Uncle Sam Wants to Know About Your Gig Income

If you earn money through an app or online digital platform, you may be affected by a tax reporting change that took effect on January 1, 2022. A provision of the 2021 American Rescue Plan requires third-party payment processors to report business transactions totaling over $600 per year by issuing a Form 1099-K to the taxpayer and the IRS. In prior years, the reporting threshold was much higher (200 business transactions and $20,000).



Here are a few things you should probably know about this far-reaching new rule.

It's not personal. Business transactions are defined as payments for goods or services, including tips. Money received from the online sale of personal items like old clothing or furniture, which are normally sold at a loss, is not taxable and does not need to be reported. However, those in the business of reselling goods for a profit should carefully track the original costs of their purchases. Peer-to-peer payment apps are not required to report personal transactions intended as gifts or used to pay back friends for dinner or trips, or to split other costs. How will third-party apps know the difference? The payer will be asked to indicate the purpose of each transaction so it can be categorized correctly.

It's not a tax change. Taxpayers who sell goods, regularly rent out a vacation home, walk dogs, or perform any other type of freelance work through digital platforms were already responsible for self-reporting all income for tax purposes. But now the IRS will have a way to cross-reference the information sent by third parties with amounts reported by individuals and businesses on their tax returns.

It's not foolproof. This change may cause confusion that could result in costly mistakes. If a payer (such as a roommate making a shared rent payment) accidentally clicks on the wrong box, the recipient could receive a Form 1099-K for a transaction that is not taxable. It's also possible that a freelancer will receive a Form 1099-K from the payment processor and a Form 1099-MISC from the client for the same transaction. In such cases, the taxpayer may need to explain the discrepancy to the IRS.

Using separate accounts for business and personal digital transactions could make things simpler at tax time. Keeping detailed and organized records will help ensure that your tax return is accurate, so you don't overpay or raise any red flags with the IRS.

Because the new reporting requirement may have unintended consequences that frustrate taxpayers, some lawmakers have proposed raising the threshold to a less onerous level. While it's far from certain that Congress will backtrack on this issue, you may want to watch for future developments. If you have questions about how the new rule might affect you, don't hesitate to consult a qualified tax professional.

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Jason Denis is an agent licensed to sell insurance through New York Life Insurance Company and may be licensed with various other independent unaffiliated insurance companies in the states of AK and WA. No insurance business may be conducted outside the specific states referenced.

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