Tag Archives: taxes

Freelancer Woes: Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes

While I’ve gone through periods of working part-time gigs and freelancing for a little extra cash on the side, 2008-2009 will be the first year when I’m likely going to be a contractor all year long. I love the freelance lifestyle, as I can finish my work hours when everyone else is asleep, or get all my hours done straight through and leave myself time to relax for an extra weekend day, if possible. There are so many things I love about being a freelancer (albeit one with a stable freelance gig) that I’d be hard pressed to give it up.

One thing that might, just might be able to get me to give this wonderful lifestyle up is taxes.

Just trying to figure out how to sort out my taxes owed as a freelancer seems like a giant nightmare. On top of that I now have Prosper taxes (which sounds like it will be worse than a nightmare to file) and my various stocks, ETF and mutual fund accounts to tax…

Originally I thought sorting out my taxes would be simple as taking 25 percent of all my income each month and putting it into a highish-interest ING savings account. Come tax time, my tax money will have made a little money (although that will be taxed to) and if all worked out as I originally thought, the money in that account would certainly cover all my state and federal taxes… plus I would have saved some money by holding off on paying it throughout the year.

Given that I finally stopped to smell the dead roses, I did a little research and found out about the “Self Employment Tax” which seems to be another 15.3 % on top of the 25%. So does that mean I should be putting 35% of my income each month into my ING “for tax season” account?

And then… apparently freelancers are supposed to pay an estimated tax each month. What I don’t understand is if this is for the convenience of the freelancer (don’t have to worry about spending all your tax money and being in serious trouble come April 15) or if it’s actually required by law to pay taxes on a monthly basis instead of in one lump sum at the end of the year. If it’s not illegal, I really don’t understand why more people wouldn’t just do what I think I’m doing with this savings account and getting a few extra dollars on the money that will ultimately go to the IRS at the end of the year. But maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong.

I’m, quite frankly, terrified of tax season next year. This year is complicated enough with my two full-time jobs and freelance earnings. But next year? Well, I know I’ll have to hire an accountant. But what is it I should do now, as it starting 1.5 months ago, to make my life bearable next year… and more importantly, so I don’t accidentally end up in jail for tax fraud out of ignorance and confusion?

ps: I think I just found my answer… (I guess I do have to pay in advance!!!)
http://www.irs.gov/publications/p505/ch02.html#d0e5923


——————————————————————————————————
(Thanks to the IRS for explaining, in fairly clear language, how I can give them my money)

When To Pay Estimated Tax

For estimated tax purposes, the year is divided into four payment periods. Each period has a specific payment due date. If you do not pay enough tax by the due date of each of the payment periods, you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your income tax return. The payment periods and due dates for estimated tax payments are shown below.

For the period: Due date:
Jan. 1 1 – March 31 April 15
April 1 – May 31 June 15
June 1 – August 31 September 15
Sept. 1 – Dec. 31 January 15
next year 2

1If your tax year does not begin on January 1,
see Fiscal year taxpayers, below.
2See January payment, below.

Saturday, Sunday, holiday rule. If the due date for an estimated tax payment falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the payment will be on time if you make it on the next business day. For example, a payment due on Saturday, September 15, 2007, will be on time if you make it by Monday, September 17, 2007.
January payment. If you file your 2007 Form 1040 or Form 1040A by January 31, 2008, and pay the rest of the tax you owe, you do not need to make the payment due on January 15, 2008.

Example.

Janet Adams does not pay any estimated tax for 2007. She files her 2007 income tax return and pays the balance due shown on her return on January 24, 2008.

Janet’s estimated tax for the fourth payment period is considered to have been paid on time. However, she may owe a penalty for not making the first three estimated tax payments. Any penalty for not making those payments will be figured up to January 24, 2008.

Fiscal year taxpayers. If your tax year does not start on January 1, your payment due dates are:
  1. The 15th day of the 4th month of your fiscal year,

  2. The 15th day of the 6th month of your fiscal year,

  3. The 15th day of the 9th month of your fiscal year, and

  4. The 15th day of the 1st month after the end of your fiscal year.

You do not have to make the last payment listed above if you file your income tax return by the last day of the first month after the end of your fiscal year and pay all the tax you owe with your return.

—————————————————————————————-

Ok, now I just have to figure out exactly how much I have to pay them. Hmm.

Here are some helpful links I’ll be reviewing to help me figure out just that, and I’ll report back here when I actually understand what I’m talking about:

1. Write From Home: Taxes for Writers: Paying your Estimated Tax
2. Huge Taxes for Freelancers?
3. California Tax Service Center

Once I do understand all this, I can work as a freelance freelance accountant. 🙂

Oh Boy! A $600 Rebate!

I’m a little excited about getting a $600 rebate this spring, thanks to the tax rebate package that passed today. While I’m not their ideal rebate grantee (I’ll likely invest the funds, maybe into my Roth, which now has $2000 left until I max it out for 2008, though) it will make it easier to buy a few new spring pieces to my wardrobe without feeling terribly guilty about my spending (to be honest, guilt and financial logic never stopped me from spending anyway).

The good news w/ the rebate is that even if I end up owing money on taxes for 2007, I’ll actually still get a rebate or… break even.

Sweet.

I wish this happened every year!

Help Me Sort Out My Tax Mess

How on earth am I going to figure out what I owe for taxes this year?

Can’t I have one year where my taxes are straight-forward?

I guess not.

So… I have absolutely no idea how much I’ve made this year. Some of my income has been taxed, some has not. I hate having to wait for those 1099’s to come in the mail to figure out what I’ve made. I should have kept better track of things, but it’s too late for that this time around.

Here’s a guesstimate of taxable income…

startup a: $1275
startup b: $3300 (1 month)
marketing firm: $2,275
————————————————-
$6850 not taxed yet.

Plus…
Pre-Taxed income:

Job 1: $12430 ($35k/year)
[$656 a month taken out in taxes??? Or $3283.33]
Job 2: $8028 ($50k/year)
[$2973 taken out in taxes total]

————————————————–

So I’ve had $6256 taken out as taxes already??? Possibly.

————————————————–

So how much tax am I going to owe?

Oy, I’m confused.

It’s Been a While, Time for an Update

I was just interviewed for an article about personal finance sites, and the brief early-morning chat reminded me that I haven’t updated this blog in a while. I’d like to start writing regularly again, it’s just tough to keep up with my blogs and my life. I don’t know how some personal finance bloggers find the time to write, like, three posts a day.

That said, I know I left you all with that wonderful long health insurance rant cliffhanger. Cue the cheesy suspense music please… “Duhn, duhn, duhn”….

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. I still don’t have health insurance. The good news is that’s mostly because I’m lazy and less because I’ve been denied. Well, I haven’t been denied because I haven’t applied yet. I’ve been speaking with a health insurance agent who seems to think my best option is to lie on my applications, although he won’t go on record as advising that. Meanwhile he’s also helped me put together a quote for Pacific Healthcare where I don’t have to lie, and that seems pretty reasonable (something like $140 a month for catastrophic insurance).

COBRA turns out to be a whopping $405 a month, so unless it turns out I actually get denied from every other option, it’s looking like COBRA, an aptly named snake, is a type of insurance one ought to stay away from even though it’s enticing from afar.

Money matters are looking up. I’m actually getting more work than I know what to do with right now. And old colleague who is the editor of a journalism-y startup just asked me to work a few hours for her a week helping with admin stuff, doing site maintenance and at some point writing some short and fun features for the site. I have a feeling she’s going to try to encourage me to get back into writing longer-format features and news stories at some point, but I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to head in. I’m kind of happy with the freedom (and better pay) that comes with controlling my career as a freelance writer out in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, my journalism expertise is in technology writing, and if I’m going to work for any startup in the area, it’s too conflict-of-interesty to try to swing a career half-time in journalism and half-time in writing marketing copy for these sites. This gig for my old colleague is kosher because it’s covering a specific area of technology that I will not be doing writing work for. So, that seems alright.

My biggest concern at the moment is the upcoming tax season. I just hope I get my W2 and 109 forms my way early so I can start figuring out how many zillions of dollars I owe, or don’t owe. I honestly have no idea what taxes will look like this year, and it scares me a bit. See, from Jan-June of 07 I was making “35k a year” and having taxes taken out of that. Then From June 15-Nov 15, I was making “50k a year” and taxes were swiped from my bi-monthly checks. That’s good. But after that, my tax situation turns into a bit of a mess. I’ve done a bunch of freelancing here and there. Some of it was for $50, some for $600, some for $1000. Obviously I’ll report all of the larger gigs, and try my best to remember the tally of my smaller gigs. Smart me, I haven’t been keeping track of my checks as I cashed them at the bank because I just assumed I’d have access to the scan of them later. I could have sworn at one point I saw these scans on my BankofAmerica.com account. No such luck. Apparently they charge some fee to pull up the scans of old checks. I don’t really want to find out how much that fee is. I guess I’ll just wait for my tax mail to come, and take it from there. And hopefully, at least for this year, it will turn out that my average pay was so low (due to periods of unemployment, without being on unemployment) that I’ll somehow break even on the whole tax situation. If not, there’s a chance I could owe a lot.

This is also the first year I’m going to see what having some cash in a mutual fund does to my taxes. Apparently I have to pay tax on my dividends. But right now it looks like my mutual fund, despite being ‘in the bank’ for over seven months, has returned to its original buying price. So I’m not sure how that all works out come tax time. Can someone explain this to me?