When Do Freelance Writers Have to Pay Taxes?

Doing taxes
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Question: When Do Freelance Writers Have to Pay Taxes?

Hi Allena,

I was wondering if you could give me some tax advice.

I've worked in media full time for ten years, but have always done a little freelance work on the side here and there. However, I have never understood how taxes work in the "self employment" world. It seem complicated, especially now that I've been working more with companies stationed in other countries that don't issues 1099s. I've Googled articles over the Internet and have found that some articles say one thing--and others another.

So, I think my question is two-part. At what level do you have to start worrying about accounting and paying taxes? And, what is the deal with 1099s? What happens if I don't get one from a client?

Thanks for any insight!


Great questions!

First, the time when taxes need to be accounted for is actually immediately. Uncle Sam wants a bite of your income from the get-go. The second you make a penny from writing, you must track it and report it along with your regular/day job income.

In order to do this, you should track your freelance income and associated expenses in some way (such as using software or apps).

So, officially, this means you should have been reporting your income from writing from the get-go. There is no minimum amount of money that you have to make, or a certain kind of business arrangement or company-type that you need be in order to report income and pay taxes. The IRS wants their cut from the start!

The way to do this is indeed through the 1099s, as you seem to realize. The 1099 is sent by your client to both you and the 1099. This is the first step to letting the IRS know that you have income to tax.

As you noted, there are times when you won't get a 1099. For example, foreign companies aren't generally beholden to the laws of U.S. taxes.

In addition, your client is required to send a 1099 if the total they've paid you in one year is more than $600.

However, despite not receiving this form, you are still expected to report all income, and pay a fair share of taxes on it.