The majority of people who pay into Social Security work for someone else.
Their employer deducts Social Security taxes from their paycheck, matches
that contribution, and sends wage reports and taxes to the Internal Revenue
Service and Social Security. But self-employed people must fill out the
forms and pay the taxes directly to the government. This factsheet explains
You are self-employed if you operate a trade, business, or profession,
either by yourself or as a partner. You report your earnings for Social
Security when you file your federal income tax return. If your net earnings
are $400 or more in a year, you must report your earnings on schedule SE.
Paying Social Security And Medicare Taxes
The Social Security tax rate for 1995 is 15.3 percent (the same as 1994) on
self-employment income up to $61,200. If your net earnings exceed $61,200,
you continue to pay the Medicare portion of the Social Security tax, which
is 2.9 percent, on the rest of your earnings. There are two income tax
deductions that reduce your tax liability. The deductions are intended to
make sure self-employed people are treated in much the same way as
employers and employees for Social Security and income tax purposes.
First, your net earnings from self-employment are reduced by an amount
equal to half of your total self-employment tax. This is similar to the way
employees are treated under the tax laws in that the employer's share of
the Social Security tax is not considered income to the employee.
Second, you can deduct half of your self-employment tax as a business
expense. This is similar to the deduction allowed to employers on the
Social Security taxes they pay for their employees.
If you have wages as well as self-employment earnings, the tax on your
wages is paid first. But this rule is important only if your total earnings
are more than $61,200. For example, if you have $20,000 in wages and
$30,000 in self-employment income in 1995, you pay the appropriate Social
Security taxes on both your wages and business earnings. However, if your
1995 wages are $70,000 and you have $10,000 in net earnings from a
business, you do not pay dual Social Security taxes on earnings above
Your employer will withhold 7.65 percent in Social Security taxes up to
$61,200 and 1.45 percent (the Medicare portion of an employee's tax rate)
on earnings between $61,200 and $70,000. And you must pay the 2.9 percent
Medicare self-employment tax (not the full Social Security tax) on your
$10,000 in self-employment earnings.
You need earnings credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. The
number of credits you will need depends on your date of birth, but no one
needs more than 40. You can earn up to four credits per year.
If your net earnings are $2,520 or more, you earn four credits one for each
$630. (If your net earnings are less than $630, you still may earn one or
more credits by using the optional method described on the back of this
factsheet.) All of your earnings covered by Social Security are used in
figuring your Social Security benefit. So, it's important that you report
all of your earnings up to the maximum as required by law.
Figuring Your Net Earnings
Net earnings for Social Security are your gross earnings from your trade or
business, minus all of your allowable business - deductions and
Some income does not count for Social Security. Do not include the
following in figuring your net earnings:
Dividends from shares of stock and interest on bonds, unless you receive
them as a dealer in stocks and securities.
Interest from loans, unless your business is lending money.
Rentals from real estate, unless you are a real estate dealer or regularly
provide services mostly for the convenience of the occupant.
Income received from a limited partnership.
If your actual net earnings are less than $400, your earnings can still
count for Social Security under an optional method of reporting. The
optional method can be used if your gross earnings are $600 or more or when
your profit is less than $1,600. You can use the optional method no more
than five times. Your actual net must have been $400 or more in at least
two of the last three years, and your net earnings must be less than
two-thirds of your gross income.
Here's how it works:
If your gross income from self-employment is between $600 and $2,400, you
may report two-thirds of your gross or your actual net earnings if $400 or
If your gross income is $2,400 or more and the actual net earnings are
$1,600 or less, you report either $1,600 or your - actual net.
Special Note For Farmers: If you are a farmer, you can use the optional
method every year. You do not need to have had actual net earnings of at
least $400 in any preceding year.
How To Report Earnings
You must complete the following federal tax forms by April 15 following any
year in which you have net earnings of $400 or more:
Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return)
Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business)
Schedule SE (Self-Employment Tax)
These forms can be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and most
banks and post offices. Send the tax return and schedules along with your
self-employment tax to the Internal Revenue Service. Even if you do not owe
any income tax, you must complete Form 1040 and Schedule SE to pay
self-employment Social Security tax. This is true even if you already get
Social Security benefits. Church Workers If you are considered
self-employed because of your work for a church or church-controlled
organization, you must report earnings of $100 or more. For more
information, ask Social Security for the factsheet If You Work For A
Nonprofit - Organization (Publication No. 05-10027). Family Business
Arrangements Family members may operate a business together. A husband and
a wife may be partners or joint venturers. If you operate a business
together as partners, you should each report your share of the business
profits as net earnings on separate schedules, even if you file a joint
income tax return. The amount each of you should report depends upon your
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