The Truth about Form 1096

Form 1096, also known as the Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, is an essential form for businesses and individuals who file information returns, such as 1099s or W-2s, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Despite its importance, many people are not familiar with the purpose of Form 1096, its requirements, and the consequences of not filing it correctly. 

The purpose of Form 1096 is to serve as a cover sheet for information returns, summarizing the total number of returns being submitted and the total amount reported on them. The form must be attached to the information returns and sent to the IRS by the due date, which is usually February 28th of each year (or the next business day if February 28th falls on a weekend or holiday). 

Form 1096 is only required if you are submitting 250 or more information returns. If you are submitting fewer than 250 returns, you do not need to file Form 1096, but you still need to send the information returns to the IRS by the due date. 

It is important to note that Form 1096 is not an information return itself. It only summarizes the information returns that are being submitted and is used by the IRS to track the returns and process the data they contain. 

To complete Form 1096, you will need to provide your name and address, the tax year of the returns being submitted, and the type of returns being submitted (such as 1099-MISC, 1099-INT, or W-2). You will also need to provide the total number of returns and the total amount reported on them. 

Form 1096 should be signed and dated by the person responsible for submitting the returns. The signature confirms that the information on the form is accurate and that the person signing it is authorized to submit the returns to the IRS. 

One common mistake people make when filing Form 1096 is not sending it to the correct address. It is important to check the IRS website for the most current address to send your Form 1096 and information returns to, as the address may change from year to year. 

Another mistake people often make is not filing Form 1096 by the due date. The penalties for not filing Form 1096 on time can be substantial. The IRS may assess a penalty of $50 per return if the form is not filed by the due date, with a maximum penalty of $536,000 per year. 

It is also important to double-check the information on Form 1096 and the information returns to make sure that it is accurate. Incorrect information on Form 1096 or the information returns can lead to errors in the processing of the returns, and the IRS may assess additional penalties if the errors are significant. 

If you are e-filing your Form 1096 and information returns, it is recommended that you keep a backup copy of the electronically filed returns in case the IRS needs to access them in the future. If you are filing paper returns, it is recommended that you keep a copy of the returns for your records in case you need to reference them later. 

To summarize, Form 1096 is an important form for businesses and individuals who file information returns to the IRS. By understanding its purpose, requirements, and consequences of not filing it correctly, you can avoid common mistakes and ensure that your returns are processed smoothly and efficiently. If you are unsure about any aspect of Form 1096 or information returns, it is always a good idea to consult a tax professional for assistance.