Product
Why Indy
Free Resources
NetworkPricing
indy university
Start for free

What is a 1099-NEC Form

Dec 20, 2023
(updated: Dec 21, 2023)
Max 5 min read

Freelancing is filled with creativity, flexibility, and the pursuit of passion. However, amid the excitement of being your own boss, there's a less glamorous aspect that every freelancer must face: self-employment taxes. Cue the ominous music!

If you're a freelancer, you've likely encountered the 1099-NEC, a form that helps you report payments received during the year. In this comprehensive article, we'll break down everything you need to know about the 1099-NEC.

What is Form 1099-NEC?

Freelancers must pay self-employment taxes and carefully report nonemployee compensation on their tax returns to follow IRS rules.

Beginning in the tax year 2020, the 1099-NEC took center stage, replacing its counterpart, the 1099-MISC, in reporting nonemployee compensation. So, what exactly is it? In simple terms, the 1099-NEC is a tax form used to report income for freelancers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals. It's not the only tax form out there, but it's a crucial one for those who hustle in the gig economy.

The "NEC" in 1099-NEC stands for "Nonemployee Compensation," and it's the income you've earned from clients or businesses that haven't withheld taxes from your payments. In other words, it's your responsibility to report and pay taxes on this income.

While the 1099-NEC is specifically for nonemployee compensation, the 1099-MISC covers a broader range of miscellaneous income, including rent, royalties, and other types of income.

For freelancers, the 1099-NEC is your primary concern. It's the go-to form for reporting the compensation you receive for your hard work and dedication.

Why is Form 1099-NEC Important for Freelancers?

Now, you might wonder, "Why does this form matter to me?" Well, it's not just a piece of paper for your records. As a freelancer, you're responsible for both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes, totaling 15.3%. This is what's commonly known as the self-employment tax.

The 1099-NEC is the IRS's way of keeping tabs on your earnings, ensuring you're paying the appropriate taxes on your income. Ignoring it or not reporting your income accurately could lead to some serious tax headaches down the road.

In essence, the 1099-NEC is your ticket to staying in Uncle Sam's good graces and avoiding any unwelcome surprises during tax season.

Who Receives a Form 1099-NEC?

If you're freelancing or working independently—whether you're a graphic designer, writer, consultant, or in another profession—the 1099-NEC is something you'll likely deal with. It's a crucial form for those not on an employer's payroll.

As a self-employed individual, you need to report all your income. However, you'll only receive a 1099-NEC if your earnings surpass a specific threshold. In simpler terms, it's a sign that your income has reached a point where formal reporting is required, marking an important step in your freelancing journey.

Thresholds for 1099-NEC reporting

Now about that income threshold: the magic number here is $600. If a client pays you $600 or more over the course of a tax year, they're required to issue a 1099-NEC. But what if you earned less? Well, even if you didn't hit the $600 mark, you're not off the hook.

You're still obligated to report all your income, no matter how modest, on your tax return. It's not just about what's reported on the 1099-NEC; it's about providing an accurate picture of your total earnings to the IRS.

How to Report Income on Form 1099-NEC

Now that we've established why the 1099-NEC is significant, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of what gets reported on this form.

Types of income reported on Form 1099-NEC

Form 1099-NEC specifically captures your non-employee compensation. This includes fees, commissions, prizes, and awards for services you've provided.

If you're unsure whether a particular payment qualifies as non-employee compensation, think about it this way: if you were paid for your skills, time, or expertise, it likely falls under the 1099-NEC umbrella.

How to calculate and report income

Calculating your income for tax purposes might sound like a daunting task, but we're here to simplify it for you. The total amount you report on the 1099-NEC is your gross income, which is the total amount you earned before any deductions.

Remember, this is the money you received before taxes were taken out. So, if a client paid you $1,000 for a project, that's the amount you'll report. But don’t worry, because in the next sections, we'll explore deductions and expenses that can help ease the tax burden.

Deductions and Expenses for Freelancers

Even though freelancers face an eye-watering 15.3% self-employment tax, the good news is that there are numerous deductions available.

These deductions help lower your taxable income, providing much-needed relief in the realm of freelance taxes.

Here's a list of common business expenses that you may be able to deduct:

  1. Office Supplies: The cost of pens, paper, printer ink, and other supplies essential to your work.
  2. Home Office Expenses: If you have a dedicated space in your home for work, you may be able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage, utilities, and maintenance costs.
  3. Professional Development: Expenses related to improving your skills or staying updated in your field, such as attending workshops, conferences, or online courses.
  4. Internet and Phone Bills: A portion of your internet and phone bills that is directly related to your business activities.
  5. Business Travel: Costs associated with business-related travel, including transportation, accommodation, and meals.
  6. Health Insurance Premiums: If you're self-employed and not eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, you may be able to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums.
  7. Marketing and Advertising: Expenses related to promoting your services, such as website costs, business cards, and online advertising.

Remember, keeping meticulous records of these expenses is essential for maximizing your deductions and minimizing your tax liability. Consider using accounting software or apps to streamline the process and ensure you capture all eligible deductions.

How to File Form 1099-NEC

So, you've received that coveted envelope in the mail containing your 1099-NEC forms from clients. Now what?

Receiving and reviewing your 1099-NEC

First things first, don't let it gather dust on your desk. Open it, review it, and make sure all the information is accurate.

Check the amounts reported on each form against your records. Mistakes can happen, and it's better to address discrepancies early. If you spot any errors, reach out to the client promptly and request a corrected form. Remember, the IRS receives a copy of these forms, so accuracy is paramount.

Make sure your details, including your social security number or taxpayer identification number, are correct to avoid backup withholding rules and prevent complications during tax season.

Filing your taxes with the 1099-NEC

Now that you have your 1099-NEC forms in order, it's time to tackle the actual tax filing process. The good news is that the 1099-NEC is a straightforward form. You'll transfer the amounts from your forms to the corresponding sections of your tax return.

How to file:

  1. Electronically: Many freelancers opt to file their taxes electronically. This can be done through various online platforms and tax software. When filing electronically, the process is often faster, and you receive confirmation of your submission.
  2. Mail: If you prefer the traditional route, you can also mail your tax return. Ensure that you include copies of your 1099-NEC forms and any other necessary documentation. Be aware of the mailing address provided by the IRS for your specific location.

Due date:

The due date for filing your taxes is typically April 15th. However, if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline may be extended to the next business day.

If the idea of handling taxes solo gives you a headache, consider enlisting the help of a tax professional. They can provide personalized advice, ensure you're maximizing your deductions, and, most importantly, help you navigate the complexities of the tax code.

Tips for Filing Form 1099-NEC

Handling tax season can be challenging, so here are some tips for a smoother filing experience.

Keep organized records throughout the year

One of the best pieces of advice for freelancers is to stay organized throughout the year. This isn't just a recommendation; it's a game-changer. Create a system for tracking your income and expenses, and update it regularly.

Consider using accounting software or apps designed for freelancers to streamline the process. Digitizing receipts, categorizing expenses, and maintaining a clear record of your earnings will save you a considerable amount of stress come tax season.

Seek professional advice

While it's empowering to handle your finances as a freelancer, there's no shame in seeking professional advice. Tax laws can be complex, and they're subject to change. A tax professional can help you navigate your tax forms and keep you informed about deductions, credits, and any changes in the tax code that may impact you.

Investing in professional advice isn't just about filing taxes; it's about gaining insights into financial strategies that can benefit your freelance business. From retirement planning to understanding the implications of business structures, a tax professional can be a valuable partner in your freelancing journey.

How Can Indy Help?

Handling taxes as a freelancer can be tough, especially when juggling a business. But with Indy, it's simple!

Here's how Indy can fast-track your success:

  • Proposals: Craft compelling project proposals effortlessly and win more clients.
  • Contracts: Get ready-made contracts that protect your business and build trust with clients.
  • Forms: Indy has questionnaires, intake forms, project briefs, and feedback forms to help you get the information you need from clients to nail your projects and grow your business.
  • Invoices: Generate polished invoices with ease and get paid right through Indy.
  • Project Management: Break down projects into manageable tasks using both to-do lists and Kanban boards.
  • Client Portals: Enhance client satisfaction with a centralized communication hub where you can chat with clients in real-time and share files.
  • Time Tracker: Automatically track and log the time spent on each project to make billing easier.
  • Files: Upload, store, and share designs and any other documents with clients and get feedback and approval.
  • Calendar: Schedule meetings and get a daily, weekly, and monthly view of everything that's due or overdue.

And since Indy is tax deductible, it basically pays for itself. Get started today for free!

A Quick Recap

All self-employment income is taxable, so whether you're a freelancer, an independent contractor, or a service provider, Form 1099-NEC is a crucial player. It's not just a form; it represents your hard work, dedication, and the income you've earned through your skills and expertise. By understanding its ins and outs, staying organized, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can navigate tax season with confidence and stay on the good side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

It's important to mention that, for freelancers, there is no state income tax withheld and no federal income tax withheld, meaning you're on the hook for paying your own taxes. So, while you focus on your 1099-NEC, don't forget your federal and state obligations!

Ready to take charge of your independent business while maximizing tax savings? Manage your entire business in one place, from contracts to invoicing and everything in between. Get started with Indy for free!

Get started today!

Get the tools to manage your entire freelance business, free online courses to accelerate your growth, and join a community of freelancers just like you.
Mail icon
Want more freelance tips?
Crush freelance struggles with weekly tips delivered to your inbox.