1099s: A little form with a painful bite

When Congress tried unsuccessfully to expand the Form 1099 filing requirements a couple of years ago, at least one thing was accomplished. It raised awareness of an important IRS business reporting rule. And at $100 per infraction, the penalty for ignoring this regulation can be painful.

That’s right; the IRS can fine you $100 for each 1099 form that you fail to file, up to a maximum penalty of $1.5 million. The most common Form 1099 is the 1099-MISC, which is used to report payments of $600 or more to vendors who provide services to your business. Examples include payment for repairs, accounting services, consulting fees, and legal advice. Normally if the vendor is incorporated you do not need to send them a 1099-MISC, but there is one important exception. All payments to attorneys must be reported, whether they are incorporated or not.

Timely filing of the Form 1099-MISC is also critical. The form must be filed with the IRS by February 28 (unless you file electronically). But you must provide the vendor a copy of the form by January 31. Electronic filing is optional if you file fewer than 250 forms. If you have 250 or more forms to file, you are required to file electronically. The deadline for electronic filing is March 31.

There are a few more twists. If you pay a vendor for parts and services, you must include the total of both of these on your form as long as the parts or materials were incidental. If materials were the predominate nature of the payment, they are left out. Reporting is also required if you provide non-employees taxable fringe benefits or pay fees to your board of directors.

Looking for an easy solution to these requirements? Pay all your vendors by credit card. You do not have to report payments made by credit or debit card, or by services like PayPal. The bank or third-party payment provider is required to report those transactions.

There are other types of Form 1099s to watch for. A Form 1099-INT is used to report interest payments of $10 or more to an individual in the course of a trade or business. Form 1099-R is used by investment companies to report distributions from retirement accounts and annuities. And businesses that make loans are required to disclose canceled debt on Form 1099-C if the amount is $600 or more.

If these reporting rules leave you uncertain of your responsibilities, give our office a call. A little attention paid now might help prevent a painful penalty later.

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