Here in our Chicago South Loop Tax Preparation, and our Homewood Il, Tax preparation offices, we specialize in helping business owners and real estate investors reduce their tax liability. One topic that always comes up is the topic of self-employment taxes. Regardless of age, all individuals with self-employment income must pay self-employment taxes. Even if you have a regular W2 job, if you earn additional income through a side gig, then you have self-employment income. Self-employment income can be earned through rideshare (Uber or Lyft) driving, delivery driver (Doordash, GrubHub, Instacart, etc.) work, independent contractor work (construction, life insurance sales, cleaning business, etc.) selling things online (Mercari, Eba, Amazon, etc.) or simply selling dinners out of your home.
The government claims that the reason self-employed workers need to pay self-employment taxes (in addition to income taxes), is so that when business owners reach retirement age, they’ll be able to collect Social Security and Medicare part A (hospital insurance) benefits if they paid self-employment taxes for at least 10 years (40 quarters). It is important to note that self-employment taxes are paid on your net earnings from self-employment, not your entire business income. In this article, we will discuss:
- What is the self-employment tax
- How Much Are Self-Employment Taxes?
- Do employees pay less in tax than self-employed people?
- Individuals Subject to Self-Employment Taxes.
- Net Earnings from Self-Employment.
- What happens if I own two businesses?
- What happens if you work a job and have side self-employment income?
- Will having self-employment income allow me to write off everything?
- Income Not Subject to Self-Employment Taxes.
If you own an unincorporated business, you likely pay at least three different federal taxes. These three taxes are:
- Federal income taxes.
- Social Security taxes.
- Medicare taxes.
Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes are collectively called self-employment taxes.
The self-employment tax totals 15.3% and has two parts:
1.) 12.4 percent Social Security tax up to an annual income ceiling adjusted for inflation each year ($147,000 for 2022)
2.) 2.9 percent Medicare tax on all net earnings from self-employment.
If your self-employment income is more than $200,000 (if you’re single) or $250,000 (if you’re married filing jointly), you must pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on self-employment income over the applicable threshold for a total 3.8 percent Medicare tax.
Do employees pay less in taxes than self-employed people?
Excluding the additional Medicare tax that’s levied solely on employees, the self-employment tax rate is the same as the combined Social Security and Medicare payroll tax paid by employees and employers. But with employment, employers pay half of the taxes while withholding the other half from their employees’ wages.
At first glance, it looks as if W-2 employees personally pay half as much as the self-employed. But that’s not so. The tax code allows the self-employed to make up for some of this unfairness by allowing them to reduce net income subject to self-employment taxes by 7.65 percent and deduct on their Form 1040 half of their self-employment taxes.
Individuals Subject to the Self-Employment Tax.
You pay self-employment tax if you:
- operate as a single-member LLC.
- earn income on a 1099-NEC.
- operate as a single-member LLC.
- do business as a sole proprietor.
- are a general partner in a partnership.
- are an LLC member in a multi-member LLC.
- or are a co-owner of any other business entity taxed as a partnership (there is an exemption for limited partners).
You determine if your activity is a business under the same rules you use for deducting business expenses. The general rule is that a business is an activity you engage in regularly and continuously to earn a profit. You don’t have to work at a business full-time, but it can’t be a sporadic activity.
Net Earnings from Self-Employment.
The self-employment tax is not a progressive tax. It starts immediately—on dollar one, once you have over $433 in Schedule C, E, or F net income from a business ($433 x 92.35 activity = $400 which is the starting amount that requires reporting of self-employment income, & the payment of self-employment taxes).
Example. Nancy earns $1,000 from her single-member LLC, and reports this income on Schedule C. Her net earnings from self-employment are $935 ($1,000 x 92.35 percent). Her self-employment tax is $143 ($935 x 15.3 percent).
Your net earnings from self-employment start with the gross income from your trade or business minus valid allowable business deductions. Because you get to deduct valid business expenses, it makes it even more important to keep up with your bookkeeping, so that you can identify the expenses that will allow you to lower your income tax and self-employment tax. It’s important to note that, personal itemized deductions (charity donations, property taxes, medical expenses, etc.) and “above-the-line” adjustments to income don’t decrease net earnings from self-employment.
What happens if I own two businesses?
If you have more than one business (say two Schedule Cs), you combine the net income or loss to determine your net earnings from self-employment. Thus, a loss from one business offsets the income from another profitable business. But all is not roses: when calculating net earnings from self-employment, you may not deduct:
- Net operating loss carryovers from past years,
- Deduction for health insurance premiums for the self-employed,
- Contributions to a self-employed retirement plan such as an IRA, SEP-IRA, or 401(k).
- Section 199A qualified business income deduction.
- Deduction for one-half of your self-employment taxes.
What if I Have Both W-2 Wages and Self-Employment Income?
If you earn both W-2 wages and self-employment income, you count your W-2 first as if you had no self-employment income. If your W-2 wages exceed the annual ceiling ($147,000 in 2022), no Social Security taxes are due on any of your self-employment income. In this case, you pay less in taxes under the ordering rule because it allows you to use all or part of the Social Security wage ceiling with your employee income (taxed at 6.2 percent).
Will having self-employment income allow me to write off everything?
Despite what some may believe, becoming self-employed will NOT allow you to
- Write off all your meals as a business expense.
- Write off all the utility bills in your home.
- Write off 100% of your cell phone usage.
- Deduct the cost of taking your friends to sporting events or bars.
- Deduct all your travel and transportation expenses.
- Write off the entire cost of owning or renting a residence that contains your home office.
Some types of income are not subject to self-employment tax at all, including:
- most rental income,
- most dividend and interest income,
- gain or loss from sales and dispositions of business property, and
- S corporation distributions to shareholders.
S Corporation Distributions
The income earned by an S corporation passes through the business to the individual shareholders as dividends or distributions. Such pass-through S corporation income is not trade or business income to the shareholders and is not subject to self-employment taxes.
Key point. The S corporation is the one business form that can save its owners substantial self-employment taxes, which is why it is so popular. However, most first starting out don’t need a S-Corp as the cost to maintain the S-Corp, payroll, and bookkeeping will outweigh the benefits until you net at least $35,000-$40,000.
Example Jason owns a landscaping business that generates $100,000 in net profit. If he operates as a sole proprietor, 92.35 percent of his $100,000 net business income is net earnings from self-employment subject to self-employment taxes. Instead, he incorporates his business with him as the sole shareholder and works full-time in the business as the corporation’s employee. Jason has his corporation pay him $60,000 as employee salary, on which payroll taxes must be paid. In addition, the corporation distributes $40,000 to Jason during the year as a distribution. The $40,000 is not subject to self-employment taxes, saving $5,652 in taxes ($40,000 x 92.35 percent x 15.3 percent)
Here are five things to know from this article:
- The self-employed must pay a 12.4 percent Social Security tax and a 2.9 to 3.8 percent Medicare tax on their net earnings from self-employment.
- The 12.4 percent Social Security tax is subject to an annual income ceiling ($147,000 for 2022).
- You must pay self-employment taxes if you earn income from a business, side hustle, or side gig that you report on Schedule C or F, co-own as a general partner in a partnership, or own as a member in a multimember LLC, or if you co-own any other business entity taxed as a partnership.
- Net earnings from self-employment do not include real estate rental income (unless you provide services to tenants), dividend or interest income, or gain or loss from business property other than inventory.
- Distributions from S corporations are not subject to self-employment taxes. S corporations must ordinarily treat shareholders who work in the corporate business as employees and pay them a reasonable W-2 salary
Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, or need business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office at 855-743-5765. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.