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What is IRS Schedule C Form 1040?

Unlike an employee, when you’re self-employed, you need to track your own taxes.

That’s where Schedule C (Form 1040) comes in, which is used by any non-partnership self-employed person to track and calculate annual profit and loss for their business. 

The form, then, is separated into two sections:

  • Earnings (profit)
  • And expenses (loss)

Under the earnings section, you’ll calculate things like “gross income” and “gross receipts or sales”. 

Under the expenses section, you’ll list out expenses for everything from rent and utilities to advertising spend. 

On that note, let’s dive into Schedule C instructions to learn how to fill the form out right. 


Form Schedule C instructions: How to fill out Form Schedule C

Schedule C is a pretty logical form, so there aren’t really any highly confusing sections that can cause any confusion.

However, it does ask for a lot of information from the business.

The below 1040 Schedule C instructions will take you step-by-step through each section so you’re crystal clear on how to properly fill it out. 


Input General and Earnings Information on the Schedule C

First, before you get to the meat of the form, jot down your basic information. 

That includes:

  • Your principle business
  • Business name
  • Business address
  • Accounting method
  • Along with a few other miscellaneous questions

Section “B” might be a bit confusing, so let’s clarify that. Section B refers to an IRS coding system used to categorize your profession.

You can see the full list of activity codes here to find the one that best matches your business.

Simply locate the code and plug it into this section. 

Boom, done. 

Also, make sure you have your EIN handy to fill in section D.

If you’re not sure where to find that, you can reference our guide on EIN Lookup: How to Find Your Tax ID Number If You Don’t Know What It Is


Part I: Income

Now, we get into the main section of the Schedule C form. 

First, start by inputting your (or if it’s not you, the contractor’s) income details. 

That includes:

  • Gross receipts or sales
  • Returns and allowances
  • Cost of goods sold (CoGS)
  • Then run your calculations from there

As noted, first subtract your returns and allowances from your gross receipts and/or sales.

Then, subtract your CoGS from that to get your gross profit. 

Then, after adding any other income you might have, add that to your gross profit to get your gross income.


Part II: Expenses

Next, let’s move on to the second half of the equation: expenses. 

In this section, you’ll plug in all of you’re business-related expenses from throughout the tax year.


  • Boxes 8-27b: How much you spent in each of these categories.
  • Calculate these sections in Box 28
  • Then boxes 29-32 all pertain to home office and vehicle expenses

For more information on how the IRS defines each type of expense to make sure you’re filling these individual sections out correctly, refer to their Schedule C expense definitions on this page


Part III: Cost of goods sold

If you offer a physical product, i.e. you have inventory, you’ll need to fill this section out. If you don’t, you can skip it. 

For this section, you’ll need to input various bits of information related to your product such as how you value your inventory, cost of labor, materials, and the end-of-year value of your inventory.


Part IV: Information on your vehicle

In this section, you’ll record any and all expenses related to business vehicle use.

If you don’t use a vehicle for business use, you can skip this section entirely.

If you do, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to calculating your mileage deduction.

The IRS offers two methods, one of which you’ll need to choose:

  1. Standard
  2. Actual expense

The standard method, the deduction is based on the number of miles traveled (strictly for business purposes). This method accounts for depreciation, insurance, and such automatically.

The actual expense method is the “manual” option which requires you to track your exact gas use, insurance payments, etc, and added together.


Part V: Other expenses

This last section is super straightforward: record your other additional expenses that have not been listed thus far. 

According to the official IRS website, this includes “all ordinary and necessary business expenses not deducted elsewhere on Schedule C”

List each type of expense along with the expense. Then, enter the total of all other expenses in lines 48 and 27a of the Schedule C form. 

Items you cannot list include:

  • Business equipment
  • Furniture
  • Property improvements or replacements
  • Personal and family expenses
  • Charitable donations
  • Finds or penalties for violating any law

Important changes: 2018 Schedule C instructions amendment

The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act brought a few changes to the 2018 version of the Schedule C form which are important to be aware of, especially if you filed taxes before 2018 but haven’t since then

According to the official IRS Schedule C page, those changes include:

For line 26:

“Enter the total salaries and wages for the tax year reduced by the amount of the following credit(s), if applicable.

  • Work Opportunity Credit (Form 5884).
  • Employee Retention Credit for Employers Affected by Qualified Disasters (Form 5884-A).
  • Empowerment Zone Employment Credit (Form 8844).
  • Indian Employment Credit (Form 8845).
  • Credit for Employer Differential Wage Payments (Form 8932).
  • Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave (Form 8994).”

And for Part V, other expenses, under the paragraph for “Film and television and live theatrical production expenses”:

Film and television and live theatrical production expenses. You can elect to deduct costs of certain qualified film and television productions or qualified live theatrical productions. For details, see chapter 7 of Pub. 535.

They’re small but important changes to keep in mind, particularly if you’re taking care of a previous year’s tax returns for any reason. 

Get your taxes done right

Taxes are never fun, but they’re an important part of running any business right.

The last thing you want is to file your taxes wrong and end up dealing with some kind of IRS issue.

So, use these Schedule C instructions, along with the official IRS documentation resources below, to make sure you get your self-employed taxes done right.