Understanding the 1099-MISC Tax Form

A Home Business Owners Guide to Filling Out or Filing the 1099-MISC Form

Close up of 1099-MISC form.

Kameleon007 / Getty Images

For many, becoming self-employed requires entering new territory, especially when it comes to taxes.

If you’re a freelancer or contract worker, provide a service in which a client pays you more than $600 per year, or you earn more than $10 in royalties per year, it’s possible you’ll receive a 1099-MISC form. This form is similar to a W-2, in that it lists your earnings, but differs in that it’s designated for contract work or “miscellaneous” income as opposed to employee income.

You may not only receive a 1099-MISC, but you may also need to send one if you hired a contractor and paid them more than $600 in fees during the tax year.

Here are common questions and answers related to the 1099 -MISC form.

What’s on the 1099-MISC Form?

The 1099-MISC form itself is fairly straightforward. In most cases, you’ll have your earnings figure in only one box. But each box represents a different form of income:

Box 1: Rents (Rent paid to you.)

Box 2: Royalties (Royalties paid to you.)

Box 3: Other income (Income earned from activities like winning a prize.)

Box 4: Federal Income Tax Withheld (Usually, companies that take on contractors don’t withhold Federal Income tax, but on occasion, it can happen.)

Box 5: Fishing Boat Proceeds (Money earned from fishing.)

Box 6: Medical and Health Care Payments (Money you received to pay for health care.)

Box 7: Non-Employee Compensation (This where your earnings for contract work will show up.)

Box 8: Substitute Payments In Lieu of Dividends or Interest (Payments of $10 or more that you received instead of dividends or tax-exempt interest as a loan.)

Box 9: Payer Made Direct Sales of $5,000 or More (This box will be marked with an “X,” if you’ve made $5,000 or more in sales of consumer products for resale. If you’re involved in a direct sales company, this box may be checked.)

Box 10: Crop Insurance Proceeds (Income $600 or more paid to farmers by insurance companies.)

Box 11: Foreign Tax Paid (Foreign tax paid on the income listed on the 1099.)

Box 12: Foreign Country or U.S. Possession (The name of the country or U.S. Possession you paid foreign tax to in Box 11.)

Box 13: Excess Golden Parachute Payments (Payments in excess of the allowable amount of termination payments, including severance, cash bonuses, stock options, etc.)

Box 14: Gross Proceeds Paid to an Attorney (Income of $600 or more paid to an attorney.)

Box 15 a-b: Section 409A Deferrals (These boxes have to do with contributions to a section 409A retirement plan.)

Box 16: State Income Tax Withheld (This and the next two boxes are not required and are provided as a convenience for tracking state income information.)

Box 17: State/Payer’s State No.

Box 18: State Income

How Do I Use the 1099-MISC Form I Receive?

Similar to the W-2, you’ll enter the information provided on the 1099-MISC on your tax return. If you’re a sole proprietor or a single-member limited liability company (LLC), you report 1099-MISC income on Schedule C - Profit or Loss from a Business. It is the form on which you’ll also report expenses related to your business. After completing Schedule C, you’ll transfer your net income or loss to your 1040 form.

If you own a corporation, your business income is reported on the corporation’s tax return.

Depending on what you do, you might receive several 1099-MISC forms. You can combine the income listed on each 1099-MISC onto a single Schedule C for a single business. That means if your 1099-MISC income is all related to your home business, you can list it on a single form. However, if you have several businesses, you’ll want to have a separate Schedule C for each.

What If I Don’t Get a 1099-MISC Form?

You are required to pay taxes on all income you earn, whether it’s reported on a 1099-MISC or not. For example, if you earned affiliate income from a business that is below the $600 threshold, you may not receive a 1099. However, you're still required to report it.

Can I File 1099-MISC Income Through E-Filing?

Yes. Just like traditional W-2 filing, you can submit your yearly business tax return online. Home and business tax software will walk you through the process of submitting your 1099-MISC information and inputting the data on your Schedule C. If your business is a corporation, you can use business tax software to e-file your business tax return.

How Do I Use the 1099-MISC Form If I Paid Contractors?

If you paid more than $10 in royalties or $600 in fees to a contractor, you’re ​required to send them a 1099-MISC. The only exception is payments made to corporations or LLCs that operate like corporations and employees (there are a few other exceptions listed on the IRS Instructions for form 1099-MISC).

You’ll need to fill out the form, including your business name, address, and EIN, the payee’s (contractor’s) name, and also fill in the appropriate box with the income amount. For example, if you paid a virtual assistant $1,200, you’d put that in box 7.

Note, the IRS allows you to truncate the contractor’s social security on the form, but not your EIN or another identification number.

You’re required to have the form to your contractor(s) by January 31st. You must send a copy to the IRS, as well. 

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.