How to File Self-Employment Taxes: Step by Step Guide

Unlike W-2 employees, self-employed people do not have their taxes deducted automatically from their paychecks. It is their responsibility to maintain track of their debts and make timely payments. 

Because taxes aren’t deducted automatically, self-employed people have a higher take-home pay than wage earners. 

If you don’t want the IRS to come after you, set aside a portion of that cash to satisfy your tax responsibilities. 

“Firm owners, whether they are self-employed freelancers or corporation owners, are responsible for ensuring that their business complies with tax legislation,” said Shoshana Deutschkron, Upwork’s vice president of communications and brand. “Financial literacy, which includes a grasp of taxation, is a key skill.”

In this article, you would understand how to file self-employment taxes, a step-by-step guide. 

What are Self-Employment Taxes?

A self-employment tax, similar to FICA taxes paid by an employer, is a levied tax that a small business owner must pay to the federal government to fund Medicare and Social Security.

When an individual earns $400 or more in self-employment income during the tax year or $108.28 or more from a tax-exempt church, self-employment tax is due. 

Self-employed people who earn less than these limits are excluded from paying any taxes. IRS Form 1040 Schedule SE is used to calculate and report self-employment tax.

Workers who are considered self-employed must pay the self-employment tax. Sole proprietors, freelancers, and independent contractors who operate a trade or business fall under this category. 

The Internal Revenue Service may regard a member of a partnership who engages in a trade or company to be self-employed. Self-employed people must pay self-employment tax in order to get Social Security benefits after they retire.

How is Self-Employment Tax Assessed?

Employers pay 6.2 percent and employees pay 6.2 percent of their wages in Social Security taxes. As a result, because they are both an employer and an employee, a self-employed worker will be taxed at 6.2 percent + 6.2 percent = 12.4 percent.

The Social Security tax is only applied to the first $142,800 of self-employment income produced, for a maximum tax of $17,707.20 in the tax year 2021; in 2022, it’s the first $147,000 of income, for a tax ceiling of $18,228.

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Medicare tax is assessed at a rate of 1.45 percent for an employer and 1.45 percent for the employee.

As a result, because they are both an employer and an employee, a self-employed worker will be taxed at 1.45 percent + 1.45 percent = 2.9 percent. There is no income cap for the Medicare tax. 

As a result, the total self-employment tax rate is 12.4 percent + 2.9 percent = 15.3 percent. A self-employed person with net income of exactly $137,700 in 2020 would have to remit taxes of $21,068.10 = $137,700 * 0.153.

Read this: What is Unemployment Insurance? | How to file in NJ

Basics to Filing Self-Employment Taxes

Know your tax rate and evaluate whether your region requires separate city taxes before determining your tax responsibilities. Calculate your net profit or loss from your firm first to determine your rate. 

You may figure this out by deducting your business expenses from your revenue. If your expenses are less than your income, the difference is known as net profit, and it is included in your earnings. The difference between your expenses and your revenue is your net loss.

You must first understand your tax rate, as well as any state and local taxes that may apply to you before you can prepare to file your taxes. To figure out your tax rate, you must first calculate your net profit or loss for the taxable year.

Then, if your self-employment earnings surpass $400, you must file a Schedule C. (Form 1040). Though you meet any of the other conditions specified in Form 1040, you must submit a return even if your net profits from self-employment were less than $400.

Self-employed taxpayers who expect to owe more than $1,000 in self-employment tax must make estimated tax payments four times throughout the year, according to the IRS. To file these quarterly taxes, you’ll need to use IRS Form 1040.

How to File Self-Employment Taxes? Step-by Step-Guide

There are two techniques to determine net earnings in the IRS Schedule SE if you experienced a loss or only a small amount of income from self-employment for the year. Below, are the two options, as well as the measures to take:

1. Payments made every quarter

Step 1: Use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, which has a worksheet similar to Form 1040, if you want to make quarterly estimated tax payments.

Step 2: Keep your return. To complete Form 1040-ES, you’ll need the previous year’s return.

Step 3: You can mail your estimated tax payments using the blank vouchers contained with Form 1040-ES, or you can pay online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).

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Step 4: If this is your first year as a self-employed person, you’ll need to estimate how much money you’ll make for the year.

2. Return on Investment

You’ll need to do the following to file your annual return:

  • Report your income (or loss) from a sole proprietorship or a profession that you practiced.
  • You must file Schedule SE (Form 1040), Self-Employment Tax, to report your Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Also, determine the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes you should have paid during the year using the income or loss calculated on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ.
  • Filling out Schedule SE may be easier if you follow the guidelines.

Ways to Save on Taxes When Self-Employed

It’s critical to identify write-offs if you’re transitioning from a full-time job. There are six ways to deduct self-employment taxes:

  • You can deduce startup costs from your tax bill if you have recently launched a new firm. Legal fees, marketing charges, and other expenses are among them.
  • Vehicle expenses: In addition to the mileage deduction for travel expenses, you can deduct up to $25,000 in vehicle expenses.
  • Home office deduction: You can deduct your home office provided you keep a place dedicated to business functions solely. To do so, measure the square footage of your home office to estimate how much you can deduct for rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and property taxes.
  • Supplies and equipment: You can deduct any office supplies or equipment that you need to keep your job running well.
  • Self-employed workers, like other employers, are to pay the full amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes. They can, however, deduct half of it at the end of the year.
  • Premiums for health insurance: If you are self-employed, you may deduct medical expenses for yourself and your family from your taxes.

Also, check this: How To Apply For Unemployment In California

Tax deductions and Tax Credits

You might naturally think of tax deductions and credits while looking for methods to save money on your taxes. But do you understand the distinction between the two? 

Tax credits reduce the amount of taxes you owe immediately, while tax deductions reduce your overall taxable income, according to H&R Block.

Furthermore, deductions reduce your taxable income, which reduces the amount of taxes you owe by lowering your tax bracket rather than lowering your actual taxes.

Frequently asked questions

Why is there a tax on self-employment?

Is it better to be self-employed in terms of taxes?

Yes. Unlike W-2 employees, self-employed people do not have their taxes deducted automatically from their paychecks. It is their responsibility to maintain track of their debts and make timely payments. Because taxes aren’t deducted automatically, self-employed people have a higher take-home pay than wage earners.

Do you have any passive income that you pay self-employment tax on?

No. If the IRS defines your income as passive, it isn’t subject to self-employment tax (although it will likely be subject to income tax).

According to the IRS, there are two categories of passive income. The first is a business in which you are not actively involved throughout the year. It is passive income if you own or substantially own a business that functions independently of you.

If you are not a real estate professional, the second category is rental activities. You are not required to pay self-employment tax if you actively take part in these activities.

What kind of occupations is exempt from the self-employment tax?

Any job with a yearly salary of less than $400 is excluded. Regardless of the type of labor performed, this is true.

The clergy who are employed by a congregation is an exception. Self-employment tax is not applied to their total income. That exemption may not apply if a clergy member is compensated through a church organization rather than directly by the congregation.

Are self-employed people subject to greater taxation?

Self-employed workers, on average, pay greater taxes. Because of self-employment tax, the on-paper tax rate is higher. This is a key factor for anyone considering self-employment.

However, there are some conditions in which self-employed people may pay reduced effective taxes.


If your net profits from self-employment were $400 or more, you must file an income tax return. If you earned less than $400 through self-employment, you must still submit an income tax return if you meet any of the other filing requirements specified in the Form 1040 and 1040-SR instructions. This is a step-by-step tutorial on filing self-employment taxes.



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