It is important as a business owner you properly determine whether the individuals providing your services are employees or independent contractors.

I am an independent contractor or in business for myself

If you are a business owner or contractor who provides services to other businesses, then you are generally considered self-employed. For more information on your tax obligations if you are self-employed (an independent contractor).

I hire or contract with individuals to provide services to my business

If you are a business owner hiring or contracting with other individuals to provide services, you must determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.

Select the Scenario that Applies to You.

Expand by clicking to read more:

I am an independent contractor or in business for myself

Are you a Self-Employed?

Generally, you are self-employed if any of the following apply to you.

What are My Self-Employed Tax Obligations?

As a self-employed individual, generally you are required to file an annual return and pay estimated tax quarterly.

Self-employed individuals generally must pay self-employment tax (SE tax) as well as income tax. SE tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners. In general, anytime the wording “self-employment tax” is used, it only refers to Social Security and Medicare taxes and not any other tax (like income tax).

Before you can determine if you are subject to self-employment tax and income tax, you must figure your net profit or net loss from your business. You do this by subtracting your business expenses from your business income. If your expenses are less than your income, the difference is net profit and becomes part of your income on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. If your expenses are more than your income, the difference is a net loss. You usually can deduct your loss from gross income on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. But in some situations your loss is limited. See Pub. 334, Tax Guide for Small Business (For Individuals Who Use Schedule C) for more information.

You have to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more. If your net earnings from self-employment were less than $400, you still have to file an income tax return if you meet any other filing requirement listed in the Form 1040 and 1040-SR instructions (PDF).

How Do I Make My Quarterly Payments?

Estimated tax is the method used to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and income tax, because you do not have an employer withholding these taxes for you. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals (PDF), is used to figure these taxes. Form 1040-ES contains a worksheet that is similar to Form 1040 or 1040-SR. You will need your prior year’s annual tax return in order to fill out Form 1040-ES.

Use the worksheet found in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals to find out if you are required to file quarterly estimated tax.

Form 1040-ES also contains blank vouchers you can use when you mail your estimated tax payments or you may make your payments using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). If this is your first year being self-employed, you will need to estimate the amount of income you expect to earn for the year. If you estimated your earnings too high, simply complete another Form 1040-ES worksheet to refigure your estimated tax for the next quarter. If you estimated your earnings too low, again complete another Form 1040-ES worksheet to recalculate your estimated taxes for the next quarter.

See the Estimated Taxes page for more information. The Self-Employment Tax page has more information on Social Security and Medicare taxes.

How Do I File My Annual Return?

To file your annual tax return, you will need to use Schedule C (PDF) to report your income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor. Schedule C Instructions (PDF) may be helpful in filling out this form.

In order to report your Social Security and Medicare taxes, you must file Schedule SE (Form 1040 or 1040-SR ), Self-Employment Tax (PDF). Use the income or loss calculated on Schedule C to calculate the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes you should have paid during the year. The Instructions (PDF) for Schedule SE may be helpful in filing out the form.

Am I Required to File an Information Return?

If you made or received a payment as a small business or self-employed (individual), you are most likely required to file an information return to the IRS.

Business Structures

When beginning a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. Your form of business determines which income tax return form you have to file. The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a relatively new business structure allowed by state statute. Visit the Business Structures page to learn more about each type of entity and what forms to file.

Home Office Deduction

If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. The home office deduction is available for homeowners and renters, and applies to all types of homes.

Married Couples Business – What is a Qualified Joint Venture?

Married Couples Business – The employment tax requirements for family employees may vary from those that apply to other employees. On this page we point out some issues to consider when operating a married couples business.

Election for Married Couples Unincorporated Businesses – For tax years beginning after December 31, 2006, the Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-28) provides that a “qualified joint venture,” whose only members are a married couples filing a joint return, can elect not to be treated as a partnership for Federal tax purposes.

I hire or contract with individuals to provide services to my business

Determining Whether the Individuals Providing Services are Employees or Independent Contractors

Before you can determine how to treat payments you make for services, you must first know the business relationship that exists between you and the person performing the services. The person performing the services may be –

In determining whether the person providing service is an employee or an independent contractor, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and independence must be considered.

Common Law Rules

Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

  1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
  2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)
  3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

Form SS-8

If, after reviewing the three categories of evidence, it is still unclear whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding (PDF) can be filed with the IRS. The form may be filed by either the business or the worker. The IRS will review the facts and circumstances and officially determine the worker’s status.

Be aware that it can take at least six months to get a determination, but a business that continually hires the same types of workers to perform particular services may want to consider filing the Form SS-8 (PDF).

Employment Tax Obligations

Employment Tax Guidelines

There are specific employment tax guidelines that must be followed for certain industries.

Misclassification of Employees

Consequences of Treating an Employee as an Independent Contractor

If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker (the relief provisions, discussed below, will not apply). See Internal Revenue Code section 3509 for more information.

Relief Provisions

If you have a reasonable basis for not treating a worker as an employee, you may be relieved from having to pay employment taxes for that worker. To get this relief, you must file all required federal information returns on a basis consistent with your treatment of the worker. You (or your predecessor) must not have treated any worker holding a substantially similar position as an employee for any periods beginning after 1977. See Publication 1976, Section 530 Employment Tax Relief Requirements (PDF) for more information.

Misclassified Workers Can File Social Security Tax Form

Workers who believe they have been improperly classified as independent contractors by an employer can use Form 8919, Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Tax on Wages to figure and report the employee’s share of uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

The Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) is an optional program that provides taxpayers with an opportunity to reclassify their workers as employees for future tax periods for employment tax purposes with partial relief from federal employment taxes for eligible taxpayers that agree to prospectively treat their workers (or a class or group of workers) as employees. To participate in this voluntary program, the taxpayer must meet certain eligibility requirements, apply to participate in the VCSP by filing Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, and enter into a closing agreement with the IRS.