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Filing Taxes When You’re Self-employed: A First-Timer's Guide

7 min read
self-employed woman filing taxes on computer
picture of author, Hometap TeamBy Hometap Team on February 18, 2022

Working for yourself can be fantastic for a number of reasons — but when tax time comes around, things can get tricky because unlike employees who receive W-2s, taxes aren’t automatically deducted from your paychecks when you’re self-employed. While you should consult a tax advisor for the specifics, here are some things to consider as tax season gets underway.

How do you know if you’re technically self-employed or not? The IRS classifies self-employment through the following criteria:

  • You carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
  • You are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade business.
  • You are otherwise in business for yourself (including a part-time business).

The window to file your taxes in 2022 extends from January 24 to April 18 for all taxpayers, whether self-employed or not. However, there are some important differences between filing taxes as a self-employed individual and a company-employed individual that you should be aware of before you begin the process.

Key Differences for Self-employed Taxpayers

You’ll likely need to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were at least $400. You’ll also be required to pay a self-employment tax in addition to income tax. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%. It’s important to note that this percentage breaks down into two elements: the social security tax (12.4%) and the Medicare tax (2.9%).

Before you file, you’ll also need to determine your specific tax rate, and whether your area has specific city taxes you’ll need to pay. To figure out your tax rate, you’ll first need to find your net profit or net loss from your business by subtracting qualified expenses from your income.

It’s important to note that typically, 92.35% of your net earnings are subject to self-employment tax. Once you calculate this portion of your own net earnings, you can then apply the 15.3% tax to this amount to get your self-employment tax total.

In order to file taxes when you’re self-employed, you’ll need to have a social security number (SSN) or, if you are a nonresident or resident alien, an individual tax identification number (ITIN). For certain types of businesses, you may need a tax ID number (also known as an Employer Identification Number). It’s free and easy to obtain one.

If you operate your business as a sole proprietor, you’ll need to use the Schedule C (Form 1040) to report your income and expenses and file your annual tax return.

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Ways to Save Money When Filing Taxes If You’re Self-employed

It might be possible to save money when filing taxes, but it’s important that you first understand the difference between tax deductions and tax credits to decide which applies to you.

A tax deduction is only able to lower your taxable income, as well as the tax rate that is used to calculate your tax, and this can lead to a more significant refund on your withholding. 

A tax credit, on the other hand, actually decreases the amount of tax that you owe. So while you’ll also receive a larger refund on your withholding, you may also receive a refund without a withholding, depending on the particular credit.

These are some common deductions:

  • If you recently started your own business, you may be able to deduct the startup expenses, like legal and marketing costs, from your tax bill. You can expect to deduct up to $5,000 in business startup costs and up to $5,000 in organizational costs, but only if your total startup costs are $50,000 or less. Start-up costs don’t include deductible interest, taxes, or research and experimental costs. 
  • If you use a vehicle to travel for specific job-related purposes, you may be able to deduct up to $25,000 in costs, plus mileage expenses.
  • If you have a dedicated home office, you may be able to deduct rent/mortgage, property tax, and utility costs based on square footage. 
  • If you use any specific supplies or equipment that are critical to your job functions, you might be able to deduct their costs.
  • Even though you’re required to pay the full Social Security and Medicare tax, you may be able to write off half of this amount at the end of the year.
  • If you pay health insurance premiums, you may be able to deduct these costs.

Self-employed Tax Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare to file your taxes for the first time as a self-employed individual. (Here’s a free, print-friendly version of the tax checklist, too). 

Printable tax checklist for self-employed

Gather these items:

  • Personal records (full legal names, SSNs, addresses, percent ownership, etc. for you and any other business owners)
  • Your 2021 federal and state tax returns
  • Your current financial statements and bookkeeping records
  • Income records, including 1099 forms if applicable
  • Estimated tax payments
  • General ledger

Gather information about your possible deductions:

  • Advertising and promotion
  • Business insurance, loan interest, and bank fees
  • Charitable contributions/donations
  • Education expenses
  • Equipment purchases
  • Health care expenses
  • Home office
  • Internet and cell phone
  • Legal and accounting fees
  • Office supplies
  • Qualified business income (QBI)
  • Rent (for office space or equipment)
  • Retirement plan contributions
  • Taxes and licenses
  • Travel vehicle (for business use only)

File your taxes:

  • Tally your revenue, losses, deductions, and credits
  • Determine your tax amount by applying the 15.3% self-employment tax rate to 92.35% of your net earnings
  • Get a free Tax ID Number/EIN
  • File your annual tax return using Schedule C (Form 1040)
  • If you run into any issues or have specific questions, consult a tax professional to help you or file on your behalf.

If you’re a self-employed homeowner and you owe more than you expected in taxes this year, your home equity might be able to help you handle the cost without taking on more debt. A home equity investment can provide you cash in as little as three weeks1 without monthly payments, and doesn’t require a W2 to qualify.

Tap into your equity with no monthly payments. See if you prequalify for a Hometap investment in less than 30 seconds.

You should know

We do our best to make sure that the information in this post is as accurate as possible as of the date it is published, but things change quickly sometimes. Hometap does not endorse or monitor any linked websites. Individual situations differ, so consult your own finance, tax or legal professional to determine what makes sense for you.

Hometap is made up of a collaborative team of underwriters, investment managers, financial analysts, and—most importantly—homeowners—in the home financing field that understand the challenges that come with owning a home.

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