Understanding Quarterly Estimated Taxes: A Guide for Freelancers

Quarterly estimated taxes are a critical component for freelancers to manage their financial obligations effectively.

Askia Roberts
May 15, 2024

What Are Quarterly Estimated Taxes?

Quarterly estimated taxes are payments made to the IRS and state tax authorities that cover the tax liability on income not subject to withholding taxes. For freelancers, this means income from self-employment, interest, dividends, and other sources.

Key Points:

  • Due Dates: Payments are typically due in four installments—April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year.
  • Calculation Basis: Taxes are calculated based on expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credits for the year.

Why Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes?

Failure to pay these taxes can result in penalties and interest. By making these payments, freelancers can avoid a large tax bill at year-end and better manage their cash flow throughout the year.

How to Calculate Quarterly Estimated Taxes

  1. Estimate Annual Income: Start by estimating your total income for the year.
  2. Deduct Allowable Expenses: Subtract expenses to determine your net income.
  3. Apply Tax Rates: Apply the current tax rates and self-employment tax to estimate your tax liability.
  4. Divide by Four: Divide the total estimated tax liability by four to determine each quarterly payment.

Practical Tip: Use the IRS Form 1040-ES to guide your calculations. It includes tax rate schedules and worksheets.

Record Keeping and Documentation

Maintain accurate records of all income and expenses. This documentation will be invaluable for both calculating your estimated taxes and preparing your annual tax returns.

Key Documents:

  • Income Receipts: Invoices, contracts, and payment receipts.
  • Expense Receipts: Receipts for office supplies, business travel, and other deductible expenses.

Adjusting Payments

If your income varies, you might need to adjust your estimated tax payments throughout the year to reflect changes in your earning.

How to Adjust:

  • Increase in Income: If you earn more than expected, increase your remaining estimated tax payments to cover the shortfall.
  • Decrease in Income: If you earn less, you can reduce the remaining payments accordingly.

Ensuring You Qualify

Freelancers must meet certain criteria to be eligible for quarterly estimated tax payments:

  • Owe More Than $1,000: You must expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax for the current year after subtracting your withholding and credits.
  • No Overpayment from Previous Year: You should not have had a tax liability the previous year.


Paying quarterly estimated taxes is essential for financial management as a freelancer. By planning ahead and staying organized, you can ensure that you meet your tax obligations and avoid penalties.

For more detailed information or to discuss your specific tax situation, consider setting up a consultation. Schedule a meeting via Calendly.

Askia Roberts, CPA