Tax season is a mixed bag for side hustlers. On one hand, having a side hustle makes you a “self-employed business owner” as far as U.S. tax officials are concerned. And that means you get a host of deductions and credits that aren’t available to employees. But claiming those deductions is complex enough to almost demand tax software for side hustlers.
On the bright side, tax software for side hustlers is relatively cheap — and tax-deductible.
Tax software for side hustlers
What do you need? That depends on whether you just have one side job or many; the number of expenses your business generates; whether you also need help with invoicing clients or making tax deposits to federal and state authorities. Here’s our best recommendations based on the complexity of your situation.
It’s also worth mentioning that several sites are offering tax-season discounts.
Simple situations: Taxslayer
If you use side hustle platforms that handle client invoicing for you, all you need is a tax-filing program that accommodates a Schedule C. The Schedule C helps you report the profit and/or loss from your business. And it’s where you get to take all sorts of deductions for things like business cards, mileage, office expenses, subscriptions, dues, and work-related travel and meals.
Your best bet? TaxSlayer Self-Employed, which guides you through entering your business income and expenses to maximize your tax deductions.
Cost? $49.95 for a federal return. (There’s an additional cost for state tax returns.)
What makes this program best? It’s easy to use and relatively cheap. You can get the same help with claiming business deductions with TurboTax self-employed, for instance. But Turbo Tax charges $89 (regularly $119) to file a federal return.
Client & collection headaches: Freshbooks
If you send invoices to multiple freelance clients and need help keeping track of who has paid and who hasn’t, you may want to look into Freshbooks. FreshBooks lets you plug in billable time and expenses, create professional invoices and set up recurring invoices.
The software sends automatic payment reminders when payments are due or past due, and manages other aspects of your business’s finances. It also allows your clients to pay you with bank transfers or credit cards, easing your collection challenges.
This accounting and tax software also can connect to your bank and generate reports on income and expenses. Its double-entry accounting features also ensure that you don’t make mistakes while handling your tax fillings.
Cost? As little as $2 per month (This is roughly 50% of the normal price.)
Multiple side hustles: Quickbooks Online
What if you have several side hustles and need to divvy the income and expenses accurately between them? Your best bet is Quickbooks Online, which will help you manage cash flow and allocate expenses and income on several balance sheets at once, says Eric Nisall, an accountant who specializes in small business issues.
Like Freshbooks, this program allows you to bill clients and give them the ability to pay you with bank transfers or credit cards. However, QuickBooks has more sophisticated accounting features that allow you to monitor your cashflow and do your taxes online. It also will help you reconcile your bank statements, says Nisall.
If you end up hiring workers, it also easily integrates with Gusto, a top-notch payroll system, as well as other popular business apps, including Bill.com, Salesforce and HubSpot.
Employees & benefits: Gusto
If your side hustle has turned into a small business that hires employees — or if you want to put yourself on the payroll for tax and cash-flow reasons — sign up with Gusto.
Gusto is a payroll company that automatically handles disbursing paychecks to you and/or your employees on a regular schedule. And it will file the myriad tax-forms required for both state and federal tax authorities.
Notably, Quickbooks has a payroll system, too. But it’s glitchy, hard to use, and the customer support is poor, says Nisall. Gusto, on the other hand, has an easy step-by-step guide for setting up your account. Once set up, you can push the button to make payroll — including payroll tax payments — automatic.
And while irregular bonus payments can mess up your regular payroll system with other sites, it doesn’t here. If you want to run employee benefits, such as health insurance and 401(k) contributions through Gusto, that’s easy too.