Self-employment taxes are established by SECA tax—Self-Employment Contributions Act tax. This tax is a stand-in for FICA paid by employers and employees. When you are employed, withholding covers Social Security and Medicare program contributions. Employers must also make additional contributions to these on behalf of each employee. Self-employment taxes exist to contribute to these programs by the self-employed. The self-employed do not escape these tax obligations, and are instead burdened with the full contribution, rather than sharing the FICA contributions with their employer.
If you earn $400 or more from your self-employment income, you are required to file a tax return. Generally, 92.35 percent of your net earnings from self-employment are subject to the self-employment tax. Your contributions will be made in the following way: 12.4 percent to Social Security for the first $128,400 of earnings (for 2018) and 2.9 percent to Medicare on all earnings.
Figuring the tax
Schedule SE helps you calculate how much self-employment tax you owe. This amount is then reported on your 1040 as “Other Taxes.” Fortunately, a portion of your self-employment tax payments can be deducted as an adjustment to income on your 1040. Whether you itemize deductions or not, you can claim 50 percent of your self-employment tax payment as a taxable income deduction.
Again, when you work as an employee, withholding throughout the year contributes to your total tax liability. When you’re self-employed, this isn’t an automatic mechanism. Therefore, it may be worth paying estimated taxes throughout the year, in quarterly installments, to avoid underpayment penalties. Discussing your options and forming a plan with a Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein team member will help you prepare for and determine your best course of action.
Reducing your self-employment tax
If you’ve read our previous posts on the tax implications of selecting your business entity, then you should know that S Corp elections have the opportunity to reduce your self-employment tax liability. Under this entity, you would be paid a salary out of earnings and the remaining profits would be distributed to yourself, shareholders, partners or left in the business. The amount in excess of your salary is subject to income tax, but not self-employment taxes. In an upcoming blog, we delve into determining a reasonable salary from your S Corp.
Schedule C calculates your net profit from self-employment. Be very thorough in preparing this form, deducting every possible business expense. Business expenses must be ordinary and necessary to operate your business. Deducting these expenses will lower your net profit, and, in turn, lower your self-employment tax bill. We will dive more in-depth on what qualifies as a deductible business expense in our next blog.