It’s that time of year again…or is it?
From what I’ve read about how to pay self-employment taxes, us online teachers shouldn’t leave it all until the last minute and file when everyone else does!
The requirements are a bit different for digital nomads working independently or in contracted positions for other companies (think VIPKID), and it’s important we know when we should file, how much we’ll need to pay, and different ways we can save a bit by deducting ‘business expenses’.
While it’s always best for online teachers to work with an accountant to make sure they’re filing their taxes correctly, we’ll get you started on the right path with our overview on how to pay self-employment taxes.
When Do Online Teachers File Self-Employment Taxes?
What do you mean ‘When’?! It’s tax season now, isn’t it??
Actually, the regulations are different for self-employed or contracted online workers who expect to pay over $1000 in taxes in a tax year after deducting federal income tax. These individuals-who usually receive Form 1099-are required to pay quarterly taxes four times a year.
Those online teachers who receive a W-2 from their university or institution have taxes withdrawn throughout the year by their employer and do not need to pay quarterly taxes.
Don’t panic if you think you might be behind, but do read up on how to file taxes with IRS form 1099-MISC. You might be hit with a 5% penalty for each month your payment is overdue, but it won’t exceed 25% of the total taxes owed. Late payments on quarterly taxes can also result in a $100 fine. Every dollar counts for online teachers, so make sure to get them in quarterly so you can avoid the fine!
Here are the deadlines as listed by Form 1040-ES Estimated Tax for Individuals on the IRS website:
1st Quarter due …………….. April 15, 2018
2nd Quarter due ……………. June 15, 2018
3rd Quarter due …………….. Sept. 15, 2018
4th Quarter due…………….. Jan. 15, 2019
How Much Do I Owe in Taxes as an Online Teacher?
The current rate for self-employed workers is 12.4% for social security and 2.9% for Medicare, so you’ll pay a total of 15.3%.
It’s important to note these quarterly taxes take the place of an employer withdrawing throughout the year. The way you choose to estimate and withhold your taxes, the amount taken out for any other employment income, and the amount of income you earn will influence the amount of estimated taxes you need to pay throughout the year.
You can use Form 1040-ES to determine this, or get help from an accountant (see below), but the general rule of thumb is to save 25-30% of your paycheck. Set it aside in a separate bank account manually, or set up an automatic recurring transfer from one bank account to another so you don’t spend it.
Remember those teachers who earn more than $400/year from all self-employment sources, and your client (VIPKID, for example) is required to provide you with a 1099-MISC form if they’ve paid you $600 or more during the year.
Save Money: Online Teacher Tax Deductions
Before I talk about the expenses you can deduct to save yourself some hard-earned cash, let me give you a quick tip:
If you have the time and money to meet with a professional accountant, especially if you’re friends with one, you’d be amazed at the ways they can help you save money. This is useful if you’ve forgotten to pay quarterly or you’ve messed up some other way throughout the year. I was able to save a ton in the ‘deductions department’ by doing this. So don’t always take shortcuts by using online platforms if you can help it.
Now, on to deductions for online teachers.
Unfortunately, we’re not eligible for the Educator Expense deduction if we don’t work for a traditional K-12 school. But we can still make deductions like:
- Teaching supplies
- Business supplies
- Most requirements for teaching online, including props, laptop, your headset, and uhh your internet of course.
- Possibly your ‘home office’, but we’ll let you check the IRS website for information on their Home Office Deduction.
- Travel?! This once gets dicey. Again, check with a tax professional, but if you traveled for your job, it might work out. Think travel expenses related to traveling for certification or between your home and work. Again, check with the IRS website.
Now, it’s a smart idea to keep your receipts. This will make your life and your accountants life easier, should you chose to use one. It’s also best to keep your personal finances separate from your business expenses:
Set up separate bank and/or Paypal accounts to do this.
If you don’t have your receipts, don’t worry too much about it. Your accountant might still be able to help you out.
But in this digital age, just snap shots of them and save them to your phone, a designated folder, or to a receipt-tracking app like Shoeboxed so they’re ready to go come tax time.
Bonus Deduction: The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)
Many of us teach online and travel.
But did you live outside of the US for 330 days or more in the past year?
You might qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on self-employment income!
Now, this is far from the only requirement. Here’s a brief description from the IRS about the FEIE:
If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you are taxed on your worldwide income. However, you may qualify to exclude from income up to an amount of your foreign earnings that is adjusted annually for inflation ($92,900 for 2011, $95,100 for 2012, $97,600 for 2013, $99,200 for 2014 and $100,800 for 2015). In addition, you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts.
Due to the numerous qualifications and the confusing nature of determining your tax year vs a calendar year, I’d suggest using the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant to see if you qualify!
Teaching Online and Paying Taxes: Not So Scary
It might seem difficult, but you’ll be all set once you get a good system going.
I can’t recommend meeting at least once to establish this with an account. This was all it took for me, and I can now handle my own taxes for the coming year.
Remember these tips:
- Save receipts and figure out your eligible deductions
- Create a separate bank account and save about 25% for tax payments
- See if you qualify for the Foreign Income Exclusion and
- Remember to pay quarterly-mark your calendar!
The last thing you want is for Uncle Sam to dip his hand even deeper into your pocket to collect fees when you’ve missed the deadline after working so hard teaching throughout the year!