For many people, paying income taxes is something that happens "automatically" with every paycheck, via the mechanism of payroll deductions. Line items like Social Security, Medicare, and an approximate amount of income taxes owed come out of each paycheck, and the process of completing and filing a tax return in April of the next year results in a reconciliation of that process: did the taxpayer pay "too much" or "too little" over the course of the year, and do they get a refund or a bill for taxes due?
for the self-employed, and...
But for folks who earn income "on the side" or are self-employed, payroll deductions are far less common. For many people in this scenario, the typical approach is to pay "quarterly estimated taxes" via the IRS form 1040 ES.
The general idea here is that the taxpayer will figure out what they are likely to owe for the full year, and make four equal payments by the quarterly deadlines. In reality, for many self-employed people their income does not come in conveniently steady streams, and accurately forecasting their full year income can be difficult. For people in that situation, it may be necessary to make adjustments along the way to get the cumulative tax payments close to the right amount.
"gig economy", "side hustles", investments...
Even for people who get most of their regular income from a salary or W2 paycheck, there may be a need to consider making 1040 ES payments. Drive Uber for extra cash? Rent out a room on AirBnB? Realize some significant investment gains? All of these could potentially raise the tax liability for the year; if the amount paid in along the way is too low, there could be a penalty in addition to the eventual tax owed.
the next due date: april 18, 2017
If any of the above applies to your situation, get ready for the first 2017 quarterly due date in mid April. If this date seems familiar, it's because that's the 2016 personal return filing deadline too!
David R Wattenbarger, president of DRW Financial
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