The Center For Debt Management
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Who Is Considered Self-Employed?

You are self-employed if any of the following apply to you:

  • You carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor
    or an independent contractor.

  • You are a member of a partnership that carries
    on a trade or business.

  • You are otherwise in business for yourself.

Trade or business. A trade or business is generally an activity carried on for a livelihood or in good faith to make a profit. The facts and circumstances of each case determine whether or not an activity is a trade or business. The regularity of activities and transactions and the production of income are important elements. You do not need to actually make a profit to be in a trade or business as long as you have a profit motive. You do need, however, to make ongoing efforts to further the interests of your business.

Part-time business. You do not have to carry on regular full-time business activities to be self-employed. Having a part-time business in addition to your regular job or
business also may be self-employment.

Example. You are employed full time as an engineer at the local plant. You fix televisions and radios during the weekends. You have your own shop, equipment, and tools. You get your customers from advertising and word-of-mouth. You are self-employed as the owner of a part-time repair shop.

Sole proprietor. You are a sole proprietor if you own an unincorporated business by yourself, in most cases. However, if you are the sole member of a domestic limited liability company (LLC), you are not a sole proprietor if you elect to treat the LLC as a corporation. For more information on this election and the tax treatment of a foreign LLC, see Form 8832, Entity Classification Election.

Independent contractor. People such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers, or auctioneers who are in an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the general public are generally independent contractors. However, whether these people are independent contractors or employees depends on the facts in each case. The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. The earnings of a person who is working as an independent contractor are subject to SE tax.

You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.

If an employer-employee relationship exists (regardless of what the relationship is called), you are not an independent contractor and your earnings are generally not subject to SE tax. However, your earnings as an employee may be subject to SE tax under other rules discussed in this section.

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