The United States is a nation of entrepreneurs. There are literally tens of millions of self-employed individuals that enjoy pursuing their dream business. Of course, few of you enjoy paperwork and confusing tax issues that arise from owning your own business.
Many self-employed individuals are considered "sole proprietors" or "independent contractors" for legal and tax purposes. This is true regardless of whether you are turning a hobby into a business, selling an indispensable widget or providing services to others. As a self-employed person, you report business revenue results on your personal income tax return. Following are a few guidelines and issues you should keep in mind if you are pursuing your entrepreneurial spirit.
Schedule C - Form 1040.
As a self-employed person, you are required to report your business profits or losses on Schedule C of Form 1040. The income earned through your business is taxable to you as an individual. This is true even if you do not withdraw any money from business. While you are required to report your gross revenues, you are also allowed to deduct business expenses incurred in generating that revenue. If your business efforts result in a loss, loss will generally be deductible against your total income from all sources, subject to special rules relating to whether your business is considered a hobby and whether you have anything "at risk."
Many self-employed individuals work out of their home and are entitled to deduct a percentage of certain home costs that are applicable to portion of home that is used as your office. This can include payments for utilities, telephone services, etc. You may also be eligible to claim these deductions if you perform administrative tasks from your home or store inventory there. If you work out of your home and have an additional office at another location, you also may be able to convert your commuting expenses between two locations into deductible transportation expenses. Since most self-employed individuals find themselves working more than traditional 40-hour week, there are a significant number of advantageous deductions that can be claimed. Unfortunately, we find that most self-employed individuals miss these deductions because they are unaware of them.
Self-Employment Taxes - The Bad News
A negative aspect to being self-employed is self-employment tax. All salaried individuals are subject to automatic deductions from their paycheck including FICA, etc. In that many self-employed individuals often do not run a formal payroll for themselves, government must recapture these taxes through self-employment tax. Simply put, you are required to pay self-employment taxes at a rate of 15.3% on your net earnings up to $87,900 for 2004. For net income in excess of $87,900, you will pay further taxes at a rate of 2.9% on excess.