Quarterly Taxes for Beginners

By Paula Pant from Afford Anything

New to the world of freelance writing? You might be surprised to learn that you have an added responsibility to Uncle Sam: many freelancers need to file taxes every quarter.

Traditional employees have taxes automatically withheld from their paycheck. As a freelancer, however, taxes are not withheld from the checks that your clients send you.

The government won’t let you get away with deferring your taxes for a year. You’ll need to pay estimated taxes quarterly. Here’s a brief explanation of how to do it:

Step 1: Look at your most recent tax form. Find your total tax and your withholding. On a 1040 form, this would be written on lines 62 and 63.

Step 2: Subtract your total tax from your withholding. The result is your liability.

Step 3: Divide your liability by 4. The result is your estimated quarterly liability.

Step 4: Mail your estimated quarterly tax to the IRS by the four deadlines: January 15, April 15, June 15 and September 15. Include Form 1040-ES, which helps the IRS process your payment.

I’m simplifying this explanation for the sake of giving new freelancers a very quick overview of the general process. Your experience might be much more involved.

For example, you may need to make adjustments if your tax liability is significantly different than it was last year. This may happen if your income this year is dramatically higher or lower than it was the previous year. It can also happen if you qualify for different deductions.

In this case, consider calculating your estimated taxes based on this (current) year’s income. Here are a few longer articles explaining how to do this:

Want to have a little laugh about your taxes? Check out this article from SPJ’s Independent Journalist blog archives, Funny Taxes for Freelancers.



Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be misconstrued as tax advice and/or legal advice. While I have made every effort to include accurate and complete information, I cannot make any guarentees, and laws and codes change frequently. Always consult with a tax professional and legal professional.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.

  • Alex Veeneman

    I joined SPJ in 2014 — albeit rather late in my university career. The work I’ve been able to do has allowed me to network, as well as focus on a niche subject and to build my own craft. I believe that education is at the heart of all good journalism, and the fact that SPJ promotes that aligns with my current work and what I hope to do in the future.

  • Lynn Walsh

    I joined SPJ because it provides me with tools and resources to produce ethical news content. There are other journalist organizations out there, some of which I am a member, but for me, SPJ provides the best and most wide ranging ethical and FOI advice. Also, the network of professionals that are fighting for the same thing and can help you gain access to information is invaluable. – Lynn Walsh

  • Mark Scarp

    I came to stay with SPJ for many of the benefits Lynn cited, but my original decision to join had nothing to do with tools and resources. A colleague at my newspaper was a member of the local chapter board, and he asked me to come to a meeting. I respected him, so I went. Upon arriving, I enjoyed getting to know other journalists whose perspectives were beyond those I had learned from those in my own newsroom. I was put to work on the chapter newsletter and suddenly found myself as one of the chapter vice presidents. My respected colleague? It was his last meeting; he never returned, although he went on to a great career as a municipal PIO. He’s still a good friend. We laugh at that story today, but he’s glad I went on in SPJ even though he did not. It was so good to see SPJ’s leadership visit my hometown of Scottsdale, and I’m sure the discussions here were productive.


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ