Quarterly Tax Payments for the Self-Employed: How to Calculate and Pay

Quarterly tax submissions

Being self-employed can be rewarding and comes with many perks, but is not without its challenges. Many self-employed individuals are caught off guard by quarterly tax payments. Unlike employees who have taxes withheld from their paychecks, self-employment requires you to manage your own taxes. However, getting this right requires precision. At Fusion CPA, we have helped many self-employed individuals remain compliant. In this guide, we offer clarity on how to accurately calculate your taxes.

Why quarterly tax payments are necessary

Individuals, including those that are self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors must make their own tax payments to the IRS

Determining your projected income and submitting accurate self-employment taxes is key. Some of the factors to consider include the amount of expected tax based on your earnings, income not subject to withholding, and previous tax liabilities. While it may be technical to ascertain this number, the right forecasting tools and expertise can help. It is also imperative to avoid late and non-compliant submissions, as this can lead to costly penalties.

Calculating quarterly tax payments

There are several methods to help you determine accurate estimated tax payments. Each depending on your individual income and unique income circumstances. 

  1. Annualized income method. This approach involves estimating your current quarterly income based on actual earnings to date. You would need to factor in seasonality or irregular income patterns, especially if your income fluctuates throughout the year. 
  2. Percentage of income method. With this approach, you estimate your quarterly tax payments by applying a predetermined percentage to your projected annual income. This is typically based on your effective tax rate. For instance, if your effective tax rate is 20%, you would multiply your projected annual income by 0.20 to determine your quarterly tax payments.
  3. Prior year safe harbor method. For those whose income remains relatively consistent year-over-year, this method involves basing quarterly tax payments on the previous year’s tax liability. 

Due dates and quarterly tax payments

Adhering to the following deadlines is key to avoiding penalties and interest on underpaid taxes. 

  1. April 15th (for income earned January 1st through March 31st)
  2. June 17th (for income earned April 1st through May 31st)
  3. September 16th (for income earned June 1st through August 31st)
  4. January 15th of the following year (for income earned September 1st through December 31st)


Submit your payments in the following ways:

  1. Online payment: You can pay online or from your mobile device using the IRS2Go app.
  2. Electronic payment options: Pay directly from your bank account using the IRS Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Simply enroll on the EFTPS website, schedule your payments, and authorize them securely. 
  3. Mail-in payment options: If you prefer traditional methods, you can mail your payments along with Form 1040-ES to the IRS.

Under- or incorrect payment on your quarterly submissions can lead to penalties that typically accrue based on the amount of tax owed and the duration of the underpayment. 

Record-keeping and documentation

Maintaining accurate records and evidence of income and eligible deductions is key to accurate submissions.

Organizing financial records such as income statements, expense receipts, and payment confirmations not only ensures transparency, but gives you insight into your finances. Additionally, documenting your transactions and tax payments will help to resolve any potential discrepancies swiftly. By adopting diligent record-keeping practices, self-employed individuals can streamline tax preparation and ensure compliance with IRS requirements.

Tax efficient tools and resources

With reliable accounting software you can track income and expenses to streamline tax calculations and aid compliance. Whether it is travel, general expense tracking or multi-state tax assistance you require, there are a number of tools to help.

For comprehensive tax guidance, the IRS also offers a range of online resources, including Form 1040-ES for estimating quarterly tax payments, as well as and IRS Publication 505 for detailed instructions on tax obligations.

Partnering with a CPA in this regard is also helpful. At Fusion, our CPAs bring extensive knowledge of tax laws. We offer personalized guidance to help you minimize tax liabilities and maximize deductions. By outsourcing your tax submissions to us you can focus on improving your earning potential while we handle compliance. Contact us today!

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This blog article is not intended to be the rendering of legal, accounting, tax advice, or other professional services. We base articles on current or proposed tax rules at the time of writing and do not update older posts for tax rule changes. We expressly disclaim all liability regarding actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this blog as well as the use or interpretation of this information. Information provided on this website is not all-inclusive and such information should not be relied upon as being all-inclusive.