General Instructions

Who Must File Schedule SE

You must file Schedule SE if:

  • The amount on line 4 of Short Schedule SE or line 4c of Long Schedule SE is $400 or more, or

  • You had church employee income of $108.28 or more. See Employees of Churches and Church Organizations. However, see the Exception, next.

Exception.   Self-employment income from earnings as a minister, member of a religious order, or Christian Science practitioner, is not church employee income. However, see Ministers, Members of Religious Orders, and Christian Science Practitioners for information on how to report these earnings.

Even if you had a loss or a small amount of income from self-employment, it may be to your benefit to file Schedule SE and use either "optional method" in Part II of Long Schedule SE (discussed later).

Who Must Pay Self-Employment (SE) Tax

Self-Employed Persons

You must pay SE tax if you had net earnings of $400 or more as a self-employed person. If you are in business (farm or nonfarm) for yourself, you are self-employed.

You must also pay SE tax on your share of certain partnership income and your guaranteed payments. See Partnership Income or Loss, later.

Employees of Churches and Church Organizations

If you had church employee income of $108.28 or more, you must pay SE tax. Church employee income is wages you received as an employee (other than as a minister, a member of a religious order, or a Christian Science practitioner) of a church or qualified church-controlled organization that has a certificate in effect electing an exemption from employer social security and Medicare taxes.

Ministers, Members of Religious Orders, and Christian Science Practitioners

In most cases, you must pay SE tax on salaries and other income for services you performed as a minister, a member of a religious order who has not taken a vow of poverty, or a Christian Science practitioner. But if you filed Form 4361 and received IRS approval, you will be exempt from paying SE tax on those net earnings. If you had no other income subject to SE tax, enter “Exempt—Form 4361” on Form 1040, line 57, or Form 1040NR, line 55. However, if you had other earnings of $400 or more subject to SE tax, see line A at the top of Long Schedule SE.

If you have ever filed Form 2031 to elect social security coverage on your earnings as a minister, you cannot revoke that election.

If you must pay SE tax, include this income on either Short or Long Schedule SE, line 2. But do not report it on Long Schedule SE, line 5a; it is not considered church employee income. Also, include on line 2:

  • The rental value of a home or an allowance for a home furnished to you (including payments for utilities), and

  • The value of meals and lodging provided to you, your spouse, and your dependents for your employer's convenience.

However, do not include on line 2:

  • Retirement benefits you received from a church plan after retirement, or

  • The rental value of a home or an allowance for a home furnished to you (including payments for utilities) after retirement.

If you were a duly ordained minister who was an employee of a church and you must pay SE tax, the unreimbursed business expenses that you incurred as a church employee are allowed only as an itemized deduction for income tax purposes. However, when figuring SE tax, subtract on line 2 the allowable expenses from your self-employment earnings and attach an explanation.

If you were a U.S. citizen or resident alien serving outside the United States as a minister or member of a religious order and you must pay SE tax, you cannot reduce your net earnings by the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion or deduction.

See Pub. 517 for details.

Members of Certain Religious Sects

If you have conscientious objections to social security insurance because of your membership in and belief in the teachings of a religious sect recognized as being in existence at all times since December 31, 1950, and which has provided a reasonable level of living for its dependent members, you are exempt from SE tax if you received IRS approval by filing Form 4029. In this case, do not file Schedule SE. Instead, enter “Exempt—Form 4029” on Form 1040, line 57, or Form 1040NR, line 55. See Pub. 517 for details.

U.S. Citizens Employed by Foreign Governments or International Organizations

You must pay SE tax on income you earned as a U.S. citizen employed by a foreign government (or, in certain cases, by a wholly owned instrumentality of a foreign government or an international organization under the International Organizations Immunities Act) for services performed in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Report income from this employment on either Short or Long Schedule SE, line 2. If you performed services elsewhere as an employee of a foreign government or an international organization, those earnings are exempt from SE tax.

Exception—Dual citizens.   A person with dual U.S.-foreign citizenship is generally considered to be a U.S. citizen for social security purposes. However, if you are a U.S. citizen and also a citizen of a country with which the United States has a bilateral social security agreement, other than Canada or Italy, your work for the government of that foreign country is always exempt from U.S. social security taxes. For further information about these agreements, see the exception shown in the next section.

U.S. Citizens or Resident Aliens Living Outside the United States

If you are a self-employed U.S. citizen or resident alien living outside the United States, in most cases you must pay SE tax. You cannot reduce your foreign earnings from self-employment by your foreign earned income exclusion.

Exception.   The United States has social security agreements with many countries to eliminate dual taxes under two social security systems. Under these agreements, you must generally pay social security and Medicare taxes to only the country you live in.

  The United States now has social security agreements with the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

  If you have questions about international social security agreements, or to see if any additional agreements have been entered into, you can visit the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) International Programs website at www.socialsecurity.gov/international. The website also provides contact information for questions about benefits and the agreements.

  If your self-employment income is exempt from SE tax, you should get a statement from the appropriate agency of the foreign country verifying that your self-employment income is subject to social security coverage in that country. If the foreign country will not issue the statement, contact the SSA Office of International Programs. Do not complete Schedule SE. Instead, attach a copy of the statement to Form 1040 and enter “Exempt, see attached statement” on Form 1040, line 57.

Nonresident Alien

If you are a self-employed nonresident alien living in the United States, you must pay SE tax if an international social security agreement in effect determines that you are covered under the U.S. social security system. See Exception under U.S. Citizens or Resident Aliens Living Outside the United States, earlier, for information about international social security agreements. If your self-employment income is subject to SE tax, complete Schedule SE and file it with your Form 1040NR.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Cases

While you are a debtor in a chapter 11 bankruptcy case, your net profit or loss from self-employment (for example, from Schedule C or Schedule F) will not be included in your Form 1040 income. Instead, it will be included on the income tax return (Form 1041) of the bankruptcy estate. However, you (not the bankruptcy estate) are responsible for paying SE tax on your net earnings from self-employment.

Enter on the dotted line to the left of Schedule SE, line 3, “Chap. 11 bankruptcy income” and the amount of your net profit or (loss). Combine that amount with the total of lines 1a, 1b, and 2 (if any) and enter the result on line 3.

For other reporting requirements, see Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Cases in the Instructions for Form 1040.

More Than One Business

If you had two or more businesses subject to self-employment tax, your net earnings from self-employment are the combined net earnings from all of your businesses. If you had a loss in one business, it reduces the income from another. Figure the combined SE tax on one Schedule SE.

Joint Returns

Show the name of the spouse with self-employment income on Schedule SE. If both spouses have self-employment income, each must file a separate Schedule SE. However, if one spouse qualifies to use Short Schedule SE (front of form) and the other must use Long Schedule SE (back of form), both can use the same form. One spouse should complete the front and the other the back.

Include the total profits or losses from all businesses on Form 1040. Enter the combined SE tax on Form 1040, line 57.

Community Income

If any of the income from a business (including farming) is community income, then the income and deductions are reported as follows.

  • If only one spouse participates in the business, all of the income from that business is the self-employment earnings of the spouse who carried on the business.

  • If both spouses participate, the income and deductions are allocated to the spouses based on their distributive shares.

  • If either or both spouses are partners in a partnership, see Partnership Income or Loss, later.

  • If both spouses elected to treat the business as a qualifying joint venture, see Qualified Joint Ventures, later.

Married filing separately.   If you and your spouse had community income and file separate returns, attach Schedule SE to the return of each spouse with self-employment earnings under the rules described earlier. Also attach Schedule(s) C, C-EZ, or F (showing the spouse's share of community income and expenses) to the return of each spouse.

Spouse who carried on the business.

If you are the only spouse who carried on the business, you must include on Schedule SE, line 3, the net profit or (loss) reported on the other spouse's Schedule C, C-EZ, or F (except in those cases described later under Income and Losses Not Included in Net Earnings From Self-Employment). Enter on the dotted line to the left of Schedule SE, line 3, “Community income taxed to spouse” and the amount of any net profit or (loss) allocated to your spouse as community income. Combine that amount with the total of lines 1a, 1b, and 2. Enter the result on line 3.

Spouse who did not carry on the business.

If you are not the spouse who carried on the business and you had no other income subject to SE tax, enter “Exempt community income” on Form 1040, line 57, or Form 1040NR, line 55. Do not file Schedule SE.

But if you have $400 or more of other earnings subject to SE tax, you must file Schedule SE. Include on Schedule SE, line 1a or 2, the net profit or (loss) from Schedule(s) C, C-EZ, or F allocated to you as community income. On the dotted line to the left of Schedule SE, line 3, enter “Exempt community income” and the allocated amount. Figure the amount to enter on line 3 as follows.

  • If the allocated amount is a net profit, subtract it from the total of lines 1a, 1b, and 2.

  • If the allocated amount is a loss, treat it as a positive amount and add it to the total of lines 1a, 1b, and 2.

Community income included on Schedule(s) C, C-EZ, or F must be divided for income tax purposes based on the community property laws of your state. See Pub. 555 for more information.

Qualified Joint Ventures

If you and your spouse materially participate as the only members of a jointly owned and operated business, and you file a joint return for the tax year, you can make a joint election to be taxed as a qualified joint venture instead of a partnership. For information on what it means to materially participate, see Material participation in the Instructions for Schedule C.

To make this election, you must divide all items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit attributable to the business between you and your spouse in accordance with your respective interests in the venture. Each of you must file a separate Schedule C, C-EZ, or F. On each line of your separate Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, you must enter your share of the applicable income, deduction, or loss. Each of you also must file a separate Schedule SE to pay SE tax, as applicable.

For more information on qualified joint ventures, go to IRS.gov and enter “qualified joint venture” in the search box.

Rental real estate business.   If you and your spouse make the election to be taxed as a qualified joint venture for your rental real estate business, the income generally is not subject to SE tax. To indicate that election, be sure to check the “QJV” box in Part I, line 2, of each Schedule E that the rental property is listed on. Do not file Schedule SE unless you have other income subject to SE tax. For an exception to this income not being subject to SE tax, see item 3 under Other Income and Losses Included in Net Earnings From Self-Employment, later.

  If the election is made for a farm rental business to be taxed as a qualified joint venture, the income from which is not subject to self-employment tax, file two Forms 4835, Farm Rental Income and Expenses.

Fiscal Year Filers

If your tax year is a fiscal year, use the tax rate and annual earnings limit that apply at the time the fiscal year begins. Do not prorate the tax or annual earnings limit for a fiscal year that overlaps the date of a change in the tax or annual earnings limit.


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