What to Do When You’re Missing 1099s

tax tips | January 03, 2017 | By Susannah McQuitty

An empty mailbox says “Where’s my 1099?”

Last week we talked about what taxes look like for freelancers when everything’s going according to plan. But what happens when the year catches up to you, or Murphy’s Law kicks into high gear?

Let’s say you take a commission from a client. You nail the job, he wants you to do another one that’s a bit more involved, and your initial small commission turns into a project that builds throughout the year. You pass the $600 income mark. Your client didn’t request you to fill out a W-9 at the beginning, and if he did send you a 1099-MISC, it’s late January and you haven’t seen it yet. Welcome to the joys of self-employment.

Try to touch base with your client

You’re going to need your 1099-MISC to make sure that the income you report matches what your client reports, too. When your client sends you the form, which should be sometime in January or early February, they also send a copy to the IRS – so if you haven’t received a 1099, the first step is asking your client to send you a copy of the form.

One important note: If your client claims to have already sent you and the IRS a 1099, don’t request another 1099 unless the first doesn’t show up in a few days. The reason? If your client accidentally sends the 1099 to the IRS twice, the IRS is going to assume you got paid twice as much as you did, or did twice as many jobs. Enter a bigger tax bill – so make sure you coordinate clearly with your client to only send you a new copy if your 1099 doesn’t come in.

Different kinds self-employment records with hand-lettered labels.

Review your own records

Now, let’s say you can’t get in touch with your client at all (I hear the phone plans are pretty high-priced in Fiji). What do you do? Reporting how much you made in freelance commissions is more than just educated guessing. You’ll want to track down your payments through your own records – and it’s okay if your “records” include coffee-stained sticky notes with job details or photos of invoices on your cell phone.

Maybe you use an app or an old-fashioned spreadsheet for recordkeeping – good for you. Bank statements are also easy to access online, and even cash payments can be tracked without too much hassle if you charge a particular rate for a service.

Whatever your method, organize your income records for the year so you can be sure to report all of your 1099 income when you file. If the IRS ever comes for a visit (which is rare, but possible), you’ll be able to support your numbers with good documentation.

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