What is the Penalty for Not Paying Self-Employment Taxes?

As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for paying both self-employment (SE) tax and income tax. Self-employment tax covers Social Security (12.4%) and Medicare (2.9%) taxes, while income tax is the tax you pay on your business profits.

If you fail to pay your self-employment taxes on time, you may face penalties and interest charges. The penalties for not paying self-employment taxes are as follows:

  • Failure-to-Pay Penalty: 0.5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that the tax is not paid.
  • Interest Charges: Interest accrues on unpaid taxes at the current federal short-term rate plus 3%.


Let’s say you owe $1,000 in self-employment taxes for the year. If you fail to pay by the deadline, you will be charged a failure-to-pay penalty of $5 per month ($1,000 x 0.5%). This means that if you wait 6 months to pay your taxes, you will owe an additional $30 in penalties.

In addition to penalties, you may also be subject to collection actions by the IRS, such as wage garnishment or a tax lien.

Avoiding Penalties

To avoid penalties for not paying self-employment taxes, you should:

  • Estimate your quarterly taxes accurately: Use Form 1040-ES to calculate your estimated tax liability and make payments on time.
  • Pay your taxes on time: The due dates for quarterly estimated tax payments are April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year.
  • File your tax return on time: The deadline for filing your tax return is April 15th. If you file late, you may be subject to additional penalties and interest charges.

Additional Resources


Paying your self-employment taxes on time is essential to avoid penalties and interest charges. By understanding the penalties for not paying self-employment taxes and taking steps to avoid them, you can protect your financial well-being.

How The Self Employment Tax Works (And How You Can Avoid It!)


How can I avoid self-employment tax penalty?

Generally, taxpayers should make estimated tax payments in four equal amounts to avoid a penalty. However, if you receive income unevenly during the year, you may be able to vary the amounts of the payments to avoid or lower the penalty by using the annualized installment method.

How do I get out of paying self-employment tax?

By separating the income earned by the corporation into two separate methods of payment to you as the individual, you avoid self-employment tax on funds paid as a distribution. Note that you have to elect to be taxed as an S corporation for this to apply.

What is the penalty for not making quarterly tax payments?

The IRS may issue a penalty if you miss a quarterly tax payment deadline. The penalty is 0.5% of the amount unpaid for each month, or part of the month, that the tax isn’t paid. The amount you owe and how long it takes to pay the penalty impacts your penalty amount.

Do I have to pay self-employment tax for a side hustle?

You must file a tax return if you have net earnings from self-employment of $400 or more from gig work, even if it’s a side job, part-time or temporary. You must pay tax on income you earn from gig work. If you do gig work as an employee, your employer should withhold tax from your paycheck.

Can you avoid tax penalties if you’re self-employed?

You may also be able to avoid estimated tax penalties if you can use the annualized installment method at tax-time to reflect your fluctuating income. If you’re like most self-employed business owners, you may see slow months and then big boosts in others.

Can a tax penalty be avoided?

If you pay at least 90% of your tax obligation or 100% of the tax owed in the prior year (whichever is smaller), then penalty can be avoided. If you are a high-income taxpayer, with an AGI over $150,000, then the 100% is increased to 110%.

Do I have to pay tax if I’m self-employed?

People who are self-employed are required to send in quarterly estimated tax payments since tax is not withheld from their wages as it is for employees. But if your income varies from month to month or year to year, it’s tough to determine the amount to pay.

Do you owe a penalty for underpaying estimated tax?

Qualifying farmers and fishermen include individuals, estates, and trusts with at least two-thirds of their gross annual income from farming or fishing in either the current or preceding tax year, complete Form 2210-F, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Farmers and Fishermen to see if you owe a penalty for underpaying estimated tax.

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