Sole proprietors and independent contractors are two types of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips from the IRS:
- SE Income. Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.
- Schedule C or C-EZ. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet certain other conditions. See the form instructions to find out if you can use the form.
- SE Tax. You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax. If you owe this tax, attach the schedule to your federal tax return.
- Estimated Tax. You may need to make estimated tax payments. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You usually pay estimated taxes in four annual installments. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you may owe a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions. You can deduct expenses you paid to run your business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.
- When to Deduct. In most cases, you can deduct expenses in the same year you paid, or incurred them. However, you must ‘capitalize’ some costs. This means you can deduct part of the cost over a number of years.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The business mileage rate decreased 3.5 cents per mile and the medical, and moving expense rates decrease 4 cents per mile from the 2015 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.
Scams using the IRS as a lure continue as reported by the IRS. They take many different forms. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too.
Be wary if you get an out-of-the-blue phone call or automated message from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Sometimes they say you owe money and must pay right away. Other times they say you are owed a refund and ask for your bank account information over the phone. Don’t fall for it. Here are several tips that will help you avoid becoming a scam victim.
The real IRS will NOT:
• Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
• Demand tax payment and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
• Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For example, demand that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
• Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
• Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest you without paying.
• Threaten you with a lawsuit.
If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
• You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.
If you think you may owe taxes:
• Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
• Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you. Green Financial Services also understands how to navigate the IRS and can call on your behalf.
In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. They often use fake refunds, phony tax bills, or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.
If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:
• Don’t reply to the message.
• Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
• Forward the email to email@example.com. Then delete the email.
• Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.
More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.
The IRS has recently published some tips about how children may help reduce the amount of taxes owed by parents for the year. If you’re a parent, here are several tax benefits you should look for when you file your federal tax return:
- Dependents. In most cases, you can claim your child as a dependent. You can deduct $4,000 for each dependent you are entitled to claim. You must reduce this amount if your income is above certain limits.
- Child Tax Credit. You may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for each of your qualifying children under the age of 17. The maximum credit is $1,000 per child. If you get less than the full amount of the credit, you may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit.
- Child and Dependent Care Credit. You may be able to claim this credit if you paid for the care of one or more qualifying persons. Dependent children under age 13 are among those who qualify. You must have paid for care so that you could work or look for work.
- Earned Income Tax Credit. You may qualify for EITC if you worked but earned less than $53,267 last year. You can get up to $6,242 in EITC. You may qualify with or without children. Use the 2015 EITC Assistant tool at IRS.gov to find out if you qualify.
- Adoption Credit. You may be able to claim a tax credit for certain costs you paid to adopt a child. For details see Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses.
- Education Tax Credits. An education credit can help you with the cost of higher education. Two credits are available. The American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may reduce the amount of tax you owe. If the credit reduces your tax to less than zero, you may get a refund. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, you still may qualify. You must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim these credits.
- Student Loan Interest. You may be able to deduct interest you paid on a qualified student loan. You can claim this benefit even if you do not itemize your deductions.
- Self-employed Health Insurance Deduction. If you were self-employed and paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct premiums you paid during the year. This may include the cost to cover your children under age 27, even if they are not your dependent.