5 Unusual Ways to Slash a 1099 Freelancer’s Tax Bill


If you’re a freelancer regularly scrambling for a new gig, you may consider taxes just one more hassle you have to wrestle. The good news? Uncle Sam understands that independent contractors and moderate-income workers have a distinct set of challenges from full-time employees, and wrote sections of the tax code to help lighten your financial burden. However, if you don’t know about these legitimate ways to cut your tax bill, you may wind up overpaying. Each American, on average, sends the government $400 too much in tax money. That’s nearly a billion dollars in total. As a freelancer who receives 1099s, learn how to reduce the amount you owe the government with these tax breaks.

1. Saver’s Credit

Depositing money into a Roth IRA is a great tax deduction. (If you don’t have an IRA, you should seriously consider opening one.) In addition to an IRA deduction, there’s a lesser-known credit that’s only used by 12 percent of eligible taxpayers: the saver’s credit. Created by the IRS to encourage low- and moderate-income workers to save for retirement, the credit can be taken for any contribution made to an IRA, 401K, 403B, 457B or other government-recognized retirement account. The saver’s credit is offered in addition to the deduction a taxpayer receives from an IRA credit, and can increase your refund or reduce the tax owed.

2. Health Savings Account

Used to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, a Health Savings Account (HSA) can be tax-deductible or made with pre-tax dollars. In order to qualify for this tax break, you need to have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Typically, these plans won’t pay many benefits until the deductible amount has been covered. For 2015, the minimum deductibles needed to qualify as an HDHP were $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for family coverage. These HSA funds can be used to pay for doctor visits, prescriptions, hospital visits and even over-the-counter medicine prescribed by a physician.

3. Simplified Employee Pension

It’s possible for a self-employed worker to get many of the same pension benefits as an employee of a large organization. Establishing a simplified employee pension (SEP) with the IRS can be as easy as filling out a form and utilizing a government-approved plan. A SEP allows the worker to contribute as much as 25 percent of net earnings from self-employment, up to $53,000 (in the years 2015 and 2016). These pensions have also been known as Keogh plans, although that term isn’t used as often these days.

4. Job-Hunting Expenses

Did hunting for a new job require you to pay for networking events, travel to an interview or business cards? These expenses can be itemized and deducted from your taxes. For freelancers, though, the expenses need to have exceeded 2 percent of your adjusted gross income in order to be deductible. Be sure to research what’s allowable before filing your taxes.

5. Education Credits

Still paying off student loans? Interest from those loans can be deducted, up to $2,500. A nice part about this credit is that it isn’t necessary to itemize in order to take it. The Lifetime Learning Credit makes it possible to deduct any classes taken for academic credit or professional development, up to $2,000. Did you need to take a class to learn how use software for your job? That can be tax-deductible.

Since every paycheck counts for a 1099 freelancer, you don’t want to wind up with a huge tax bill after a year of hard work. You can reduce your financial burden with breaks and credits already on the books. With the right adjustments, you may wind up being one of the 80 percent of taxpayers who receive a refund.

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