Real Estate Employment Taxes Explained

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Did you become a self-employed real estate agent last year? If so, you now own your own business and can take advantage of many tax benefits related to running your own business.

It’s important to realize that becoming a real estate agent isn’t just about selling property, it’s also about becoming self-employed. This means that you no longer receive a salary, complete with tax withholding.

Instead, you receive commission income, and at the end of the year, your broker provides a Form 1099-Misc, rather than a W-2. From a tax standpoint, this changes everything.

Commission Income

Your compensation will be based on your sales activity from selling homes. You’ll be paid a certain percentage of the gross commission on any sale, based on a predetermined split with your broker and any other agents involved.

Generally, no taxes are withheld from that income and at tax time, your broker will report your income on IRS Form 1099-MISC. For income tax purposes, the income reported on this form will represent your gross income which will be reported on Schedule C of your federal income tax return. You will also be able to deduct expenses directly related to your business from your gross income to arrive at your net income.

Since income tax is not withheld, it’s important to remember to make quarterly estimated tax payments. Income tax is a “pay as you go” tax, so quarterly estimated tax payments are required, in general, if you think you are going to owe $1,000 or more in taxes.

Tax Deductible Business Expenses

One of the advantages you have in being self-employed is the number of tax-deductible business expenses you can take.

Typical expenses for a real estate agent include:

  • Training and licensing expenses.
  • Auto expenses for business use of your car in connection with your real estate sales activity. (You can use either actual expense or the IRS business mileage allowance of 58 cents per mile for 2019).
  • Marketing and advertising costs you pay directly in the sale of any properties.
  • Travel (if you attend any out-of-town conventions, training sessions, or conferences).
  • Meals you pay for when meeting with clients for business purposes. Under IRS guidelines, you can deduct 50% of the cost of business-related meals.
  • Home office deduction for home expenses based on the percentage of space used for your office if you work out of your home. For example, if you have a home office that represents 10% of the square footage in your home, you’ll be able to deduct 10% of home costs like mortgage interest, property taxes, rent and utilities.
  • The purchase of office equipment, such as a dedicated business computer, printer, smartphone, or fax machine.
  • Internet and cell phone expenses.

QuickBooks Self-Employed will help you track your business income, expenses and mileage, and will capture your receipts year-round so that you can export your information to your TurboTax Self-Employed or TurboTax Live Self-Employed tax return.

Self-Employment Tax

Since you’re now self-employed, your income will be subject to the self-employment tax. It’s 15.3% but applies to your net business income, not the gross income showing on your 1099.

For example, if your 1099 shows $30,000 in gross income but you have $10,000 in business expenses, your net income will be $20,000. That’s the amount that will be subject to the self-employment tax.

And fortunately, you can deduct half of the self-employment tax as an expense against your income for federal income tax purposes.

Self-Employed Retirement Contributions

Self-employed retirement contributions are another tactic you can use to reduce your taxable income. While it won’t reduce your income for the self-employment tax calculation, it does reduce it for federal income tax purposes.

Contributions made to a retirement plan may be tax-deductible. The most basic plan is the traditional IRA, which enables you to contribute and deduct up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 and over) in 2019 for an IRA.

But that’s only the beginning — there is another retirement plan you can use that may permit a much larger tax deduction. A SEP IRA allows you to contribute the lesser of 25% of your net income or up to $56,000 for 2019.

You can also make a 2019 contribution to a traditional IRA or a SEP-IRA up until the tax deadline and possibly lower your tax liability for 2019. Just make sure your plan administrator knows that you are making a 2019 contribution.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. TurboTax Self-Employed will ask you simple questions about you and your business and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for. Additionally, TurboTax Self-Employed finds industry-specific tax deductions you may not have even known were possible.

If you have any questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live Self-Employed CPA or Enrolled Agent with an average of 15 years experience to get your tax questions answered. TurboTax Live Self-Employed CPAs and Enrolled Agents can also review, sign and file your taxes from the comfort of your home!

One response to “Real Estate Employment Taxes Explained”

  1. I am a 1099. I thought the Standard deduction helped eliminate the tedious calculations of itemizing this year. Do we have to go through it all and then decide at the end when that comes up? If not, how do we get around it with Turbo Tax?

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