Tax time is here. This can be an inconvenience for everyone, especially self employed musicians. Wheather this is your first year filing taxes as a self employed musician, or you are a veteran of the process, below I will offer some explanation of the challenges self employed musicians face and how to get yourself in the best situation possible when it comes to limiting your payments. Below is part one of my posts on this topic. It outlines the basis concept of self employed taxation. Look for my upcoming part 2 post on maximizing your deductions next week.
If you are doing a lot of teaching or performing it is likely taxes are not being withheld from your pay checks. Besides the federal income tax all individuals pay, the self employed must also pay what is known as self employment tax. This goes toward things such as social security and Medicare. If you are employed on a payroll, your employer covers half this and the other half is deducted from your paycheck each month.
Self employed individuals must pay this tax along with federal tax, so it can often times be a much higher tax bill. There is a deduction on this that can be taken to help offset the cost, but it is good practice to know what you are paying as a musician and why.
To prevent you from oweing a huge tax bill on April 15, musicians should submit quarterly tax payments using from 1040ES. To make this a successful procedure estimate your total tax for the year and divide it in 4. On these days: 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 you must mail this form in with a check to the United States treasury and your SSN number on the memo line.
Tax years are not calendar years. They begin and end on April 15. So, if you are new to this procedure you can get a fresh start on the 15th for the 2015 tax year. Obviously, this circumstance requires planning a head and saving. If you are not sure how much to pay, just submit some type of payment and begin planning a savings strategy for June 15.
The ultimate kicker of this procedure is often times teaching or performing can be seasonal, with things winding down in May. The June payment is still looming and a savings account is key to making these payments. It is very easy to be unaware that money you are receiving has yet to be taxed so save frequently, and over time you will develop an idea of how much you will need to save toward taxes.