Five Important Tax Facts for the Self Employed

Tax On.

checklist tax self exployedBeing your own boss and/or being the boss of others is a difficult and daunting endeavour.

Sure, it’s great that when you work for yourself you are no longer a “slave to the man,” but simultaneously it’s intimidating because you must accurately report all of your income and expenses to the IRS every year.
If you are a self-employed person, an independent contractor, or plan on becoming one, you have come to the right place!

One of the overall goals at Tax On Tax Off is to provide you with as many excellent tips for deducting business expenses as possible.

Before we do that however, we feel it best to start out with an introductory article for those not as well versed in the self-employed arena.

Today and onward, we are going to de-mystify technical jargon, feed you informative stats, and explain the current climate for self-employed people as clearly as possible.

Before we get into whether or not you can deduct your Gym Membership (sorry bro) and your new Gucci suit (nope), we are going to cover five important areas that self-employed people will benefit from knowing:

Five Important Tax Facts for the Self Employed

1. The terms sole-proprietor and self-employed person pretty much mean the same thing

In general you can classify yourself as any of these two terms. The important thing is that you are carrying on a trade or business with the intent of making a profit. Most of the time, the term independent contractor is very similar to these two terms but not as synonymous because you can be both incorporated and an independent contractor.

2. Self-employed persons report their business income or loss on Schedule C of IRS Form 1040

Self-employment tax is calculated on Schedule SE, which is also part of IRS Form 1040. If your estimated tax liability exceeds $1,000 U.S. dollars, estimated taxes should be paid quarterly using form 1040-ES (FYI the ES stands for ‘estimated’). If you choose not to pay estimated taxes the IRS will very likely choose to charge you interest and penalties.

3. The amount you pay in self-employment tax is based completely upon your net self-employment income

What is “net” income you ask?

“Net income,” to keep it simple is your gross income less your business expenses. Expenses can range from property tax to freight to your everyday business expenses. Having well-kept, contemporaneous records will assure greater piece-of-mind come tax time.

4. 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 2011 is 13.3% (10.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare). By comparison, for self-employment income earned in 2010, the self-employment tax rate was 15.3%. The rate consists of two parts: 12.4% for social security and 2.9% for Medicare.

5. You are not alone in your journey as a sole-proprietor and there are resources available to help you

And we’re not just talking about the kind folks at Tax On Tax Off of course!

In fact, approximately one-quarter of the working population in America identify as a sole-proprietor. You can join the National Association for the Self-Employed or visit their website at for continued information and on-going support for your line of work.


Of the five areas outlined above, the most important facts for you to remember as someone reading this is that the self-employment tax rate for 2011 is 2% lower than in prior years and that if you have an estimated tax liability of $1,000 or more you should strongly consider making estimated tax payments every quarter.
Now that we have gone over the essential facts of being self-employed, in our next article we will delve into properly deducting those pesky business expenses of yours. Stay tuned for an article aptly titled: Deductions for the Self-Employed.


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Tax Filing Season | Do You Need To File?

start tax season

Tax On.


It’s Tax-filing season in the US.

The IRS started accepted electronic filing on Jan 17th so there’s never been a  better time to ensure you know all the tax rules and laws to make sure you only pay the tax you need to.


If you’re just starting out in the world you may be wondering how much money do you have to earn to file taxes.

It’s an important question, but thankfully it’s easily answered. In short, it’s $9,500 if you’re single.

For the full breakdown here’s the handy table for income earned in 2011.




Filing Status Minimum Gross Income (under 65) Minimum Gross Income (65+)
Single $9,500 $10,950
Head of Household $12,200 $13,650
Married Filing Jointly $19,000 $20,150 (one spouse)
$21,300 (both spouses)
Married Filing Separately $3,700 $3,700
Widow with Dependent Child $15,300 $16,450


Important Tax exceptions and considerations

These figures refer to ‘Gross Income’ – the total money you have earned before taxes.

As a general rule if you receive social security income this is not counted in your threshold. However, if half of your social securities and your other group income is more than $25k (or $32k if married filing jointly) then you do have to file a tax return for 2011.

For more info from the IRS: Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?

If you have other income sources like if you are self employed you must file if your 2011 Self employment net earnings are greater than $400.


Why You Should File Regardless of Income

Even if you think you are not required to file a tax return, it might be worth doing so anyway.

It definitely makes sense if you have had any federal withholding or are entitled to tax credits. For example if you qualify for earned income tax credit you may get a tax refund.

And regardless of income you need to file if you have sold your home in 2011 (as detailed in Publication 17)


If you have any other tax questions we’d love to hear from you – you certainly will not be the first or last person to have the same question and by sharing the answers we can help more people only pay the tax they need to. Email:


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How to reduce your student loan | Examining the student loan interest deduction


Are you still paying off your student loans? Read on and we’ll show you how you can reduce the amount you have to pay back.

I’m still paying off my student loan and it is not that fun.

Personally, having two different student loan companies hounding me for their money creates substantial stress.

Sure, I knew what I was getting into at the time and college was the best four years of my life.

I loved it.

But life goes on and making monthly payments can be challenging, especially in the economic climate we are currently living through.

Fortunately for us, there is a silver lining to the money that we spend to pay off our student loans when we are finally earning money in our first job.

It’s called….


The Student Loan Interest Deduction

The Internal Revenue Service graciously allows, as a deduction from your income, the lesser of $2,500 or, the actual amount of interest you pay on your student loans.

tax advice student loans

Better yet, you can take this deduction even if you do not itemize on Schedule A when you file your taxes. The amounts you pay in student loan interest is reported back to you on Form 1098-E by each lending agency so make sure you keep any and all 1098-E’s you receive as you will need them to take the deduction in April.


If you have no clue what the student loan interest deduction is, you’ve quite possibly missed out on one of the best adjustments to income that exists in the tax code today.

Since I took massive loans to go to a private college I will always get to deduct the full $2,500 because I pay such a high monthly amount. But, I can do so only as long as this particular adjustment to income continues to exist in its current form.

Sadly, less favorable rules are scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2013 so make sure you take advantage of it this year. Promise?

Deduction Exceptions

Aside from beloved Congressional activities, the most common situation that will disqualify me or you from taking the full $2,500 deduction is if we start making too much money.

For single taxpayers in 2011, the deduction is reduced if your MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) is over $60,000 ($120,000 if married filing jointly) and it is gone if MAGI is over $75,000 ($150,000 if married filing jointly).

In my opinion, the MAGI phaseout for the student loan interest deduction is biased and would be better if there were no ceiling. If you think about it, any graduate who decides to be a doctor, lawyer, or any other profession that quickly earns more than $60,000 will not get the deduction. Sorry Doogie Howser.

How to know if you can claim the student loan deduction

Now that you’ve been introduced to the student loan interest deduction, you must know that you can claim the deduction only if all of the following apply:

  1. You paid interest on a qualified student loan in tax year 2011
  2. You are legally obligated to pay interest on a qualified student loan
  3. Your filing status is not married filing separately
  4. Your modified adjusted gross income is less than a specified amount which is set annually, and
  5. You and your spouse, if filing jointly, cannot be claimed as dependents on someone else’s return

If those points apply to you, then congratulations - the student loan interest deduction can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 so you pay less tax.

There you have it: The student loan interest deduction.

Easy breezy right?

Give yourself a pat on the back because you are now paying less income tax to the government.


We hope you found this article useful! If you did, please share the article on Facebook and Twitter. And definitely put your email address in the form below for more tax-info awesomeness in your inbox. Finally if you have any questions feel free to email “connor”



The Basics of Charitable Contributions

Happy 2012 everyone and welcome to Tax On Tax Off.  For more about what the site is all about, click on our About page.

At the time of writing it is January of 2012.

Soon you are going to have to report the charitable contributions you made last year in 2011.

Whether you donated $100 or $1 million, you will have to follow certain steps with the IRS to realize the tax benefit of your generosity.

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