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May 01, 2018

In 2017, nearly 41 million Americans were considered self-employed. That is greater than a quarter of the workforce.

If you are self-employed, you are required to pay a special tax on top of other taxes at the federal and state level: self-employment tax.

Who pays self-employment tax?

It’s simple; if you are self-employed, you have to pay self-employment tax. But what classifies as being “self-employed”?

You are self-employed if you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or a member of a partnership. Note, if you are self-employed you must pay self-employment tax if you made more than $400 in one year.

How much is Self-Employment tax?

Self-employment tax is 15.3% on the first $128,400 you earn in 2018. If you earn more, the rate is 2.9% on income earned beyond $128,400.

Below is a breakdown of self-employment tax for 2018:
  • 6.2% employee portion plus 6.2% employer portion = 12.4% Social Security tax paid by self-employed
  • 1.45% employee portion plus 1.45% employer portion = 2.9% Medicare tax paid by self-employed
  • 12.4% + 2.9% = 15.3% total self-employment tax
Rates for self-employment taxes can change year to year, so make sure to keep up-to-date with the latest tax rates!

How and when do I pay self-employment tax?

The process for paying and accounting for self-employment tax is slightly different than if you were employed by a company.

Of course, you will need the basics like a social security number or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). You will make estimate payments for self-employment tax quarterly. Use Form 1040 - ES to help you make these estimates.

Estimates for self-employment tax is due April 15 for the first quarter, June 15 for the second quarter, September 15 for the third quarter, and January 15 for the fourth quarter.

Other important information

As a self-employed worker, you must adhere to specific taxes. Because you pay self-employment taxes, does not mean you are off the hook for other taxes. Self-employment taxes only cover Social Security and Medicare taxes. To comply with federal and state regulations you still must pay federal, state, and local income taxes.

When you pay self-employment tax, you are paying the employer half of Social Security and Medicare because you technically do not have an employer. The good news is you can deduct the employer portion as a business expense on your income tax return.

Self-employed individuals are subject to different challenges when it comes to taxes. Staying diligent and keeping accurate records can go a long way in easing the frustration. Try our paycheck modeling calculators to help determine your tax withholding!  

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