How Is Commission Taxed In California? A Detailed Guide

Commissions are a common way for salespeople and real estate agents to earn income in California. But how exactly are commissions taxed in the Golden State? Getting a handle on commission taxes is important for properly paying your dues and avoiding surprises at tax time.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Commissions are subject to federal, state, and FICA taxes in California. The commission will be reported on a 1099-MISC form. You can deduct qualified business expenses to reduce your taxable income.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about how commission income is taxed in California. You’ll learn key things like how commissions are classified for tax purposes, what taxes apply, how deductions can reduce your tax burden, and how to properly report commission income on your tax return.

How Commissions Are Classified for Taxes

Commissions Are Self-Employment Income

When it comes to taxes, commissions are generally classified as self-employment income. This means that individuals who receive commissions are typically considered self-employed, even if they work for a company or organization.

Self-employment income is subject to different tax rules and requires individuals to file a Schedule C as part of their personal tax return.

For those who earn commissions as a significant portion of their income, it’s important to understand the specific tax implications. Self-employed individuals are responsible for paying both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes, commonly referred to as self-employment taxes.

These taxes can add up quickly and should be factored into financial planning.

Commissions Are Earned Income

While commissions are classified as self-employment income, they are also considered earned income. Earned income is any income that is derived from active participation in a trade or business, including wages, salaries, and commissions.

This means that the income earned from commissions is subject to federal and state income taxes.

When reporting commissions as earned income, individuals must report the full amount received, including any taxes that may have been withheld by their employer. It’s essential to keep accurate records of commissions earned throughout the year, as this information will be needed when filing taxes.

Did you know? According to IRS, self-employed individuals who earn more than $400 in net earnings are generally required to file an income tax return.

Understanding how commissions are classified for taxes is crucial for individuals who earn a significant portion of their income through commissions. It’s recommended to consult with a tax professional or utilize tax software to ensure accurate reporting and compliance with tax laws.

Taxes Applied to Commission Income

When it comes to commission income, it is important to understand how taxes are applied in California. Commission income refers to the money earned by individuals working on a commission basis, such as salespeople or independent contractors.

This income is subject to various taxes at the federal, state, and local levels. Let’s take a closer look at each of these taxes.

Federal Income Tax

Commission income is considered taxable at the federal level. The amount of federal income tax you owe on your commission income depends on your overall income level and tax bracket. The federal income tax rates range from 10% to 37% for individuals.

It is important to note that you may be required to make estimated tax payments throughout the year to avoid underpayment penalties. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides detailed information on federal income tax rates and guidelines.

State Income Tax

In addition to federal taxes, individuals in California are also subject to state income tax on their commission income. California has a progressive income tax system, which means that the tax rates increase as your income increases.

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) provides detailed information on the state income tax rates and guidelines. It is important to note that California does not offer any deductions specifically for commission income.

FICA Taxes – Social Security and Medicare

Commission income is also subject to FICA taxes, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes. These taxes are imposed on both employees and employers. As an employee, you are responsible for paying the employee portion of these taxes, which is deducted from your paycheck.

The current Social Security tax rate is 6.2% and the Medicare tax rate is 1.45%. The Social Security Administration provides more information on FICA taxes and their rates.

California Earned Income Tax Credit

California offers an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income individuals and families. The EITC is a refundable tax credit that can help reduce the amount of taxes owed or provide a refund if the credit exceeds the tax liability. The amount of the EITC depends on your income and family size.

The California Franchise Tax Board provides detailed information on the EITC eligibility requirements and credit amounts.

Reporting Commissions on Your Tax Return

When it comes to reporting commissions on your tax return in California, there are a few important steps to follow. This guide will walk you through the process so you can ensure that you are accurately reporting your commissions and avoiding any potential issues with the IRS.

1099-MISC Form

The first step in reporting commissions is to obtain a 1099-MISC form from the payer. This form is used to report income that is not from an employer-employee relationship. If you received commissions as an independent contractor or freelancer, you will likely receive a 1099-MISC form from the company or individual who paid you.

On the 1099-MISC form, you will find important information such as your name, address, and Social Security number or taxpayer identification number. The form will also include the total amount of commissions you earned during the tax year.

Make sure to review this information carefully and verify that it is accurate.

Schedule C

Once you have your 1099-MISC form, you will need to report your commissions on Schedule C of your federal tax return. Schedule C is used to report income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor.

On Schedule C, you will need to provide detailed information about your commissions, including the total amount earned and any related expenses. This includes things like advertising costs, travel expenses, and office supplies.

It’s important to keep thorough records of your expenses throughout the year to ensure that you can accurately report them on your tax return.

Schedule SE

In addition to reporting your commissions on Schedule C, you will also need to complete Schedule SE. This form is used to calculate and report your self-employment tax, which is the portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes that self-employed individuals are responsible for paying.

On Schedule SE, you will need to calculate your net self-employment income, which is your total commissions minus any allowable business expenses. The form will then guide you through the process of determining your self-employment tax liability.

It’s important to note that self-employment tax is in addition to any income tax you may owe. Therefore, it’s essential to properly calculate and report your commissions to ensure that you are meeting your tax obligations.

For more information on reporting commissions on your tax return in California, you can visit the official website of the California Franchise Tax Board ( They provide detailed instructions and resources to help you navigate the process.

Tax Deductions to Reduce Commissions Tax Burden

As a commission-based worker in California, understanding the tax deductions available to you can significantly reduce your tax burden. By taking advantage of these deductions, you can maximize your income and keep more of your hard-earned money. Here are some key deductions to consider:

Home Office Deduction

If you work from home as a commission-based worker, you may be eligible for the home office deduction. This deduction allows you to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage, utilities, and other home-related expenses that are directly related to your home office.

To qualify, your home office must be used exclusively for business purposes and be your principal place of business.

Mileage and Transportation

As a commission-based worker, you likely incur expenses related to mileage and transportation. Fortunately, you can deduct these expenses on your tax return. Keep track of your business-related mileage, whether it’s driving to client meetings, property showings, or other work-related travel.

Additionally, you can deduct expenses for parking fees, tolls, and public transportation costs.

Travel, Meals, and Entertainment

If your job requires you to travel or entertain clients, you can deduct these expenses on your tax return. This includes costs such as airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, and entertainment. However, it’s important to keep detailed records and receipts to substantiate these expenses in case of an audit.

Health Insurance

Commission-based workers in California can also deduct their health insurance premiums. If you’re self-employed or don’t have access to a group health insurance plan, you can deduct the cost of your premiums as an above-the-line deduction, reducing your taxable income.

Retirement Contributions

Contributing to a retirement account not only helps secure your financial future but can also provide tax benefits. As a commission-based worker, you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a solo 401(k) plan and deduct the contributions on your tax return.

These deductions can reduce your taxable income and potentially lower your tax liability.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or use reputable tax software to ensure you’re taking advantage of all the deductions available to you. The California Franchise Tax Board website ( is a reliable resource for additional information on commission taxation and deductions specific to California.


Understanding commission taxes is crucial for California sales agents and real estate professionals. While commissions are subject to federal, state, and FICA taxes, there are also important deductions that can reduce your taxable income.

Be sure to keep accurate records of business expenses so you can properly fill out Schedule C and Form 1099-MISC. Consulting a tax professional can also help you maximize write-offs and ensure full compliance with California and IRS rules.

With the right knowledge about how commissions are classified and taxed, you can make smart financial decisions and keep more of your hard-earned commission income.

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