Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. Your payments of SE tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and hospital insurance (Medicare) benefits.
Generally, you must pay SE tax and file Schedule SE (Form 1040) if either of the following applies.
- If your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more.
- If you work for a church or a qualified church-controlled organization (other than as a minister or member of a religious order) that elected an exemption from social security and Medicare taxes, you are subject to SE tax if you receive $108.28 or more in wages from the church or organization.
Note: There are Special Rules and Exceptions for aliens, fishing crew members, notary public, State or local government employees, foreign government or international organization employees, etc. For additional information, refer to Self-Employment Tax.
What is Self-Employment Tax?
Self-employment tax is a tax consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes 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.
You figure self-employment tax (SE tax) yourself using Schedule SE (Form 1040). Social Security and Medicare taxes of most wage earners are figured by their employers. Also you can deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your SE tax in figuring your adjusted gross income. Wage earners cannot deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Self-Employment Tax Rate
The 2010 Tax Relief Act reduced the self-employment tax by 2% for self-employment income earned in calendar year 2011. The self-employment tax rate for self-employment income earned in calendar year 2011 was 13.3% (10.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare). The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 extended the self-employment tax reduction of 2% for calendar year 2012 so the rates for 2011 remained in effect for 2012. For self-employment income earned in 2013 and 2014, the self-employment tax rate is 15.3%. The rate consists of two parts: 12.4% for social security (old-age, survivors, and disability insurance) and 2.9% for Medicare (hospital insurance).
For both 2010 and 2011, the first $106,800 of your combined wages, tips, and net earnings are subject to any combination of the Social Security part of self-employment tax, Social Security tax, or railroad retirement (tier 1) tax. The amount increased to $110,100 for 2012, $113,700 for 2013, and $117,000 for 2014.
All your combined wages, tips, and net earnings in the current year are subject to any combination of the 2.9% Medicare part of Self-Employment tax, Social Security tax, or railroad retirement (tier 1) tax.
In 2013 an additional Medicare tax rate of 0.9 percent went into effect and applies to wages, compensation, and self-employment income above a threshold amount received in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012. See the Questions and Answers for the Additional Medicare Tax page for more information.
If you use a tax year other than the calendar year, you must use the tax rate and maximum earnings limit in effect at the beginning of your tax year. Even if the tax rate or maximum earnings limit changes during your tax year, continue to use the same rate and limit throughout your tax year.
Self-Employment Tax Deduction
You can deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your self-employment tax in figuring your adjusted gross income. This deduction only affects your income tax. It does not affect either your net earnings from self-employment or your self-employment tax.
Self-Employment Health Insurance Tax Deduction
Under Section 2042 of the Small Business Jobs Act, a deduction, for income tax purposes, is allowed to self-employed individuals for the cost of health insurance. This deduction is taken into account in calculating net earnings from self-employment. See the Form 1040 and Schedule SE instructions for calculating and claiming the deduction.
Who Must Pay Self-Employment Tax?
You must pay self-employment tax and file Schedule SE (Form 1040) if either of the following applies.
- Your net earnings from self-employment (excluding church employee income) were $400 or more.
- You had church employee income of $108.28 or more.
Generally, your net earnings from self-employment are subject to self-employment tax. If you are self-employed as a sole proprietor or independent contractor, you generally use Schedule C or C-EZ to figure net earnings from self-employment.
If you have earnings subject to self-employment tax, use Schedule SE to figure your net earnings from self-employment. Before you figure your net earnings, you generally need to figure your total earnings subject to self-employment tax.
Note: The self-employment tax rules apply no matter how old you are and even if you are already receiving Social Security or Medicare.
Family Caregivers and Self-Employment Tax
Special rules apply to workers who perform in-home services for elderly or disabled individuals (caregivers). Caregivers are typically employees of the individuals for whom they provide services because they work in the homes of the elderly or disabled individuals and these individuals have the right to tell the caregivers what needs to be done. See the Family Caregivers and Self-Employment Tax page and Publication 926 for more details.
How to Pay Self-Employment Tax
To pay self-employment tax, you must have a Social Security number (SSN) or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Obtaining a Social Security Number
If you never had an SSN, apply for one using Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get this form at any Social Security office or by calling (800) 772-1213. Download the form from the Social Security Number and Card website.
Obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
The IRS will issue you an ITIN if you are a nonresident or resident alien and you do not have and are not eligible to get an SSN. To apply for an ITIN, file Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
Paying Self-Employment Tax with Estimated Taxes
As a self-employed individual, you may have to file Estimated Taxes quarterly. You can use these estimated tax payments to pay your self-employment tax. Refer to the Estimated Taxes page and Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax for more details on paying your self-employment tax with Estimated taxes.