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Independent Contractor: Definition, How Taxes Work, And Example Independent Contractor: Definition, How Taxes Work, And Example


Independent Contractor: Definition, How Taxes Work, And Example

Discover the ins and outs of independent contracting, including the definition and how taxes work. Plus, get a comprehensive example to better understand the financial implications.

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What is an Independent Contractor?

When it comes to navigating the world of finance, understanding different types of employment arrangements is crucial. One such arrangement is that of an independent contractor. In this blog post, we will explore the definition of an independent contractor, how taxes work for these individuals, and provide a real-life example to help you grasp the concept better.

Key Takeaways

  • An independent contractor is a self-employed individual who provides services to clients or businesses on a contractual basis.
  • Unlike employees, independent contractors have more control over their work, set their own schedules, and may work with multiple clients simultaneously.

Definition of an Independent Contractor

An independent contractor refers to a self-employed individual who provides services to clients or businesses on a contractual basis. Unlike employees, who work under the direct supervision and control of an employer, independent contractors have the freedom to work with multiple clients simultaneously and have more flexibility in managing their workload and schedules. This arrangement is often characterized by a written agreement, outlining the terms of the services to be provided, payment details, and any other relevant terms and conditions.

How Taxes Work for Independent Contractors

One of the key differences between being an employee and an independent contractor lies in how taxes are handled. As an independent contractor, you are considered self-employed for tax purposes. This means that you are responsible for paying both the employer and employee portion of certain taxes.

Here are a few important points to keep in mind:

  1. Self-Employment Tax: Independent contractors must pay self-employment tax, which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes. Unlike employees, who split these taxes with their employers, independent contractors are responsible for the full amount, which currently stands at 15.3% of their net earnings.
  2. Estimated Taxes: Since independent contractors do not have taxes withheld from their paychecks like employees, they are required to make estimated tax payments throughout the year. These payments are meant to cover income taxes as well as the self-employment tax mentioned earlier.
  3. Deductible Expenses: Independent contractors can benefit from various tax deductions. These deductions allow them to offset their business expenses, such as office supplies, equipment, travel expenses, and professional fees, ultimately reducing their taxable income.

It is crucial for independent contractors to keep accurate records of their earnings and expenses to ensure they are properly reporting their income and taking advantage of all available deductions.

Example of an Independent Contractor

Let’s take an example to help illustrate how an independent contractor operates. Meet Lisa, a skilled graphic designer who works as an independent contractor. Lisa has her own studio and works with a range of clients, including small businesses and marketing agencies. Here’s how her independent contracting arrangement works:

  • Client Projects: Lisa signs individual contracts with her clients, clearly defining the scope of work, deadlines, and payment terms.
  • Work Schedule: As an independent contractor, Lisa has the flexibility to set her own work schedule. She can choose to work on one client project at a time or balance multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Taxes: Since Lisa is self-employed, she is responsible for keeping track of her income, making estimated tax payments throughout the year, and claiming deductions for eligible business expenses.

By working as an independent contractor, Lisa enjoys the freedom of being her own boss, setting her rates, and choosing the projects that align with her expertise.


Understanding the concept of an independent contractor is essential for anyone navigating the world of finance. By being aware of the definition, how taxes work for independent contractors, and reviewing a real-life example like Lisa’s, you can gain a better understanding of this employment arrangement and make informed decisions about your own financial journey.

Remember, if you are considering becoming an independent contractor or hiring one, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional who can provide tailored advice based on your specific circumstances.