I am a sole proprietorship and have a PR service business. I have a subcontractor that I'm using but am not marking his services up for my client. I am the pass-through. I am worried his services are inflating my taxable income and showing me with a higher income than I am actually receiving, or that the government is taxing me and also taxing my subcontractor.
Do I need to open up an S-corp to avoid this?
Where do I denote my expenses like this in my tax forms?
Am I required to submit to my subcontractor a 1099 at the end of the year?
(Title has been edited by moderator for clarity)
Hi @instatone -- This is a really great question. It's my understanding that as a sole-proprietor you must supply 1099s for any subcontractor you employ whom you pay more than $600/year. I belive this is also true if your business is an LLC. Since I'm no expert, I'll ask @ParkwayInc, @lynda and @jessbru99568 to weigh in as well.
On another note -- welcome to the QB Community! We like to say that while you work for yourself as someone who's self-employed, being a member here means you don't have to work *by* yourself. It's wonderful to see you here!
If you are using the subcontractor to do the work and the income generated is the same, then it is a wash. Yes, your income will be higher but the corresponding expense will be higher. You put the expense for the subcontractor under subcontractor expense. You do not have to change your tax entity to have a subcontractor work for you or provide them with a 1099. Your social security number will be the tax ID.
And yes, you are required to give this person a 1099 at year end for monies you paid them for this work. Here is a link to the info from the government regarding 1099 subcontractors.
Welcome to the group instatone!
After reading your question, I wanted to verify some additional details with you if you do not mind. Are yo certain that the person is a subcontractor and not possibly an employee?
You can review the differences by reviewing the Independent Contractor Toolkit attached with this response but here is a quick summary of important questions:
Intuit has a 10 question quiz that will help you make the distinction between an employee vs a subcontractor.
There are many important differences between hiring an employee compared to paying a subcontractor. Besides the accounting differences, you may have additional requiremetns like workers compensation to take into consideration. For example, in California, business owners are supposed to obtain a certificate of insurance from all of their subcontractors and to keep it on file until their annual workers comp audit.If they do not collect the certificate of insurance and cannot prove that the subcontractor is exempt, you may end up paying for additional coverage and even a penalty.
Lynda provided such a complete answer and since this has been an area of focus during workers comp audits this year, I felt it was important to check.
It's such a great question, and I agree with the answers given so far.
However, I think there is also an underlying question you might be asking that is still hanging out there.
Everyone is right that the expense you are booking by hiring a contractor is reducing any extra income you are getting paid for *their* services when it comes to taxable income for IRS / state / year end purposes. However, you may still want to change how you book these items to make clear the nature of both the income and the expense.
Some cities and counties base their business license rates strictly on income. I've no doubt there might be other things based upon it as well that vary from locality to locality. This can be gross income before any kind of expense is removed.
I have a Los Angeles business license, and this is absolutely the case here. To make things even more critical, if our income is under 100K we are eligible for a small business exemption, bringing the cost of the license to $0. So income before expenses offset can definitely matter for reasons beyond just year end fed and state taxes!
By treating these transactions in a particular way, you can avoid the appearance of inflated sales for your own company. You will still need to issue a 1099 for the work any contractors/vendors did through you though!
1. Set up a specific expense account called "Contracted Services" or "Outside Labor". If you already have a similarly named account, you may want to preface the account names with "Billable" or "Reimburseable". This needs to be an EXPENSE account, not a Cost of Goods Sold one.
2. Make sure this account is selected as counting toward 1099 income calculations for your vendors who will have costs reflected here. This is a matter of mapping 1099 accounts and is a whole different walk through -- I can point you to a how if needed.
3. When you contract with an outside vendor, enter their bill *before* you submit the invoice to your client for payment.
4. On their bill, mark the appropriate account lines as "Billable" with the checkmark and enter your client's name.
5. When you create your client's invoice, it will list the outstanding billable expenses over to the right. Include the expenses you intend to pass along to them.
The specifics on these 5 steps I've listed here are described as they appear in QB Online. But it can be done on Desktop too.
What happens in the profit and loss is the expense goes to that specific account, but so does the income (since it is marked as billable, it is treated as a reimbursement). SO, if all these kinds of expenses are billed out, then your profit and loss statement should show a ZERO for expenses in this account... or the account won't appear on the P&L at all. That is why it is helpful to have these kinds of expenses in their own specific expense account -- so you can tell at a glance if everything has been captured through billing or if everything has been allocated correctly.
At year end if you go to that specific accout and run a report, you will be able to see all the activity that has resulted in the ZERO. Ditto in the activity report for your particular vendors.
Hope that helps!
If this is too many words and you're still lost, feel free to shoot back with the version of Quickbooks you are using. It is much easier to describe in specifics with that info.
"and showing me with a higher income than I am actually receiving, or that the government is taxing me and also taxing my subcontractor."
You are confusing Gross and Net.
This is Bad guidance: "What happens in the profit and loss is the expense goes to that specific account, but so does the income (since it is marked as billable, it is treated as a reimbursement). SO, if all these kinds of expenses are billed out, then your profit and loss statement should show a ZERO for expenses in this account.."
That is not what you do, for tax reporting or business tracking. Gross = In Full. You Track everything. I use this example in class:
My son sells lemonade and makes $2.
I build and sell robots. I sell One Robot this year for $1 million. I spend $999,998 to build it on labor and materials. I do NOT want to report $2 only, as income. My son and I have completely different Business activities and the Numbers prove this.
If you had a $1 Million year Gross, you should be proud of that. You report Gross or Total income, and Gross or Total Expense. You don't try to Hide Sales for purposes of avoiding tax reporting. Any agency with authority can audit your records and see the money flowing.
The "$2 Net" if you dump negatives and positives into one account, is called Netting the accounts. That is Not what "reimbursement" means. It does not Remove the fact of your expenses. Reimbursement for business = Sales. You just didn't mark it up, and won't see a Profit (net) when you look at the P&L = income over expense.
"Do I need to open up an S-corp to avoid this?"
No, because this Does Not Change; it still is Gross Vs Net. You track everything in full = gross.
"Where do I denote my expenses like this in my tax forms?"
In the Expenses section. Get your tax form, such as Sched C. It's right there.
"Am I required to submit to my subcontractor a 1099 at the end of the year?"
The 1099-Misc rule = "Paying $600 or more." You give them a W9 before giving them the check that takes you to $600 or more paid this year to them.
The penalty for this is $100 per day per form not filed.
I don't think you realize that we don't disagree here.
My advice was only meant to reflect what to do in cases of true reimbursements.
The original post asked specifically about unmarkedup subcontractors.
It was that particular type of item that i was specifically responding to.
I should have made that more clear in my response.
You're exactly right on the lemonade and robot examples.
But if I get hired to run a lemonade stand, and the person who hired me would also like some linens used on the table (not something I normally provide)--- well, I might say, "I can do that but it will have to be ordered special. Would you like to pay the linen bill directly or should I order and you just reimburse me through my invoice?"
If she chooses to simply reimburse me, I can absolutely take care of the expense the way I describe. Ditto if I hire a staffing company to professionally pour out the lemonade.
There is no such thing as reimbursed expenses for a vendor, only for emloyees.
Posting income and expense to the same account, netting, is bad form and the IRS frowns on it, though I can not find an actual prohibition.
I understand the requirement to get gross income as low as possible for state tax reporting (we have the same thing in Texas for franchise fees [a tax by anyother name is still a tax]), but you still have to defend the accounting in a state or federal audit.
IRS Returns & Allowances - instructions for Sch C
Report your sales returns and allowances as a positive number on line 2. A sales return is a cash or credit refund you gave to customers who returned defective, damaged, or unwanted products. A sales allowance is a reduction in the selling price of products, instead of a cash or credit refund.
I read this as, and personally be willing to argue with an auditor, that since the expense and subsequent sales price are the same, that for gross income purposes, it is a sales allowance. post the sales income to income and the expense to returns/allowances = a wash for gross receipts.
I am not an accountant, so I can only speak to what I've been shown by others.
However, I'm confused as to why Quickbooks would allow, and even *facilitate*, reimbursements from clients of paid subcontractor fees and/or job materials, and pass through expenses to vendors in general, if this was not a completely kosher practice?
I'm in restaurants, so the only time we use this kind of thing is in the kind of scenario I described -- ie: doing a catering gig and passing along third party vendor expenses so the client can pay one bill rather than paying all vendors separately... especially when acting as the default 'coordinator' for all said subcontractors.
However, in my past life, I did some work for a landscape designer. Her subs *and* items she purchased from vendors under her wholesale account on the client's behalf were billed this way as well, with only her mark-up (if any) going toward income.
Again, my question is, why would Quickbooks facilitate, even BAKE IN something that isn't a kosher practice? In all the scenarios I have described, where the box was checked to "Bill" a client or customer for an expense, *never* did I have to choose where that particular part of the payment to me would be booked. QB *automatically* assigned it to whatever account the original reimburseable expense was hitting. In addition, they specifically *restricted* using the feature only to expense accounts, not to anything booked to cost of goods sold.
Any ideas? I can't think of another reason for that kind of functionality...
"My advice was only meant to reflect what to do in cases of true reimbursements.
The original post asked specifically about unmarkedup subcontractors."
Let's pretend you sell Computer hardware as you try to repair someone's computer while you are setting up New software for them. You offer to buy it and then Sell At Cost = that is Not reimbursement. That is Sales. And if you are supposed to charge sales taxes on hard goods, that further helps you understand this is Sales, not reimbursement.
I can even sell as Lower Than Cost, which happens as Retail = Loss Leader, to get you to shop in the store and buy other goods. That still is Sales.
You are confusing Gross and Net. The IRS wants you to report Gross.
If you truly had "reimbursement" such as, you and I decide to attend a conference, and you offer to Charge the airfare to your own credit card and I will pay you back, that Isn't part of the business operation; you are not a travel agent; and you don't post my share to expense. You would post it as Other Current Asset = Loaned me that amount.
That's why washing away Expense with "negative expense (really income)" is not correct bookkeeping. Read my Robot example, again. It will make more sense, the second time around.
"In all the scenarios I have described, where the box was checked to "Bill" a client or customer for an expense, *never* did I have to choose where that particular part of the payment to me would be booked. QB *automatically* assigned it to whatever account the original reimburseable expense was hitting."
That means you Overlooked that you are supposed to control this.
You control it with Two Sided Items. Or, you control it by mapping income to expense, which means the Job Reports don't work well. Job Tracking and reporting rely on the use of Items.
It just means that someone didn't know how to Customize QB, once you start using it, for all of the things that Matter.
I have a Handout that explains what you didn't learn from others; I have attached it. I use it in my classes.
The answer to the question on reimbursing contractors for expenses reported on a 1099 really depends on the company policy.
I've also have had a number of CPA's point blank tell me they are not reportable.
What a great discussion! I can see there is a lot of passion around this topic. @girlFRIDAY, @Raywhite28, @qbteachmt, @Rustler, @lynda, @ParkwayInc and everyone else on the thread, thank you for providing valuable insight into this complicated income reporting scenario. And thank you to @instatone in particular for initiating such a spirited (and clearly needed) discussion.
Everyone has approached the issue of income reporting protocol for subcontractors of contractors in a different way. All of these answers push the conversation towards the ultimate goal of resolution. @lynda, you're answers are always concise, encouraging and thoughtful! @girlFRIDAY, I love how you look at the problem holistically and point out the fundamental complexity of the question as it pertains to different industries (namely food and service). @ParkwayInc, please keep posing fantastic, challenging critical-thinking questions (and keep being amazing). @qbteachmt, you have so much expertise and amazing insight. I really appreciate how you've used simple analogies as heuristics to explain the reporting process. @Rustler, thank you for providing official notation, it's important to bring documentation into conversations. And of course, @Raywhite28, thank you for those helpful links about company policy - clearly 1099 questions are something many of us in different communities think about.
I'd love if we could collectively nail down specifics (or pose different questions and challenging scenarios) to turn this conversation into learning material. I'm happy to be the point person and open to collaborating with anyone. This content would be really valuable for other users!
Please continue this conversation. We encourage it! Going forward, please keep judgements about the value of other user's perspectives out of the conversation. Be as objective as possible. This community is a place for civil discourse. To this point, the conversation has been mature. Please keep it that way .
Back to @instatone's original question, if you were in their shoes, what would you do?
why would Quickbooks facilitate, even BAKE IN something that isn't a kosher practice?
QB does not portend to be tax compliant, it is accounting. You've witnessed, lived through, Enron, Madoff, the collapse of Smith Barney, etc etc -= all of those had accounting done by CPA's, and many of those CPA's we also registered as tax professionals.
Becasue you can do something in accounting does not mean it is kosher. It only means that you have not had to defend it in an audit.
As my favorite, very well respected tax CPA and enrolled agent once said in response to a question: Ask 4 CPA's and get 5 answers, what do you want the transaction to show?
Keep in mind, no matter who does the books, who does the tax form, the person signing the form is responsible and is who gets contacted for an audit. So to me the key is can I explain what and why something was entered, and / or, will the person who did it be there next to me in an audit.
Ok, so lots of discussion and lots of different scenarios!
I appreciate what you and @Rustler are saying.
But I think where we are missing each other ... perhaps because of our examples. Either the ones we've explicitly used, or the ones we are simply thinking of as we speak. Also too, there are a couple of different things at play... levels of advice where one is talking about what is maybe optimal from a QB process standpoint where another is talking about 1099 complications and another about audit vulnerability. These are all important, but they are also different things that can, I think, cause us as contributors to misunderstand the other.
I think it might be helpful to divorce what is ALLOWABLE from what is STANDARD from what is MOST THOROUGH/SAFE/USER FREINDLY from a workflow perspective when using software like Quickbooks.
WHAT IS ALLOWABLE?
I think it is safe to look to how the IRS describes how to treat reimburseable expenses of a particular type to an independent contractor to shed some additional light on this issue.
The IRS does in fact provide guidance to businesses on how to treat reimbursements to independent contractors. Independent Contractors are vendors. So clearly they know of and allow them (reimbursements to vendors) to happen, clearly there is such a thing as reimbursements to vendors at all, otherwise the guidance would be "NO".
But they don’t just say that. Here is a link to a web article. I am linking to this because it quotes the part of the IRS publication addressing this in part AND also links to that IRS publication in full. This article was published in 2015. From what I have gathered in my (SHORT) time on this topic, there have been further guidances issued regarding the specifics of meals and travel since then... making it even more clear that the practice of reimbursing some 1099 contractors for certain expenses in fact does happen and is 'kosher' within limits.
To summarize, they say to:
Essentially what the IRS is doing is asking independent contractor / client(customer) relationship to mirror an accountable plan for employee reimbursement in its nature. To be specific, documented, and exact in monetary nature. A company could not "reimburse" an employee for their time via an accountable plan... so clearly what is reimbursed needs to be outside of the primary reason for the monetary relationship in the first place.
According to the IRS, if these requirements are met, then these reimbursements should NOT be included on any 1099 reporting by the client for your services as an independent contractor. Therefore, the IRS is basically saying that these items *are not income* to the independent contractor. However, they also caution that since they are reimbursements, not income, then the original costs are also *not expenses*, and should not be treated as such.
HOWEVER: Just because it is LEGAL with the IRS to treat some payments as something other than income, does NOT mean it is standard, or adviseable, or good business practice for your business, or even the easiest way for you to do things...
WHAT IS STANDARD?
To my mind, this is where the rubber meets the road. It is also, I think, where a lot of our discussion is swirling around. What is kosher to be designated a reimbursement for one may be anything but for another. And just because something is legal, doesn't mean it constitutes the best or most defensible practice for your business. so:
Just a few examples, but I think they demonstrate well what kind of expenses we are talking about here. Still, as some of the posts correctly pointed out, just because something is technically OK to do, does *not* mean it is standard practice for the industry.
And just because something may be OK to do and may be standard practice for the industry, does *not* mean it will necessarily be the best way for you to handle things from a clarity of bookkeeping, audit protection, and streamlining of processes perspective.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PRACTICE?
Here is a short list of questions that have occurred to me as I have been wrestling with this topic over the past few days -- both as a bookkeeper, a small business owner, and a service provider. In short, I can see this issue from all three perspectives: receiving money, reimbursing money, and making sure it is all booked and gets captured correctly on all sides. What I don't have is the specifics on the tax angle, and anything other than a gut instinct (*informed* guts, but guts none the less) on what any given industry might be able legally to treat this way.
STEP ONE: FIGURE OUT WHAT IS ALLOWABLE AND WHAT IS STANDARD FOR *YOUR* BUSINESS.
---- This means for real. You can read all you like on this site or others. But while all of our talk might be helpful to get you thinking about potential items to investigate and ask about, nothing can really replace the personalized advice of an actual accountant on this stuff.
Here is what I mean by "Personalized Advice"
Reach out on the web or locally to people in your industry. Ask them who they are using and what they have encountered in terms of standards for the industry. Then choose someone (or several someones) to engage in a formal conversation.
----- This also means for real. Here is what I mean by “Formal Conversation”
Then, you move forward with step two… knowing exactly which kinds of expenses can even be considered for treatment as strict reimburseables vs which cannot. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - KNOWING IF THERE ARE ANY FEDERAL OR STATE OR LOCAL IMPLICATION OF TREATING THEM AS ONE VS THE OTHER, if you are capable of choosing from a tax perspective.
STEP TWO: GETTING REAL ABOUT THE PROCESS
As I’ve said a lot in this article, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. To my mind, there are a number of factors that might influence whether or not you choose treat a potentially reimburseable expense as one in your business workflow. Of course, this list ASSUMES you’ve already determined that these expenses are capable of being seen as reimburseable in the way you are incurring them, and that you have explored that with an accountant, AND that you have met the requirements I briefly went over about how these reimbursements must be accounted for to clients.
That all said, here we go – given all you’ve learned about these expenses for your business, from what I can see you are left with three options (or maybe three and a half).
In this scenario, your expenses are going against your income at the end of the day… so your net profit is the same according to your profit & loss. Depending upon your expenses, your state and local, and basically what your accountant meeting revealed, this may or may not mean you have different tax liabilities.
Here is where the ½ choice comes in. When it comes to number 3, you could:
OR you could:
OR you could use the Quickbooks ability to mark a cost or an item as billable to a client, as I described previously.
I previously asked why in the world QB would build such functionality in if it was not kosher. I should have phrased that question differently – Why would QB build in such functionality if it were NEVER of use in a Kosher manner.
While I realize QB is not a robot accountant, I do have to give QB some credit… They quite often err on the side of caution… not allowing their program to engage in practices by default that are potentially wrong-headed or harmful – sometimes not without A LOT of work-around. Sometimes not at all! Which can be VERY frustrating if you actually know what you are doing and why you are doing it… but that’s another post.
The point is, what was bothering me about this whole discussion was why something would be not only possible, but a touted FEATURE inside Quickbooks if its use would ALWAYS be the wrong choice?
I think this idea is actually the answer. I think what that feature is doing in Quickbooks might be Quickbooks’ way of accomplishing those two halves of #3 in a streamlined and easy to do/done for you manner.
In other words, it might be a built in back end process that turns something you enter into a billable / reimburseable cost without having to go in and create a whole balance sheet account listing all billable costs, perhaps one for each client etc. etc.
Instead, it is keeping the actual monetary transaction and the association with a particular expense category *intact*, so no alternative reimburseable expense accounts need to be made. What would similarly happen with an item, I would guess.
The beauty is that the amount stays intact as well. And the vendor information for the cost itself.
My suspicion: I think this is Quickbooks way of consolidating a lot of information and keeping it’s information supply chain closer to the original cost, so to speak. It’s QB way of accomplishing what others have described here how to do in different ways.
STEP THREE: GETTING REAL ABOUT CHALLENGES
All of this is great. Maybe using the billable items with a check mark via Quickbooks sounds great, but BEWARE. There are a few more questions you have to ask yourself first.
If this all sounds like something that you would most likely have to do with your clients and a real drag to do in the bargain AND if the tax implication are little to none for you on reimbursements in general, then skip the headache maybe and just call it all income and expense, and do the 1099s for any subs from your own company.
In short, when it comes to items that are truly legitimately countable as reimburseable expenses from clients:
Hey guys. I’m a bookkeeper. Who has been working with essentially one industry set for 20 years. Rules change, they get refined and re-defined. I’ve even learned new things about this industry I’ve known and loved on occasion – things I just missed for whatever reason up to that point. And I’ve been on the other side of it too… breaking it to an accountant or other bookkeeper that actually x, y, or z is taxable for restaurants, etc. It’s part of learning! I honestly don’t know *what* people who aren’t in a niche do… how they can keep up is a mystery to me.
That being said, I’m all about being corrected and learning/expanding my knowledge. While not common, this issue *does* have implications for my clients and is something I have encountered!
This is a free site. So, obviously, if anything I’ve said above is just 100% wrong I want to know about it. But I want to know about it in a way that teaches me about why it is wrong and what documentation I have missed in the public sphere that explains that. Like, IRS site or whatever. If something is 100% wrong all the time or never allowed. Tell me. But also tell me where I can find more on that info... where those rules are documented. That is helpful if I ever want to pass along your insights to others! Without it, it is just another set of input that is second-hand in nature… which is obviously what I’m already working with!
For the business owners out there & @instatone Whatever you decide, as I stated right from the start, the first and most important step is to get with a great accountant in your area with some expertise in your industry and with your filing type (Sched C, S-Corp etc.) and have a real conversation about what is best for your industry and the kinds of work you are doing.
Then find a great bookkeeper to help facilitate the process of implementing how it will get done – in a way that is sure to CAPTURE, DOCUMENT, ARCHIVE, AND PASS ALONG all the amounts you are entitled to for your business – both to your client, any subcontractors, and to IRS and other agencies.
Fortunately, there is this little site I know that has localized lists of great accountants, bookkeepers, and Quickbooks experts. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Thank you so much for your amazing participation in this thread. I am going to close the conversation at this point. If you would like to continue a separate conversation, please do so in another thread (which would be productive!).