Tips For Filing Independent Consultant Taxes

Tax Tips for Independent Consultants

In today’s gig economy, working as an independent consultant is hugely popular – but the additional income means there are tax implications to think about. Independent consultants typically work for single and multi-level marketing companies, but they are not considered traditional employees.  

Independent consultants sell a product directly to customers through personal connections and hosted events like in-home parties. They can also recruit other consultants and earn a bonus or percentage for sales that happen down the line.    

The IRS calls independent consultants “direct sellers,” and they have rules for how you should file your taxes. If you’re worried that your new side hustle makes you more likely to be audited, follow these tips and feel confident when tax season rolls around.  

1. File your tax return  

Anytime you earn income, you need to report it to the IRS on your tax return if you meet the income requirements to file taxes. The company you represent is reporting your earnings on their end. The IRS will know what you made even if you don’t file a return.  

For example, let’s say you only earn $150 selling ItWorks! If you have other income to report on your tax return, you are required to include this $150 as part of your total earnings for the year. If you do not have other income, you aren’t required to file a tax return since you earned less than $400 total all year.  

But just because you file a tax return doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay taxes. If your net business income (your revenue minus your expenses) is $400 or more, you’re required to report the income on your tax return, you just won’t owe any tax.  

2. Report all your business income  

When you are an independent consultant, you may receive different types of income from direct sales:   

  • Income from sales when customers buy your products  
  • Commissions, bonuses, or percentages when someone you sponsor makes a sale  
  • Prizes and awards  
  • Products you receive for meeting a sales quota  
  • Other gifts offered by the company to you (not hostess gifts)  

Most companies will send a Form 1099 to independent distributors who earned over $600 or purchased more than $5,000 in inventory in the previous year. This is the form you will use to complete your tax return. It should account for all your income types from your work as an independent consultant.  

3. Pay self-employment tax  

Since you are not a traditional employee for the company you’re selling for, they are not required to withhold money from your pay for Social Security, Medicare, or income tax. As a direct seller you are considered self-employed, so if you earn more than $400 for the year, the IRS expects you to pay your own tax.  

The self-employment tax rate is 15.3% of your net earnings. It consists of the following:  

  • 12.4% for Social Security.  
  • 2.9% for Medicare.  

If you think you will owe $1,000 or more in taxes when you file your tax return, then you should pay estimated tax throughout the year. If you expect to owe less than $1,000 in taxes, you can pay it all at once when you file your tax return. 

4. Know which expenses you can deduct  

Business deductions are a way to lower your taxable income. This applies to both individual income taxes and self-employment taxes. Direct sellers can generally deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses, including:   

  • Advertising and marketing costs– Deduct the cost of business cards, fliers, even a decal on your car.  
  • Home office space and equipment– You can deduct the cost of office furniture and technology needed to run your business. If your space is exclusively used for business, you can deduct $5 per square foot using the simplified method.  
  • Business miles and vehicle expenses – The miles you drive delivering product to your customers are deductible.  
  • Startup costs – Starter kits, training sessions, and any fees you pay to become a consultant are deductible up to $5,000. You can choose to deduct or amortize these.     
  • Sample inventory – Products that you use for demonstration purposes are tax deductible. If you sell the samples instead of using them entirely for demonstration, they should be counted as inventory. 

Reminder: Inventory that you sell cannot be used as a tax deduction. The value of your inventory will be used to decrease your income before calculating taxes.  

5. Separate business activity from hobbies 

Maybe you became an independent consultant to get a good price on the product, but you had no intention of turning it into an actual business. If you’re not in direct sales for the money, you will still need to report any income you do earn – but you won’t be able to deduct your expenses. Find out if the IRS considers you a hobbyist or self-employed.  

Ready to file your tax return? For independent consultants, we recommend filing with TaxSlayer Self-Employed. You’ll get all the tax breaks you qualify for as a direct seller, plus one-on-one help from a self-employment tax expert when you need extra support.  

Compare all our products and decide which one is right for you! 

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