Investing

If you made money outside of your day job, this is the tax form you need

Twenty/20

If you earned money from a source other than your regular 9-to-5, such as investments or freelance work, be on the lookout for certain kinds of tax documents in the mail. You don't want to file without them in hand.

A 1099 tax form is an umbrella term for documents that report various types of income you may receive throughout the year. These are different than the W-2 form you'll receive from your employer, and the most common reasons for receiving them include: interest earned on savings accounts, dividends earned on investments, and income you earned working in the gig economy as a freelancer, independent contractor, or side hustler.

Your 1099s should be arriving soon, if they haven't already. Here's what you need to know about the most common varieties.

Types of 1099 tax forms

There are more than a dozen different kinds of 1099 forms, which cover some common and pretty uncommon sources of income. Here's a breakdown of some of the reasons you might receive one of these documents:

Work

  • Form 1099-MISC. You should receive this document for any miscellaneous income you got during the year, of at least $600. Examples include: work you did for someone that's not your employer, prizes, and awards.
  • Form 1099-G. You may get this document if you received money from the government, including for unemployment compensation and tax refunds or credits.
  • Starting this year, the IRS is transitioning to Form 1099-NEC for money you earned as a nonemployee, like if you are a freelancer or independent contractor. You'll first receive these 1099 forms to file with your taxes in 2021.
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Investments

  • Form 1099-B. This document will detail any income you earned from the sale of securities, like stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and mutual funds.
  • Form 1099-DIV. Financial institutions issue this form to report dividends and other distributions they made to taxpayers.
  • Form 1099-INT. If you earned more than $10 in interest from a financial institution, you'll receive one of these forms.
  • Form 1099-OID. You might receive this form, short for "original issue discount," if you bought bonds or other financial securities at a discount to the face value or whatever the redemption value will be at maturity.

Real estate

  • Form 1099-S. If you sold real estate, you will receive this form, and may have to pay taxes on the proceeds from that sale.

Why your 1099 forms are important

The IRS expects you to report all of your income, so you need to have a good understanding of what 1099s you're expecting. That will help ensure you don't miss something, and put yourself at risk of penalties or an audit.

There are some less common income situations not listed above that you could receive a different 1099 form for, so you should check the IRS website for a full list. In general, expect one of these forms for "anywhere you made money outside of your job," says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert at TurboTax.

What's more, some people may overlook common sources of income, like trading cryptocurrencies and the interest earned on savings accounts, Greene-Lewis says. Plus, some people may not realize that their investing activity triggers a taxable event.

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These 1099 forms are especially important for millennials, which are the largest-growing group of TurboTax users who are filing a Schedule D, which documents capital gains and losses, Greene-Lewis says. That's partly because of the growth of automated investing services, like robo-advisors, she adds.

"We're seeing growth in the number of millennials who are investing," Greene-Lewis says.

Another problem with a 1099 can be that taxpayers don't receive it. Tax documents that arrive late or are missing in action are the fourth-largest concern among enrolled tax agents, according to a 2019 survey of such preparers by the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA). Enrolled tax agents are tax pros that the government authorizes to represent people in matters before the IRS, like audits and appeals.

Businesses are only required to issue you a 1099 if they have paid you more than $600, so there may be some income you need to report even without a form in hand. And don't forget about your inbox. Some entities will make 1099 forms available online rather than mail it, while you may have elected to receive these types of documents electronically from providers.

How to prepare for next year's tax season

If this is the first time you've received 1099 forms, you can make future tax seasons easier by making note of which financial institutions or companies you expect to receive these forms from again in the future. Gathering information about all of your sources of income early on can help to make filing your taxes painless.

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In addition, if you had any tax surprises, you may want to be savvy about your investments this year. There are legal strategies — such as contributing to an IRA, contributing to a health savings account, and contributing more toward your 401(k) — that can save you money in the future.

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