• Finance

The self-employment tax wage threshold has risen. Here's what that could mean for your 2020 tax burden.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced an increase to the maximum amount of wages subject to the old age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) tax. The wage threshold for these taxes will increase to $142,800 in 2021, up from $137,700 in 2020. The OASDI tax rate is 6.2%, Self-employed freelancers will pay these taxes at a 12.4% rate up to the wage threshold limit, to a maximum of $17,707.20 in OASDI tax. It’s an increase of nearly $700 for high-earning freelancers.

The SSA also announced that recipients of Social Security benefits will receive a 1.3% cost-of-living adjustment, and that the earnings test for the amount of income that benefit recipients can receive without having their benefits reduced each year is $18,960 before full retirement age, and the limit taxpayers can earn in the year they reach full retirement age is $50,520. Both have increased from 2020.

It is important to note that the Medicare hospital insurance tax of 2.9% for the self-employed has no wage limit.

The self-employment tax obligations for freelance business owners can really add to your tax bill. For many freelancers, the amount paid in self-employment tax (the combination of OASDI and the Medicare hospital tax, currently assessed at a rate of 15.3%) is almost as much as they pay in federal income tax, depending on their current federal tax bracket. For example:

· Freelancers with taxable income of $0 to $9,875 are in the 10% tax bracket.

· Those with taxable income from $9,876 to $40,125 are in the 12% tax bracket.

· Those with freelance income from $40,126 to $85,525 are in the 22% bracket.

The self-employment tax burden is somewhat mitigated by the ability to claim it as a reduction in income through the employer portion of the social security tax and the Qualified Business Income deduction. However, freelancers may want to look into forming an S-corporation or C-corporation to potentially lower the impact of these taxes.

Consulting with a tax professional before changing your freelance business entity is highly advised to ensure that you consider all of the ramifications of this decision. In addition to these federal taxes, there are state and local tax considerations that may come into play where you live. For example, the New York City General Corporation Tax, which applies taxes to flow-through profits on S-corps at a rate of 8.8875%, may eliminate a significant portion of the benefit that many freelance business owners anticipate when changing their business entity from an LLC or a sole proprietorship to a corporation.

Jonathan Medows is a New York City-based CPA who specializes in taxes and business issues for freelancers and self-employed individuals across the country. He provides tax, accounting and business articles for freelancers on his website,, which also features a blog and a comprehensive freelance tax guide. Please note, due to the high volume of inquiries in regard to COVID-19, Jonathan is not able to respond to individual requests for information at this time.

Jonathan Medows Jonathan Medows is a NYC-based CPA who specializes in taxes for consultants across the country. His website has a resource section with how-to articles and information for freelancers.

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