Self-Employed in a US Territory? Prepare for IRS Scrutiny

Self-Employed in a US Territory? Prepare for IRS Scrutiny

The Large Business and International (LB&I) division of the IRS recently announced a new compliance campaign targeting self-employed individuals in U.S. territories who underpay or fail to pay their self-employment taxes.

The self-employment tax is equal to the Social Security and Medicare taxes on net earnings from self-employment. For the 2019 tax year, the self-employment tax rate is 15.3% (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare). An individual must pay self-employment tax if his or her net earnings from self-employment are at least $400.

Citizens of the United States and resident aliens who reside in any of the U.S. territories must also pay self-employment tax on net earnings from self-employment of $400 or more. These territories include:

  • Puerto Rico,
  • Guam,
  • American Samoa,
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands, and
  • The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Residents of these territories must pay self-employment tax whether or not they must pay U.S. income tax or are otherwise required to file a U.S. income tax return. Those with net self-employment income of $400 or more also need to file:

  • Form 1040-SS, “U.S. Self-Employment Tax Return (Including the Additional Child Tax Credit for Bona Fide Residents of Puerto Rico),” or
  • Form 1040 (PR), “Self-Employment Tax Return — Puerto Rico.”

The purpose of these forms is to report net earnings from self-employment to the IRS (and, if necessary, to pay self-employment tax on that income).

Background on LB&I campaigns

In January 2017, the IRS announced a new audit strategy for LB&I known as “compliance campaigns.” With these new compliance campaigns, LB&I essentially shifted to examinations based on higher risk issues to improve return selection. The IRS initially selected 13 compliance issues when it rolled out the strategy. Since then, it has retired some campaigns and added many more active ones.

A new LB&I campaign addresses residents of the U.S. territories listed above who, as mentioned, either underpaid or failed to pay employment tax to the IRS. Territorial residents who understated their self-employment taxes should file an amended Form 1040-SS or Form 1040 (PR) (as applicable) to properly report and pay their self-employment taxes. The IRS will address continued noncompliance through a variety of treatment streams, including examinations.

© 2020

About MKS&H: McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by putting complex financial data into truly meaningful context. But deeper than dollars and data, our focus is on developing an understanding of you, your culture, and your business goals. This approach enables our clients to achieve their greatest potential.

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MKS&H is committed to providing personalized tax and accounting services while developing a deep understanding of you, your culture, and your business goals. Our full view of financial systems and the people behind them allow us create and evolve the best solution that will help you and your business thrive. The accounting experts and consulting professionals at MKS&H work together to help you achieve the financial results you want.

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