As an independent contractor, navigating the complex landscape of taxes is a significant aspect of your business. Understanding independent contractor taxes is necessary to ensure you meet your obligations, minimize tax liabilities, and comply with the law. Below we break down some basics about independent contractor taxes, including contractor payments and the role of contractor management software.

Understanding independent contractor taxes

The first step in managing independent contractor taxes is understanding your tax status. As an independent contractor, you are classified as self-employed and, therefore, must handle your own tax obligations. Unlike salaried employees whose taxes are automatically deducted by their employers, you are responsible for calculating and paying your income tax and self-employment tax. Additionally, you may be subject to various state and local taxes. It is important to be diligent in setting aside money for these taxes to avoid surprises during tax season.

Many independent contractors choose to form a business entity, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or S corporation, to manage their taxes more effectively. The proper structure can impact your tax liability and legal obligations. Here’s more information on common options:

  • Sole Proprietorship: This is the simplest form, where you and your business are considered the same entity for tax purposes. It requires minimal paperwork and allows for direct reporting of profits and losses on your personal tax returns. However, it does not offer liability protection, meaning your personal assets could be at risk if your business is sued.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC can protect your personal assets from business debts and claims. It’s flexible for tax purposes; you can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation (C or S Corp Election eligible). This choice affects how you pay income tax, self-employment tax, and how you must contribute to Medicare and Social Security.
  • S Corporation: This entity allows profits and some losses to be passed through directly to owners’ personal income without being subject to corporate tax rates. Notably, S corps can offer savings on self-employment taxes, subject to IRS rules on reasonable compensation.

Reporting income and expenses

Accurate record-keeping is essential for independent contractors. Keep detailed records of all income, expenses, and deductions. This documentation will be invaluable during tax season and help you reduce your tax liability.

  • Digitize Receipts: Keep digital copies of receipts using smartphone scanning apps.
  • Organized Business Expenses: Keep a record of every business and categorize it to make it easier to prepare your taxes.
  • Mileage Logs: Maintain accurate records of business-related vehicle use.
  • Understand 1099s: Different payment methods, such as receiving a 1099-K form from third-party payment processors, may affect tax reporting.
  • Regular Reviews: Dedicate time each quarter to review your finances, avoiding end-of-year rushes.

Your Openforce contractor portal can streamline and automate several manual record-keeping activities. Openforce helps you with:

  • Recording Every Payment: You’ll find details of all payments and deductions on each settlement statement through Openforce.
  • Sorting Expenses: Easily organize expenses into clear categories for easy reference and tax deduction through a bulk export of settlement data from your contractor portal.
  • Secure Storage: Your financial records are secure, accessible, and backed up, so you can access them 24/7/365.

Tax deductions and credits

As an independent contractor, you can lower your taxable income through deductions. This includes not only the direct costs of your work, like equipment and supplies, but also indirect expenses that contribute to your business operations.

  • Home Office Deduction: If you use a portion of your home exclusively for business, you may deduct related costs like mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation.
  • Mileage: Keep a log of business-related mileage. The IRS allows you to deduct a standard rate per mile driven for business purposes.
  • Equipment and Supplies: Computers, phones, office furniture, and other equipment necessary for your work are usually deductible.
  • Professional Services: Costs for legal advice, accounting, and other professional services directly related to your business operations are often deductible.

Tax credits are also highly valuable as they reduce your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Talk to your tax advisor to find out if you qualify for any credits, including:

  • Self-Employed Tax Credit (SETC): The SETC is a specialized tax credit designed to support self-employed individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. It acknowledges the unique challenges faced by those who work for themselves, especially during times of illness, caregiving responsibilities, quarantine, and related circumstances.
  • Self-Employed Health Insurance Deduction: You can deduct premiums you pay for medical, dental, and qualifying long-term care insurance for yourself, your spouse, and dependents.
  • Retirement Contributions: Contributions to SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or a self-employed 401(k) may offer deductions and lower your taxable income.
  • Education Credits: If you take courses or attend workshops to improve your skills, you might qualify for education-related tax credits.

Tax obligations

For independent contractors, managing taxes involves a proactive approach, especially with estimated quarterly taxes and understanding state and local tax obligations:

Quarterly Estimated Taxes
As an independent contractor, you’re responsible for paying self-employment tax and income tax through estimated quarterly payments to the IRS. These payments are due in April, June, September, and January of the following year. You must meet these deadlines to avoid penalties and interest, making it essential to mark these dates in your calendar and set aside funds regularly to meet these obligations.

State and Local Taxes
Tax requirements for independent contractors can differ significantly by state. While some states have no income tax, others may have varying rates and rules. It’s crucial to research and understand your specific state’s tax code as it pertains to self-employment. Additionally, some local jurisdictions may impose their own taxes on the income of self-employed individuals. To ensure compliance, consult with local tax authorities or a tax professional familiar with your area’s regulations.

By staying informed and preparing for these tax responsibilities throughout the year, you can ensure a smoother financial process and avoid unexpected liabilities.

Tax filing deadlines

Independent contractors’ standard deadline to file federal income tax returns is April 15th. If you cannot file by this date, you can file for an extension, which typically gives you until October 15th to submit your return. However, it’s crucial to understand that an extension to file is not an extension to pay. You are still expected to estimate and pay any taxes you owe by the original April 15th deadline. Failing to do so can result in interest and penalties on the amount owed. Please check with your state tax department for important filing deadlines and procedures as each state has differs on their deadlines and procedures.

Therefore, it’s important to:

  • Estimate Your Tax Liability: Calculate your estimated tax liability to determine how much you must pay by April 15th.
  • Make a Payment: Pay the estimated amount by the original due date to avoid additional charges, even if you plan to file later.
  • File Form 4868: Submit IRS Form 4868 to formally request an extension for filing your tax return.

Remember, meeting your tax obligations on time is crucial, even if you need more time to complete your tax return.

Openforce can help during tax season

Since 2001, over 700,000 independent contractors have trusted Openforce as their partner for easy onboarding, on-time settlement processing, and money-saving perks and benefits.

Independent contractors enrolled with Openforce can quickly and easily get started on their tax returns. Here’s how:

  1. Openforce’s platform automatically stores 1099 forms and settlement records that can easily be accessed and downloaded 24/7, making reporting income a breeze.
  2. Openforce’s Small Business Marketplace includes over 50 money-saving perks, including exclusive discounts on professional tax services through our preferred partner, Keeper – the #1 tax software app for independent contractors.

When it comes to independent contractor taxes, knowledge is your most powerful tool. Make the most of your hard-earned money by staying informed, organized, and using cost-saving tools through Openforce.

Openforce is not a licensed tax professional or a tax advisory service. The information provided by Gig Worker Solutions is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice for tax filing or related financial matters. You should contact your own professional tax advisor for tax advice tailored for you and your business.

Ryan Leggett

Chief Executive Officer
Gig Worker Solutions

About Openforce

Openforce is the leader in technology-driven services that reduce operating costs and mitigate risk for companies using independent contractors. Our cloud-based applications help companies and contractors alike achieve more sustainable, profitable growth by removing financial, operational, and compliance barriers to getting business done.