Are you a freelance consultant already who wants to know how to report your income or an aspiring consultant who wants to learn the ins and outs of running a consulting business? If it's the latter, you can read our guide on how to get into consulting to learn more about it. Otherwise, keep reading!
Before you can file your self employment taxes, you must ensure you have all of your invoice templates, forms, independent contractor agreements, and records. One of the most essential forms to include in your tax calculations and filing is the Form 1099-MISC. This report, which is specific to independent contractors and freelancers, will be necessary for making sure all of the info on your tax return is accurate.
Remember that you can use Bonsai tax to identify tax deductions and estimate quarterly taxes.
This form is a simple statement that shows your personal info, address, and the Tax Identification Numbers of both you and your client. It also includes how much money you made from them during a tax year (provided you earned $600 or more with them.) Additional info that may be included on the form, while not typical, consists of any federal or state tax withholding.
Did you know that you can use Bonsai for accounting? Or that Bonsai can help you be prepared for your freelancer tax by providing tax estimates, filling date reminders, calculating your self-employment taxes, and identifying your tax write-offs?
Let's see how that works. First, head to your main Bonsai dashboard and have a close look on the left side - we'll be working with the accounting and taxes sections. First click on "Accounting".
Inside the accounting section, you'll see a breakdown of your income and expenses. Both can either be automatically imported from your bank account, or manually added. Work you got paid for via Bonsai will also be registered here.
Make sure this section is properly filled in and click on "Taxes" next.
This is where the magic happens: Bonsai will do all the calculations for you, and we'll provide you with an overview of your tax estimates, a list of tax 1099 deductions you can use for the upcoming tax season, and reminders for all the upcoming filling dates.
Simple, right? If you're ready to check out Bonsai and explore all the features, go ahead and sign up for the free trial!
Every client or customer of your freelance business who has paid you wages of $600 or more are required by law to send you one of the 1099-MISC forms. These should be postmarked by January 31, 2018 for the 2017 filing year. You'll also get one from the bank or financial institutions if you earned more than $10 in royalty income.
While freelancing is the most common reason to get a 1099-MISC, there are other situations where you may get one issued to you. These include if you:
This form should arrive via postal mail, but some companies are also using more high-tech ways to send you this info. You may also receive an email link to an encrypted payroll processing site and be asked to download it from there. You should not, however, be getting 1099-MISC information over a non-secured email or as an attachment to a message that is not encrypted.
Sometimes, these 1099 forms can get lost in the mail. If your bookkeeping records indicate that you earned $600 or more from one client and they didn’t pay you through a third-party processing vendor (such as PayPal), you should reach out and inquire. They may not be aware that they need to issue the form, or they may have sent it to the wrong address. There are still ways you can file taxes without a 1099.
If they insist that they do not need to issue you one, that’s OK. You can still report the income on your tax form under the additional income section. As long as you state all of the income received for the year on either the other income section or under a 1099-MISC, you will be fine. (Note that there is only a problem when you fail to report income from a 1099-MISC that a customer has reported to the IRS on a 1099-MISC. Since you are supposed to get a copy -- and the IRS a copy --, you would want this information to match.)
If you are using conventional tax software, you'll be asked to input the information from each 1099-MISC individually. If you work with a tax preparer, the forms are needed to do your taxes. You should always save your 1099-MISC forms for at least seven years after your taxes are filed, in the case that you are audited or need to correct or refile your returns.
Depending on how your clients issue payment, you may receive some 1099-K forms, as well. Credit card companies, and third-party payers such as PayPal and Stripe, will collect the information for all payments from clients made through their services and send you a 1099-K form if you meet both of the following thresholds:
If both of these apply, you should be getting a 1099-K. Note that the income represented on this form will likely be a total from all of your clients who used the payment processor, so you should also double check to be sure that you don't also get a 1099-MISC from any clients who used the processor.
(Note: In the case that you receive a 1099-MISC from a company who also reported the same income on a 1099-K, you could be in a position of double reporting and the IRS may think you made much more than you did. You should direct the client to read the instructions for 1099-MISC and explain that PayPal, for example, will be reporting and they should not.)
1099-K income has a special place in the tax form 1040 for reporting.
While it's most common for a freelance to receive a 1099-MISC, there are also instances where you would issue one. If you used a VA or outsourced some work to another independent contractor, your payments to them may be subject to reporting on the form. If you paid a web designer $600 for your freelance writing website, for example, you would need to issue them a form.
Luckily, most all of the small business versions of the popular tax software programs have a function for generating and sending these forms. They will also provide you with instructions for mailing the copies to your contractor and the IRS. This is also why it is vital to have anyone you contract with to fill out a W9 form so that you’ll have all of the info needed for a 1099-MISC handy come tax time. Remember, you have until the end of January to send out the forms to the IRS and your workers!
1099-MISC forms can be a little intimidating, but they are exciting, too. Remember that each one you get is a symbol of a client that was satisfied enough to pay you and that the more 1099-MISC forms you get each year, the greater your business was for that year! Some freelancers can receive up to twenty or more forms, so be sure that you organize them securely as soon as you get them and match them up to the income you received for the year.
While it's rare, some clients make mistakes. If you see a discrepancy between the amount paid and the amount reported, speak up! Incorrect reporting can leave you on the hook for taxes you don't truly owe – or, worse yet – could put you in a position for an unwarranted audit. Be proactive about tracking all of your income and ensure that it meets the reporting provided by clients to the penny! (For those clients who paid you less than $600, you will still have to report their income, but need not worry about getting any forms.) Learning how to bill for consulting services correctly can help you avoid mistakes in paying your taxes.
These forms are all part of running a freelance business, and you should embrace them. By preparing a bit and keeping good records, they can make your tax filing much more manageable. Some tax software programs even remember the info on each 1099-MISC from year to year, making it a seamless process to report annually.
Explore Bonsai's freelance suite and start tracking your expenses, identify all eligible tax deductions, and estimate quarterly taxes - sign up for a free trial.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?