Self-Employed Tax Center

tax law for freelancers

Being self-employed comes with its own set of obligations and responsibilities, particularly when it comes to taxes. Whether you’re a sole proprietor, an independent contractor, or a member of a partnership, understanding your tax obligations is crucial. In this article, we will explore some common questions and provide you with the information you need to navigate the world of self-employment taxes effectively.

Who is considered self-employed?

tax law for freelancers

If any of the following apply to you, you are likely considered self-employed:

  • You operate a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
  • You are a partner in a business partnership.
  • You are in business for yourself, even on a part-time basis or as a gig worker.

What are your self-employed tax obligations?

As a self-employed individual, you are generally required to file an annual income tax return and pay estimated taxes quarterly. In addition to income tax, you are also responsible for paying self-employment (SE) tax, which is a Social Security and Medicare tax for individuals who work for themselves. SE tax is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners.

To determine if you are subject to self-employment tax and income tax, you need to calculate your net profit or net loss from your business. This is done by subtracting your business expenses from your business income. If your expenses are less than your income, the difference is considered net profit and is included as part of your income on your tax return. If your expenses exceed your income, you may have a net loss that can be deducted from your gross income.

You are required to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more. Even if your earnings were less than $400, you may still need to file an income tax return if you meet other filing requirements listed in the Form 1040 and 1040-SR instructions.

How do you make your quarterly payments?

As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for making quarterly estimated tax payments. Since you don’t have an employer withholding these taxes for you, estimated tax is used to pay Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes. You can use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to calculate and pay your estimated taxes. This form includes a worksheet that is similar to Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

If this is your first year being self-employed, you will need to estimate your income for the year. If you overestimated your earnings, you can adjust your estimated tax for the next quarter using another Form 1040-ES worksheet. Conversely, if you underestimated your earnings, you can recalculate your estimated tax for the next quarter.

Various payment options are available, including mailing your estimated tax payments using the vouchers provided in Form 1040-ES or using online methods. Visit the IRS website for more information on payment options.

How do you file your annual return?

To file your annual income tax return as a self-employed individual, you will need to use Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). This form is used to report your business income or loss. Additionally, you will need to file Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to report and calculate the Social Security and Medicare taxes you owe.

Refer to the instructions for Schedule C and Schedule SE for assistance in filling out these forms accurately.

Are you required to file an information return?

If you made or received payments as a self-employed individual or small business, you may be required to file an information return with the IRS. Information returns are used to report certain types of income, such as payments made to independent contractors or rental income. Be sure to review the requirements for filing information returns to ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

Business structures

Choosing the right business structure is an important decision when starting a business. The business structure you select will determine the income tax return form you need to file. Common business structures include sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and S corporations. Additionally, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are another option available in many states. Each type of entity has its own tax implications, so it’s important to understand the requirements for each structure.

Home office deduction

If you use part of your home for business purposes, you may be eligible to deduct certain expenses related to the business use of your home. The home office deduction is available to both homeowners and renters and applies to all types of homes. Be sure to review the specific rules and requirements for claiming the home office deduction if applicable to your situation.

Married couple’s business – What is a qualified joint venture?

If you and your spouse operate a business together as a married couple, you may be eligible for certain tax benefits. A qualified joint venture allows a married couple filing a joint tax return to elect not to be treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes. This can simplify the tax reporting requirements for your business.

Considering a tax professional

Navigating the complexities of self-employment taxes can be challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the tax laws and regulations. Consider, if needed, consulting with a tax professional who specializes in self-employed individuals and small businesses. They can provide guidance, help you navigate the tax requirements, and ensure you maximize your deductions and credits.

Online learning tools

The IRS offers various online learning tools to help self-employed individuals and small business owners understand their tax responsibilities and rights. The Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop is a series of interactive lessons designed to educate new business owners about their tax obligations. Additionally, the IRS video portal contains a wide range of video and audio presentations on topics relevant to small businesses and individuals.


  1. What are the tax obligations for self-employed individuals?
  2. How do I calculate my estimated tax payments?
  3. What forms do I need to file as a self-employed individual?
  4. What is the home office deduction, and am I eligible for it?
  5. What is a qualified joint venture for married couples?


Understanding your tax obligations as a self-employed individual is crucial for maintaining compliance with the IRS. By familiarizing yourself with the information provided in this article and taking advantage of available resources, such as online learning tools and tax professionals, you can navigate the world of self-employment taxes with confidence. Remember to consult with a tax professional for personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.

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