How to Calculate Self Employment Tax If You Are Being Paid as an Independent Contractor

Calculating self-employment taxes is not overwhelming.

If you are currently working as an independent contractor or considering a position as a contractor, you will need to consider the tax impact. Under the usual employer-to-employee situation, the employer pays 7.65 percent for Social Security and Medicare taxes and the employee pays another 7.65 percent, which is withheld directly from your paycheck. An independent contractor does not have Social Security or Medicare tax withheld and is responsible for the employer and employee portion for a combined tax of 15.3 percent. Understanding this is important to understand the true tax implications for an independent contractor.

Step 1

Write the annual salary you are anticipating as an independent contractor. This is the base number upon which you will calculate self-employment tax owed.

Step 2

Deduct 7.65 percent from this figure. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows you to deduct 7.65 percent as if you are your own employer. Thus, deduct this percentage from a hypothetical salary of $100,000. The formula is $100,000 minus $7,650 (7.65 percent of $100,000). The result is $92,350; thus, calculate self-employment tax on this figure.

Step 3

Calculate the self-employment tax you will owe. Self-employment is the combination of 6.2 percent of Social Security tax and 1.45 percent of Medicare tax, for a combined 7.65 percent. The independent contractor pays both the employer and employee portion for a combined tax of 15.3 percent. Thus, the formula in this example is $92,350 multiplied by 15.3 percent equals $14,130. This is the total self-employment tax on annual earnings of $100,000. Note that this is self-employment tax. In addition, federal income tax will be owed on the $100,000 earnings.


The Social Security tax of 6.2 percent is on the first $113,700 of earnings in 2013. Anything beyond that amount is only subject to the Medicare tax of 1.45 percent.

Social Security tax was 4.2 percent for employees and 6.2 in employers, or 10.4 for self-employed for 2011 and 2012.

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