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A Schedule C form is a tax form used by many sole proprietors, single member LLCs, and small business owners. You file a schedule C tax form along with Form 1040, your individual income tax return. In essence, it is a part of your personal tax return.
If you’re self-employed, you will probably need to file a Schedule C. Many people with side hustles or 1099 income are required to report the income and expenses of those activities.
The Schedule C tax form is where you report that business income and/or losses incurred from your business activity during a single tax year.
The Schedule C form will report all your business activities. If you are familiar with accounting, then this would be all activity that is reported in the profit or loss statement. Also known as the income statement.
It will detail items such as your business income and profits after business deductible expenses such as insurance costs, car and truck expenses, travel and meals…the list goes on!
It will also report any deductible business expenses, like advertising and supplies. There are a lot of other tax-deductible expenses, including home office expenses (utilities, mortgage interest, or rent expense) for those who work at home.
If you formed your business as a sole proprietorship, you have to file a Schedule C. Even if you are a single owner of a business under no formal entity, you’ll file a Schedule C.
Keep in mind that whether you have an LLC or not, your default tax status would be considered a disregarded entity. Meaning you need to report activity on a Schedule C.
Important Note: An LLC is not a tax election.
You may work a regular job, get paid, and receive a W-2 come the new year. But if you have a side-gig that’s continually generating income, odds are that you’ll need to file a Schedule C.
Fun Fact: Over 70% of small businesses file a Schedule C.
Many small businesses will fall under the sole proprietorship entity structure. It’s the most common structure for independent contractors, freelancers, or anyone running a business by themselves. However, C corporations, S corporations, and partnerships do not file a Schedule C.
For S Corporations and Partnerships, you will instead get a K-1 form to report on your personal tax return in place of Schedule C.
You’ll file a Schedule C (along with your yearly individual income tax return, Form 1040) by using the IRS e-file, either online or through a tax professional that is an authorized IRS e-file provider.
- Business income statement (AKA Profit & Loss statement) for the tax year
The income statement, or profit and loss statement, is required to report business income and business expenses for tax purposes. The difference between business income and business expenses equals your net profit or loss.
Business Income – Business Expenses = Net Profit or loss
If you have a net profit, your schedule C income will be subject to income taxes on your personal tax return. As a sole proprietorship, this is also considered self-employment income which is then subject to self-employment tax.
Note: For W-2 employees, employment taxes are taken out during the year. Independent contractors and other sole proprietors (s) pay at year-end from their schedule C on their personal tax returns. Unless you elect to make quarterly tax payments.
- Balance sheet for the tax year
A balance sheet is not required to file a schedule C form with your 1040 but it is important to not neglect it. All inventory on hand (if you are a retailer or manufacturer) will be reported on the balance sheet. This is integral to know the cost of goods sold.
- Receipts of ANY business expenses
This means any receipts relevant to your business expenses; paid bills, sales receipts, checks, etc. This of course includes any electronic records that you can find in your bank activity and statements, as well as clear scans of original receipts.
Luckily, most of your business expenditures should be paid with a debit or credit card, so finding records of business spending shouldn’t be too difficult.
- Inventory records (if applicable)
Inventory will be found on your balance sheet (if you or someone else is doing the accounting correctly). It is required to do a year-end inventory to see what you have left. The difference from purchases against inventory on hand equals your cost of goods sold for the tax year.
Inventory Purchases (During the tax year) – Inventory on Hand (At year-end) = Cost of Goods Sold
- Mileage records, other vehicle records (pertaining to business use)
Any time you drive for the purpose of doing work, that’s a business mile. This can include going for a business lunch, stopping at the post office or Home Depot for supplies, or driving to meet a client. That all counts for business mileage.
Other vehicle records that are potential tax deductions are things like repairs, insurance, lease payments, gas – any expenses incurred as a result of driving for business purposes.
- Records in general!
It’s good practice to keep good records of your purchases and income.
If you use accounting software like QuickBooks Online or Xero, make sure you reconcile your bank activity with what is being recorded on your accounting records. Ask yourself, if the IRS wanted to see proof of an expense or purchase, could you provide the evidence?
Keeping good records is key for filing your Schedule C tax form. Make sure to keep track of all your business records so you can accurately file your taxes and don’t miss out on additional tax deductions!
Do your due diligence and look into whether you are required to file a Schedule C form. If you have self-employment income, the IRS requires you to report it on your Schedule C or on another business tax return like on an S-Corp (1120S) or Partnership return (1065).
Self-employment income can score you a lot of tax deductions. Just keep in mind that if you want to eventually retire with social security income, then paying a low or zero self-employment tax each year will not be in your best interest long term.
There also could be better ways to file for your business outside of the Schedule C form for income tax purposes. Either way, you should always validate your tax situation with a tax professional (CPA, EA, or Tax Attorney).
Tax advice can pay large dividends through the tax savings realized for years to come!
Daniel is a Certified Public Accountant (AZ), Charted Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC), Certified Tax Coach (CTC), and a Registered Investment Adviser (Series 65). He’s worked for large accounting firms like Deloitte & Touche the small family businesses. Through it all, Daniel loved finding solutions for businesses. He founded the Biz Owner Guide, to share and reach a larger audience that is looking for guidance on business development, tax, compliance, accounting, finance, and more.