Freelancer Tips

Wait...I Have to Pay Taxes Quarterly?

Hannah Curran
June 13, 2017

Paying taxes after April – sounds crazy, right? Unfortunately, this is the ugly truth for freelancers, Airbnb hosts, rideshare drivers, or anyone else earning 1099 income. If you earn self-employment income, you’re expected to write Uncle Sam a check four times a year for quarterly estimated tax payments. Not completely sure what we’re talking about? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – over two-thirds of freelancers don’t understand their self-employment tax obligation. With the next quarterly estimated tax due date just around the corner, June 15th to be exact, we put together a quick run-down on quarterly estimated tax payments to answer any questions you may have about paying your quarterlies.

Who has to pay?

Well, pretty much everybody. Here in the United States, we use what’s called a “pay-as-you-go” system for collecting income tax. This means that you’re expected to pay taxes on the income that you earn throughout the year. This is something that is often overlooked when working a W-2 job because employers are required to automatically withhold money for taxes and pay the IRS on your behalf. When you’re self-employed, however, there is no one there to withhold your money for you or pay the IRS - it’s all on you to make sure Uncle Sam is getting his money. There are a few exceptions, but if you’re expecting to owe over $1,000 in self-employment taxes this year, you need to be paying quarterly estimated taxes.

Do I HAVE to pay them?

Neglecting to pay quarterly estimated taxes can get expensive. If you do miss a payment, you’ll be charged a penalty and have to pay interest on the unpaid balance of the missed payment. While missing one payment may not break the bank, missing multiple quarterly estimates can add up quickly. The last thing you want is to get to Tax Day only to be blindsided by a big bill from the IRS.

How much should I expect to pay and how do I get your payments to the IRS?

There are a few ways to calculate how much you should be paying and to actually pay your quarterly payments. The method that you should use depends on a few things about your work.If you earned 1099 income and paid self-employment taxes last year, you can base your quarterly payments off of the amount you paid last year. The IRS Form 1040-ES is the go-to resource for calculating what you need to be setting aside for this year’s payments. If your work is fairly steady, you can always refer to what you paid last year. Planning to pay 100-110 percent of what you paid last year is good rule of thumb to avoid underpayment. If this is the first year you’ve earned 1099 income, or if your work is seasonal, you can use what the IRS calls the annualized payment method. This simply means that you pay the IRS a percentage of that particular quarter’s earnings instead of a flat rate for each quarter of the year. To use the annualized payment method, you’ll want to use the IRS Form 2210. For more information on how to get these payments to the right place, check out these guides on paying federal and state quarterly taxes.

What if I overestimate or underestimate?

No worries – the IRS will be sure to let you know. If you’re lucky enough to have made more money than what you estimated from the year prior, you’ll get a note from the IRS letting you know that you underpaid for the year. If you have an off-year and overestimated your quarterly payments, you will receive a refund at the end of the year or you can just apply that amount to the next year’s tax obligation.

When are quarterly tax payments due?

Remember to mark these dates on your calendar to avoid having to pay those pesky penalties from the IRS.

  • 1st payment………………………. April 18, 2017
  • 2nd payment………………………. June 15, 2017
  • 3rd payment………………………. Sept. 15, 2017
  • 4th payment………………………. Jan. 16, 2018*

* You do not have to make the payment due January 16, 2018, if you file your 2017 tax return by January 31, 2018, and pay the entire balance due with your return.

How can I make handling quarterlies easier?

Having to pay the government four times a year sucks, there’s no way around that. However, there are a few really simple ways you can take the anxiety out of quarterly taxes. The key to getting your payments in on time is to make sure that you’re keeping up with how much you owe each time you earn 1099 income. This probably sounds a little tedious, to say the least - that’s why we created Painless1099. Painless1099’s smart bank accounts automatically calculate and withhold the money you need to be saving for taxes every time you get paid and then send what’s safe for you to spend directly to your personal checking account. That way, you’ll always know that you’re squared away for quarterly taxes and can focus on doing the work that got you into self-employment in the first place.

Found any tricks that have made paying your quarterly taxes easier? Let us know in the comments below!

Hannah Curran
Hannah Curran is Fiverr's Social Media and Content Manager. Originally from Connecticut, she lives in California and works out of our San Francisco office. Have an idea for the Fiverr blog? Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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