2017 Mailbag #2: The Case of the Deliberately Wrong 1099

Our second mailbag post deals with an issue I’ve reported on before: an incorrect information return. Once again, there’s a twist.

In 2015 I did some consulting for them and was paid $10,000; I received a 2015 Form 1099-MISC that correctly noted the income. I just received a 1099-MISC from them for 2016; however, I didn’t do any work for them in 2016. I called them and there response to my asking them to correct the error was “no.” What should I do?

The advice I gave before still applies:

But what if he refuses [to correct the 1099? Here, practicality must be used. Let’s say the total of your gross receipts is $32,000, and the total of your 1099-MISCs (and 1099-Ks) is $29,000. I’d likely just enter the 1099-MISC as received, and lower the “other” gross receipts by the extra $3000. (IRS instructions on information returns state to use the actual number. The problem is that the automated underreporting (AUR) unit will almost certainly send you a notice if you use the wrong number.)

Unfortunately, my correspondent’s total of her correct 1099s exactly equals her gross receipts so this strategy won’t work. I think there are two things she should do. First, send a letter (via certified mail) to the issuer of the incorrect 1099 explaining the situation and requesting that they issue a corrected 1099. Make sure you keep a copy of the return receipt (or tracking).

Second, consider including the 1099 on your tax return and then subtracting out the income (as a “return and allowance”). The IRS suggests (in this situation) that you subtract it out within gross receipts; the problem with that is that you’re almost certain to get an AUR notice. This method is less likely to generate an IRS notice, and your income is still being accurately reported.

What if you’re unlucky enough to get an IRS notice or be audited on this issue? Most of the time the burden of proof is on you, not the IRS; however, with information returns the burden of proof is on the IRS. The only evidence of my correspondent earning this “income” is the Form 1099-MISC. She has a separate bank account for her business; her bank deposits in 2016 exactly equal her gross receipts. Everything backs her story.

Congress changed the law on when 1099s for nonemployee compensation (independent contractors); those 1099s must now be filed by Tuesday, January 31st. One unforeseen consequence for tax professionals (and for recipients of 1099s) is that there will be more issues with incorrect 1099s this year. Hopefully the IRS’s performance on dealing with corrected 1099s will improve. If not, we’ll be dealing with a score of IRS notices on this issue next year.

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