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What Is the IRS Form 1099-MISC?

Updated for Tax Year 2014


OVERVIEW

The 1099-MISC form reports the total amount of payments you receive from a single person or entity during the year you've provided services to them.


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The IRS requires any person or company who makes certain types of payments to report them on a 1099-MISC to the recipient and the IRS. This informational form covers a wide range of payments you receive, such as rent, royalties, prizes and awards and substitute payments in lieu of dividends. However, the more common use of the form is to report your earnings when you work as an independent contractor, such as a freelance writer.

Information on the 1099-MISC

A 1099-MISC form serves a similar purpose to an independent contractor as a W-2 does for to an employee. The form reports the total amount of payments you receive from a single person or entity during the year that you provide services to. It includes some of your personal information such as name, address and either Social Security number or employer identification number. Most importantly, it will classify each type of payment in separate boxes on the form depending on the reason for your payment. Generally, if you receive payment for contract work you do, then your annual earnings will appear as nonemployee compensation.

Who is responsible for preparing a 1099-MISC?

Depending on how many different companies or people you receive payments from during the year, you may receive more than one 1099-MISC. Each payer must complete the form if during any year it pays you $600 or more. However, if you earn $500 from 20 different companies, you still must report your income even though you might not receive a single 1099-MISC. In most cases, the payer must provide you with a copy of the form by January 31 of each year, as well as a copy to the IRS by the last day in February.

What to do with a 1099-MISC

As an independent contractor or freelancer, you report all earnings on your income tax return just like an employee does, but you do it in a different way. If your freelance work is sporadic and generally not your main source of income, then you can just include the payments in “other income” on the first page of your tax return.

If you work as an independent contractor for substantial periods during the year, then the IRS will treat you as self-employed. Self-employed taxpayers must report 1099-MISC income on a Schedule C attachment to their tax return.

In addition, you are also liable for Social Security and Medicare taxes, which you calculate on Schedule SE and attach to your return.

Advantages of receiving a 1099-MISC

There are some tax advantages to earning nonemployee income on a 1099-MISC. One benefit is that you have more freedom than an employee to claim deductions that relate to your profession.

For example, if it’s necessary to use a computer to complete your work, your eligibility to claim a deduction for it is less restrictive than other taxpayers who must be eligible to itemize their deductions to do so. Furthermore, since you are not subject to withholding, you must make estimated tax payments throughout the year. But since you can calculate precisely what you owe, you can insure that you don’t pay too much in federal income tax during the year. You can use TurboTax to do the calculations for you, or get a copy of the worksheet accompanying Form 1040-ES and work your way through it.

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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