Can you file taxes without a 1099-MISC form?

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Can you file taxes without a 1099-MISC form?

Ah, the 1099-MISC form. Along with W-2 forms, it’s the IRS’ way of politely saying, "I know what you’re doing, and you cannot lie to me." If you’re a freelancer, your tax season is chock full of 1099-MISC forms. They pile up everywhere: at your desk, on the kitchen table, in the bathroom (great reading material!).

But what happens if you’re missing one?

Missing a 1099-MISC form? Don’t panic

Like W-2s and other tax forms, 1099-MISC forms need to be sent out by January 31st. If you haven’t received one by the end of February, you might be wondering where it went.

First off, make sure that you were paid $600 or more by that client. Clients don’t have to send you a 1099-MISC form if they pay you less than $600 in the entire year. Note that this doesn’t mean that this income is not taxable – Uncle Sam wants his cut regardless of how much money you earned from a specific source.

More importantly, you don’t actually need the 1099-MISC forms to file your taxes. Unlike W-2s, the IRS does not request that you attach your 1099-MISC forms to your tax return. Assuming you’ve accurately tracked your income, this shouldn’t be a problem. The 1099 forms that the IRS will receive from your clients will match up with your reported income.

If you haven’t accurately tracked your income, try to overcompensate. The IRS will never ding you for over reporting your income, but they might audit you if you under report it.

Should you even ask for it?

Most freelancers assume that if they don’t get a 1099-MISC form on time, they should contact the company and ask for a copy. That might actually be a bad idea, though: if the company issues a copy incorrectly, the IRS may think you’ve made that income twice. If that sounds like a stupid mistake to make, just remember why you became a freelancer in the first place.

How to avoid missing 1099-MISC forms in the future

The biggest reason people lose 1099-MISC forms is outdated or incorrect addresses. When you’re signing on as a client and filling out your tax forms, make sure you enter your addresses correctly and neatly. If you move during the year, make sure you contact each of your clients and update them with your latest address.

While you should be carefully tracking your income, ultimately making 1099-MISC forms superfluous, it’s nice to get them in the mail. They allow you to double-check your own bookkeeping, plus there might be candy in the envelope!*

*There won’t be.

Image: Christian Guthier