Playing Santa at a mall, wrapping packages at a department store, and tending bar at a holiday banquet are all temp jobs that are as much a part of the season as putting up the wreath and mistletoe.

They may not be as much fun, of course, but if a holiday job gives you some income and that means a bigger pile of packages under your tree, those extra hours can be worthwhile.

But after Santa's gone, Uncle Sam will want a piece of the action. 

"It’s a season for giving, but the IRS is not going to give you any gifts when it comes to your taxes," says Gil Charney, director at The Tax Institute at H&R Block in Kansas City, Mo.

If you're a college student, senior, or unemployed with no other income during the year, you probably don't have to worry about paying taxes next spring unless you make more than $10,000 this season. But for everyone else, that extra money you earned just gets added to your taxable income for the year. Here are some tips to help minimize the tax burden. 

What About Cash?

Cash and tips earned from a holiday job—or any job—are supposed to be reported as income on your tax returns. Tax preparers don't want to hear about your cash earnings unless you are prepared to pay tax on them. "The law is clear," says Douglas Stives, a professor of tax law at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. "If I know you have cash income, I’m obligated ethically and legally to report that income on the tax return."


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Are You a Contract Worker or an Employee?

How much you'll owe at tax time depends on whether your part-time employer is treating you as an employee or an independent contractor.

When your paycheck shows no income taxes withheld, your employer considers you an independent contractor. You'll have the benefit of all that income now. But if you're required to pay income taxes this spring, you could owe not only state and federal taxes, but also self-employment tax, which treats your Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes—aka FICA—as if you're both employer and employee. That self-employment tax is twice the regular FICA tax, or 15.3 percent. 

If you make more than $600 at your holiday job this year, your employer must send you IRS Form 1099-Misc—"Miscellaneous Income"— early in the tax season. You'll need that document to prepare your income taxes. If you make $600 or less, the employer doesn't have to send you the form but you're still responsible for reporting that income on your tax return.

• Tip: Consider paying all or a portion of what you owe in estimated quarterly taxes. You'll owe the first installment by January 17, 2017. That can help spread out the pain, so you won't owe as much in April. 

When taxes have been withheld from your paycheck, you're considered an employee. Keep in mind that your employer figures your tax as if you're a 52-week-per-year employee, not a seasonal worker. So if your take-home looks smaller than expected, be aware that you'll get all or a portion of the taxes that were deducted refunded when you file your taxes next spring.

If you have another employer, you'll pay FICA payroll taxes twice. There's a $118,500 income limit over which you don't have to pay FICA anymore, though, so if your income from both jobs exceeds that, you're entitled to get back the excess FICA you've paid. But you'll have to file your taxes to get it.

• Tip: If you want more in your paycheck now, fill out a new IRS Form W-4 to add more exemptions. The more exemptions you claim, the less your employer will take out in income taxes. There is no limit to how many exemptions you can claim, Stives says. Just know that if your 2016 income turns out to be more than you expected, you'll owe that money next April, he warns.

• Tip: Below certain income levels, you don't have to file 2016 income tax. As Table 1, page 2 of this PDF shows, that limit varies depending on your filing status and whether you're age 65 or younger. But even if you're not required to file, you should still do so to get back any tax that was withheld.

The Impact of a Second Job

If your main household income is from your day job—or your spouse's job—your holiday job earnings could raise your income to another tax bracket. That means you'll pay a higher marginal tax rate. If, say, you're single and your job increases from $36,000 adjusted gross income to $38,000, you've crossed over the line from a 15 percent to a 25 percent bracket. But because the new bracket starts at $37,650 you'll pay 25 percent only on the $350 ($38,000 - $37,650) earned above that limit. 

A bigger issue could be whether that extra income reduces or eliminates eligibility for certain tax breaks and subsidies, including insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The only way to know is to contact a tax professional or use do-it-yourself tax software.

• Tip: If you moonlight every year and your income is more than a few thousand dollars, consider self-incorporating, suggests Richard Lavina, CEO and cofounder of Taxfyle, a Miami-based website that matches CPAs with tax clients, Uber-style. "It's more legwork to do it initially, but there are some benefits," he says. One perk: You get a reduction in your self-employment tax.