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Taxes & Retirement

Dec 22, 2021

How to Protect Freelance Work or Side Gig Income With an IRA

By Stash Team

Building wealth using a traditional or Roth IRA could help make a side gig pay even more.

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Side gigs, freelance work, and independent contracting jobs are popular ways for people to add to their income.

The main drawback with each of these income generating methods is that no matter how much income you earn, you must report it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and you must pay any applicable income and self-employment taxes.

Many first-time contractors are shocked at year’s end when they realize they could owe the IRS nearly 30 percent of their side gig earnings.

Those individuals who earn extra money through side jobs such as Uber or Airbnb can keep more of that income by establishing and contributing regularly to an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA.

How an IRA can help

The IRA was developed during the 1970s to allow working people who were not covered by a pension fund or employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), to build savings for their retirement years.

A tax incentive was built into the plan, allowing contributions to reduce the individual’s taxable income up to a limit set by Congress. While many workers have a 401(k) plan available to them, for those who don’t, an IRA is still an excellent way to postpone a tax liability for any earned income that’s reportable on a 1099 form.

It’s important for independent contractors to understand there are two distinct types available to individuals – the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA – and each one defers taxes in its own way.

The traditional IRA offers a tax deduction for the year contributions are made. Earnings grow tax-deferred until retirement, when you pay taxes on disbursements. By contrast, you contribute to a Roth with post-tax dollars.

Earnings in the account grow tax-free and distributions from the account aren’t taxed when they’re taken upon retirement. A Roth also offers tax-free withdrawals for qualified events such as retirement, disability or the purchase of a first home after five years.

Setting up an IRA

IRA accounts can be opened with very little money at most financial institutions, or online with a brokerage. An individual can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA account every year, or they can make catch up contributions of $1,000, on top of the $6,000, for a total of $7,000 if they are age 50 or over.

Contributing the maximum amount could reduce a contract employee’s taxable income significantly. However, a traditional IRA does not  change a contractor’s self-employment tax liability. Self-employment tax is the contribution that is normally withheld from an employee’s paycheck to cover Medicare and Social Security, plus the share of those taxes that are normally paid by an employer.

The self-employment tax rate for the current year is 15.3 percent: 12.4 percent goes toward Social Security and 2.9 percent funds Medicare. A contractor may choose to make these payments to the IRS on a quarterly basis or to make a lump-sum payment annually after filing their 1040 form.

Working a side job, contracting, and consulting all offer the benefit of increased income as well 

as the emotional satisfaction of earning money from your talent. Keeping more of this income and reducing tax liability makes it even more gratifying.

Building wealth using a traditional or Roth IRA could help make a side gig’s pay go even further.

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Make your future money

Learn more about Stash Retire
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Make your future money

Learn more about Stash Retire
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Stash Team

This should not be construed as tax advice. Please consult a tax professional for additional questions.
While you can fund both an IRA and 401(k) in the same year, some income limits could apply.
“Retirement Portfolio” is an IRA (Traditional or Roth) and is a non-discretionary managed account. Stash does not monitor whether a customer is eligible for a particular type of IRA, or a tax deduction, or if a reduced contribution limit applies to a customer. These are based on a customer’s individual circumstances. You should consult with a tax advisor.
Traditional IRA: Withdrawing prior to age 59½, generally means you’re subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. Withdrawals after age 59½ are only subject to income tax but no penalty.
Roth IRA: Withdrawals of the money (Contributions) you put in are penalty and tax free. Prior to age 59½, withdrawals of interest and earnings are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. All earnings are tax free at age 59½ or older, assuming your first contribution was more than 5 years prior. Income Eligibility applies.
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