Mar 2020 | Gig Workers and Gift Tax Returns

Gig Workers, Know Your Tax Responsibilities

Let’s say you drive for a ride-sharing app, deliver groceries ordered online or perform freelance home repairs booked via a mobile device. If you do one of these jobs or myriad others, you’re a gig worker — part of a growing segment of the economy.

In fact, a 2019 IRS report found that the share of the workforce with income from alternative, nonemployee work arrangements grew by 1.9 percentage points from 2000 to 2016. (That’s a big increase.) And, over 50% of this rise occurred during the period 2013 to 2016, almost entirely because of gigs set up online.

A different way

No matter what the job or app, all gig workers have one thing in common: taxes. But the way you’ll pay taxes differs from the way you would as an employee.

To start, you’re typically considered self-employed. As a result, and because an employer isn’t withholding money from your paycheck to cover your tax obligations, you’re responsible for making federal income tax payments. Depending on where you live, you also may have to pay state income tax.

Quarterly tax payments

The U.S. tax system is considered “pay as you go.” Self-employed individuals typically pay both federal income tax and self-employment taxes four times during the year: generally on April 15, June 15, and September 15 of the current year, and January 15 of the following year.

If you don’t pay enough over these four installments to cover the required amount for the year, you may be subject to penalties. To minimize the risk of penalties, you must generally pay either 90% of the tax you’ll owe for the current year or the same amount you paid the previous year.

The 1099

You may have encountered the term “the 1099 economy” or been called a “1099 worker.” This is because, as a self-employed person, you won’t get a W-2 from an employer. You may, however, receive a Form 1099-MISC from any client or customer that paid you at least $600 throughout the year. The client sends the same form to the IRS, so it pays to monitor the 1099s you receive and verify that the amounts match your records.

If a client (say, a ride-sharing app) uses a third-party payment system, you might receive a Form 1099-K. Even if you didn’t earn enough from a client to receive a 1099, or you’re not sent a 1099-K, you’re still responsible for reporting the income you were paid. Keep in mind that typically you’re taxed on income when received, not when you send a request for payment.

Good record keeping

As a gig worker, you need to keep accurate, timely records of your revenue and expenses so you pay the taxes you owe — but no more. Our firm can help you set up a good record keeping system, file your taxes and stay updated on new developments in the gig economy.

Sidebar: Expense deductions

By definition, gig workers are self-employed. So, your taxes are based on the profits left after you deduct business-related expenses from your revenue. Expenses can include payment processing fees, your investment in office equipment and specific costs required to provide your service. Remember, if you use a portion of your home as a work space, you may be able to deduct the pro rata share of some home-related expenses.

The 2019 Gift Tax Return Deadline is Almost Here, Too

Most people have April 15 “tattooed on the brain” as the deadline for filing their federal income tax returns. What you may forget is that the gift tax return deadline is on the very same date. So, if you made large gifts to family members or heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file.

Filing requirements

Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2019 if, during the tax year, you made gifts that exceeded the $15,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse) or that you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $30,000 annual exclusion.

You also need to file if you made gifts to a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($75,000) into 2019. Other reasons to file include making gifts:

  • That exceeded the $155,000 annual exclusion for gifts to a noncitizen spouse, or
  • Of future interests (such as remainder interests in a trust) regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($11.4 million for 2019). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

No return required

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for the year consist solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as annual exclusion gifts, present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse, educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or political or charitable contributions.

But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

Be ready

If you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is indeed April 15 — regardless of whether you file for an extension (in which case you have until October 15 to file). If you’re unsure whether you must (or should) file a 2019 gift tax return, contact us.