tax. 

Self-employed individuals can deduct the employer-equivalent portion (half of the total self-employment tax) in computing their business’s adjusted gross income, reducing the business income subject to income tax.

Tips for Staying on Track with Your Self-Employment Tax

Neglecting to pay your taxes can result in fines and penalties, so it’s critical to stay current. Talk with an accountant and/or tax professional for assistance in understanding your tax obligations. This is especially important with the new tax laws in effect for 2018.

Here are some additional tips for consideration:

And always remember, a SCORE mentor can help you navigate the uncharted territory of being self-employed. You are invited to ask for guidance on all aspects of starting and running your business.

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