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What is an IRS 1099 Form?

Updated for Tax Year 2015


A 1099 Form reports income from self employment earnings, interest and dividends, government payments, and more. Here are the details.


The 1099 form is a series of documents the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to as "information returns." There are a number of different 1099 forms that report the various types of income you may receive throughout the year other than the salary your employer pays you. The person or entity that pays you is responsible for filling out the appropriate 1099 tax form and sending it to you by Jan. 31.

what is irs 1099 tax form

Independent contractor income

If you are a worker earning a salary or wage, your employer reports your annual earnings at year-end on Form W-2. However, if you are an independent contractor or self-employed you will receive a Form 1099-MISC from each client that pays you at least $600 during the tax year.

For example, if you are a freelance writer, consultant or artist, you hire yourself out to individuals or companies on a contract basis. The income you receive from each job you take should be reported to you on Form 1099-MISC. When you prepare your tax return, the IRS requires you to report all of this income and pay income tax on it.

1099s for interest and dividends

When you own a portfolio of stock investments or mutual funds, you may receive a Form 1099-DIV to report the dividends and other distributions you receive during the year. These payments are different than the income you earn from selling stocks. Rather, it is a payment of the corporation’s earnings directly to shareholders.

Other types of investments you have may pay periodic interest payments rather than dividends. These interest payments are also taxable and are reported to you on Form 1099-INT. Commonly, taxpayers receive this form from banks where they have savings accounts. 

Government payments

The federal and state governments are equally responsible for reporting income that it pays to taxpayers. Government agencies commonly use Form 1099-G to report the state income tax refunds and unemployment compensation you receive during the year. If you receive unemployment income, you must include the entire amount your state reports on the 1099-G form in your taxable income. However, you only include your state refund in income if you claimed a deduction for it in a prior tax year.

Withdrawals from a retirement account

When you withdraw money from your traditional IRA, in most cases it is taxable. You will receive a Form 1099-R that reports your total withdrawals for the year before you prepare your tax return. The form also covers other types of distributions you receive from pension plans, annuities and profit-sharing plans. Sometimes the 1099-R will show the taxable amount of the distribution on the form itself and will report the amount of federal tax that was withheld.

The 1099-C for debt cancellations

Sometimes, transactions can increase your taxable income even when you don’t receive a payment. This commonly occurs when a creditor cancels a portion of your outstanding debt. When this happens, the IRS treats the debt cancellation as income which may be taxable to you. For example, if your credit card company no longer requires you to pay your outstanding balance, it may send you Form 1099-C to report the amount of debt it cancels and you may need to report this amount on your tax return.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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