Smartphones and apps have made it easier for people to find work, or “gigs”, through new online marketplaces. But gig workers may not understand all the tax obligations of their work situation. For example, companies will probably classify them as independent contractors instead of employees, making them responsible for taxes, insurance, and other financial obligations that employers usually take care of.
The gig economy was growing before COVID-19. Now that work is booming because of even more gigs that are lined up via apps or websites, also called digital platforms. Examples are:
- Driving a car for booked rides or deliveries, such as Uber and Uber Eats;
- Renting out property or part of it, such as on Airbnb;
- Running errands or complete tasks, such as TaskRabbit; or
- Selling goods online, like on eBay.
Digital platforms are businesses that match workers’ services or goods with customers. Instead of the customer directly paying the worker, the customer pays the platform, and the platform pays the worker. Platforms are supposed to issue a year-end income report to workers (i.e., on IRS Form 1099-K or 1099-NEC/MISC). Workers that earn income via a digital platform are required to maintain financial records and report all income on her or his income tax return, just like any other freelance worker.
Knowing about the tax obligations for gig workers is vital because many don’t receive a year-end tax report, like a 1099, for all their work. Income from gig work is generally taxable, regardless of whether workers receive information returns or not. Gig workers also need to know about the business expenses they can deduct to reduce their taxable business income.
Keeping up with the tax rules is a growing issue as the gig economy grows. The IRS recently launched its Gig Economy Tax Center to help gig workers navigate through what they need to know. Check it out here – https://www.irs.gov/businesses/gig-economy-tax-center.
The Gig Economy Tax Center is designed to make it easier for taxpayers to find information about a variety of topics including filing requirements, quarterly estimated income tax payments, and deductible business expenses. They even produced a video to break it down for you – https://www.irsvideos.gov/Individual/PayingTaxes/UnderstandingTheGigEconomy.
The gig economy is growing. Gig workers who educate themselves on all the tax rules for reporting income and allowable business expenses can get it all done correctly and quickly, leaving more time for earning income with more gigs.