How to Prepare 1099-MISC Forms—Step by Step

Image shows two people in a split-scene, both working on their computer. Title reads: "Who should receive a 1099-misc form?" Text reads: "You must send one to non-employees you paid $600 or more to in the calendar year; Most commonly used for independent contractors and vendors who are self-employed individuals; Check with your tax professional if you are still in doubt."

Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou © The Balance 2019

Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, is the form businesses use to report payments to what the IRS calls non-employees. The form is simple to complete; the main queries businesses have is who to send it to and when. Because this is a miscellaneous form, there are several types of payments that require a 1099-MISC.

Be sure to use the 2019 version of 1099-MISC for 2019 payments to nonemployees and others. The 1099-MISC form is changing in 2020, and a new 2020 Form 1099-NEC will be used to report nonemployee compensation.

To be sure you are using the correct form, check that the date "2019" is in the top right and that Item 7 is for "nonemployee compensation."

Due Dates for 1099-MISC forms

Form 1099-MISC must be filed with the IRS by January 31 for the previous calendar year for forms sent to non-employees and income reported Box 7 - non-employee income. This deadline is the same for both paper filing and e-filing.

For all other reported payments, file Form 1099-MISC by February 28, 2020,

All 1099s are also due to contract workers by January 31 each year for the previous calendar year. For example, 1099-MISC forms for 2019 must be filed with the IRS and given to recipients by January 31, 2020. 

Read the details in this article about the annual payroll tax report deadlines, including penalties for not filing and when you must file these reports online.

Gathering Information for Preparing 1099-MISC forms

The information for this form comes from your business records for non-employee payments for each person or business you pay for services. You might be paying these individuals under "Professional Fees" or "Other Payments." Be sure to keep track of these payments by the vendor so you can run a list at the end of the year. 

Who Should Receive a 1099-MISC Form? 

Form 1099-MISC includes information on compensation paid the previous calendar year to various individuals and entities. You must send a 1099-MISC form to non-employees you paid $600 or more to in the calendar year.

This form is NOT used for employee wages and salaries.

The 1099-MISC is most commonly used for independent contractors and vendors who are self-employed individuals (not corporations). For example, a janitorial service or web developer might be in this category.

To determine if a specific person or business entity should receive a 1099-MISC form, read this article about who should receive a 1099-MISC form. If the person is eligible to receive this form, determine if you paid this person $600 or more in the calendar year. Check with your tax professional if you are still in doubt.

Double-check Taxpayer ID Numbers to avoid issues with the IRS. To make sure tax ID numbers agree with IRS records, use this Online IRS Taxpayer ID Matching program (requires signup).

Taxpayer ID Numbers and Form 1099-MISC

Before you prepare a 1099-MISC for someone, you must have a valid tax ID number for that person. You will need to get a W-9 form from each payee. This form includes name and address and the taxpayer ID.

The main area of confusion in this form is whether to use Box 3 or Box 7 for non-employee payments. If you are in doubt about whether to use Box 3 or Box 7 to report payments to a non-employee, note the term "services" in Box 7.

How to Deal With a Missing Taxpayer ID

Follow this series of steps set out by the IRS:

  • Make every attempt to get the taxpayer ID by sending the person a W-9 form.
  • Document your efforts to obtain the W-9 form. Keep track of the attempts you made, including emails and mailings, to protect yourself from fines and penalties when the IRS contacts you.
  • File the 1099-MISC on time including zeros in the space where the taxpayer ID is required. 

Information Needed for a 1099-MISC Form

These topics follow the outline of the "Specific Instructions" on the Instructions for Form 1099-MISC. This form has more detailed instructions for each box.

Business Information: For each 1099-MISC you prepare, you will need to include information about your business, including:

Recipient's Tax ID Number: This is the recipient's social security number, employer ID number, (EIN), or federal tax ID number.

Payment Amounts: Enter amounts paid in the appropriate box:

  • Box 1: Amounts you paid in rents (but not to a corporation).
  • Box 2: Royalties, from oil, gas, or mineral properties, or from intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks). You must report if you paid at least $10 in royalties to someone during the year.
  • Box 3: Other income payments, including prizes and awards (boxes 3 and 7) such as sweepstakes payments (but not prizes and awards to employees), payments for participants in research studies, and punitive damages. This box is for payments that do not fit in any of the other boxes. You must report if you paid $600 or more to someone during the year.
  • Box 6: Medical and health care payments, including payments to "each physician or other supplier or provider of medical or health care services. Include payments made by medical and health care insurers under health, accident, and sickness insurance programs," but not to pharmacies for prescription drugs.
  • Box 7: Services performed by a non-employee, including payments to independent contractors, freelancers, and other businesses you made payments to. Include prizes, commissions, and awards given to these individuals or businesses. Also, include payments to non-employees for parts and materials.
  • Box 9: Direct sales of $5,000 or more of consumer products for resale.
  • Box 14: Gross proceeds paid to an attorney (explained below).

The IRS list includes other categories that you probably would not use such as fishing and crop insurance proceeds.

Federal income tax withheld: Enter any amounts of federal income tax withheld from payments to a recipient in Box 4, including backup withholding directed by the IRS.

Section 409A deferrals and income: Boxes 15a and 15b require you to record Section 409A deferrals and income. Section 409A refers to a relatively new (2004) section of the Internal Revenue Code that has to do with non-qualified deferred compensation plans. Check with your tax adviser or a tax attorney if you think you may have to report nonqualified deferred compensation to someone.

State and local information: In this section, you will enter information about state income and withholding. Note that you may enter information for one or two states. If you must enter information for more than two states, you will need to complete another 1099-MISC for that information.

The state/payer's state number (Box 17): Your business's state tax ID number is NOT your state sales tax ID number. Many states use the federal tax id number (EIN) and add digits to the end. Check with your state department of revenue for information.

What to Do Before You Send Out Form 1099-MISC

1. Check the year on the tax forms

The IRS changes these forms every year, so make sure you have the current year's version. The year of the form is the year of the payment, NOT the year you are completing the form. If you are sending a contractor a 1099-MISC form in January 2019 for 2018 work, use the 2018 form. 

2. Make sure you have a Form W-9 for each payee

Before you send a 1099-MISC to anyone, you must have a W-9 form completed for that person. The purpose of Form W-9 is to verify the person's tax identification number. For an individual, the taxpayer ID might be a social security number. For a business, it might be an Employer ID number.

It is important to make sure you have this information; if you do not receive a W-9 form from a non-employee, or if the tax ID is not valid, you will be notified by the IRS that you must start backup withholding on payments to that individual.

3. Order 1099-MISC forms and use the correct form

If you send out your own 1099-MISC forms (year-end tax summary for independent contractors), now is the time to order forms for this tax year. If you have a payroll service, check to make sure they have what they need to prepare these forms in January.

You can get 1099-MISC forms from office supply stores, directly from the IRS, from your accountant, or from business tax software programs. You cannot use a 1099-MISC form you download from the Internet because the red ink on Copy A is special and cannot be copied. You must use the official form.

4. Check for errors before you submit to the IRS

Common errors in completing 1099 forms include using the form for the wrong year, not using the correct form, sending the form to the wrong person or company, and failing to include all requested information.

Print and Distribute Forms

The 1099-MISC is a multi-part form. Here are the parts of this form and where to send each one:

  • Copy A is sent to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Copy 1 is sent to the state tax department(s).
  • Copy B is for the recipient. 
  • Copy 2 is for the recipient to file with his/her state income tax return.
  • Copies B and 2 must be received by the person no later than January 31 of the year after the tax year.
  • Copy C is for the payee (you).

If you are e-filing 1099-MISC forms with the IRS, you must still give recipients a paper copy. You can use this online fillable PDF form if you have just a few forms to complete.

Filing 1099-MISC Forms with the IRS

You can file 1099-MISC forms with the IRS through the Filing Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) system. The deadline for filing each year's 1099-MISC forms is January 31st of the following year.

The information provided in this article is for general purposes to help you collect the information you need to prepare and print 1099-MISC forms. Every business situation is unique, and this information does not attempt to be complete instructions. Talk to your tax professional about your specific situation.

Article Sources

  1. IRS. General Instructions for Certain Information Returns. "Filing dates for Form 1099-MISC." page 1. Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  2. IRS. General Instructions for Certain Information Returns. "When to furnish forms or statements." page 15. Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  3. IRS. "2019 Instructions for Form 1099-MISC. "Specific Instructions." Page 1. Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  4. IRS. "Question. I Received a 1099-MISC Instead of a W-2." Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  5. IRS. Reasonable Cause Regulations and Requirements for Missing and Incorrect Name/TINs. "Actions for Missing TINs and Incorrect Name/Tin/combinations." Pages 6-10. Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  6. IRS. "2019 Instructions for Form 1099-MISC." Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

  7. IRS. "2019 Form 1099-MISC." Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.