3.   Self-Employment Tax

Topics - This chapter discusses:

  • Who must pay self-employment tax, and

  • Who is exempt from self-employment tax.

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publication

  • 334 Tax Guide for Small Business

  • 517 Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers

Form (and Instructions)

  • Form 1040-PR Planilla para la Declaración de la Contribución Federal sobre el Trabajo por Cuenta Propia

  • Form 1040-SS U.S. Self-Employment Tax Return

  • Form 4361 Application for Exemption From Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners

  • Schedule SE (Form 1040) Self-Employment Tax

See chapter 7 for information about getting these publications and forms.

Who Must Pay Self-Employment Tax?

If you are a self-employed U.S. citizen or resident, the rules for paying self-employment tax are generally the same whether you are living in the United States or abroad.

The self-employment tax is a social security and Medicare tax on net earnings from self- 
employment. You must pay self-employment tax if your net earnings from self-employment are at least $400.

For 2014, the maximum amount of net earnings from self-employment that is subject to the social security portion of the tax is $117,000. All net earnings are subject to the Medicare portion of the tax.

Employed by a U.S. Church

If you were employed by a U.S. church or a qualified church-controlled organization that chose exemption from social security and Medicare taxes and you received wages of $108.28 or more from the organization, the amounts paid to you are subject to self-employment tax. However, you can choose to be exempt from social security and Medicare taxes if you are a member of a recognized religious sect. See Publication 517 for more information about church employees and self-employment tax.

Effect of Exclusion

You must take all of your self-employment income into account in figuring your net earnings from self-employment, even income that is exempt from income tax because of the foreign earned income exclusion.

Example.

You are in business abroad as a consultant and qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion. Your foreign earned income is $95,000, your business deductions total $27,000, and your net profit is $68,000. You must pay self-employment tax on all of your net profit, including the amount you can exclude from income.

Members of the Clergy

If you are a member of the clergy, you are treated as self-employed for self-employment tax purposes. Your U.S. self-employment tax is based upon net earnings from self-employment figured without regard to the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion.

You can receive exemption from coverage for your ministerial duties if you conscientiously oppose public insurance due to religious reasons or if you oppose it due to the religious principles of your denomination. You must file Form 4361 to apply for this exemption.

This subject is discussed in further detail in Publication 517.

Income From U.S. Possessions

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you own and operate a business in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you must pay tax on your net earnings from self-employment (if they are $400 or more) from those sources. You must pay the self-employment tax whether or not the income is exempt from U.S. income taxes (or whether or not you otherwise must file a U.S. income tax return). Unless your situation is described below, attach Schedule SE (Form 1040) to your U.S. income tax return.

If you do not have to file Form 1040 with the United States and you are a resident of any of the U.S. possessions listed in the preceding paragraph, figure your self-employment tax on Form 1040-SS. Residents of Puerto Rico may file the Spanish-language Formulario 1040-PR.

If you are not enclosing a check or money order, file your return with the:

Department of the Treasury 
Internal Revenue Service Center 
Austin, TX 73301-0215

If you are enclosing a check or money order, file your return with the:

Department of the Treasury 
P.O. Box 1303 
Charlotte, NC 28201-1303

Exemption From Social Security and Medicare Taxes

The United States may reach agreements with foreign countries to eliminate dual coverage and dual contributions (taxes) to social security systems for the same work. See Bilateral Social Security (Totalization) Agreements in chapter 2 under Social Security and Medicare Taxes. As a general rule, self-employed persons who are subject to dual taxation will only be covered by the social security system of the country where they reside. For more information on how any specific agreement affects self-employed persons, contact the United States Social Security Administration, as discussed under Bilateral Social Security (Totalization) Agreements in chapter 2.

If your self-employment earnings should be exempt from foreign social security tax and subject only to U.S. self-employment tax, you should request a certificate of coverage from the U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of International Programs. The certificate will establish your exemption from the foreign social security tax.

Send the request to the:

Social Security Administration 
Office of International Programs 
P.O. Box 17741 
Baltimore, MD 21235-7741


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