Fact or Fiction: The IRS is Tracking Money Earned on PayPal and Cash App

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This story is part of Taxes 2022, CNET’s coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.

Tax season is well underway, but it’s never too late to get a head start on next year’s taxes. And if you’re one of the millions of gig workers, freelancers or self-employed Americans, there’s a new tax reporting law that could impact your tax return next year. As of Jan. 1, 2022, a provision of the 2021 American Rescue Plan requires earnings over $600 paid through digital apps like PayPal, Cash App or Venmo to be reported to the IRS. 

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Prior to this legislation, third-party payment platforms would only report to the tax agency if a user had more than 200 commercial transactions and made more than $20,000 in payments over the course of a year. 

There’s a lot of talk online about this new tax reporting requirement. If you earn money through a digital payment app, you may be confused about what’s true and what isn’t. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

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Fact: This isn’t a tax change, it’s a reporting change

If you’re self-employed, you should already be paying taxes on your total income, regardless of how you receive your payments for goods and services. The new legislation is not a tax change: It’s a tax reporting change so the IRS can keep tabs on transactions made through payment apps that often go unreported. 

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Going forward, third-party payment companies will issue you a 1099-K tax form each year if you earn $600 or more annually in income for goods or services. This tax form might include taxable and nontaxable transactions, particularly if the account is for both business and personal use. 

The IRS will also receive a copy of the tax form and won’t be relying purely on self-reporting. “The IRS will be able to cross-reference both our report and yours,” PayPal noted in a statement in November.

To make managing your business finances easier, we recommend creating separate PayPal, Zelle, Cash App or Venmo accounts for your professional transactions.

Read moreIf You Have a Side Hustle, Here’s What You Need to Know About Estimated Taxes

Fiction: The IRS is counting money you send to family and friends

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Rumors have circulated that the IRS was cracking down on money sent through third-party payment apps to family and friends, but that isn’t true. Personal transactions involving gifts, favors or reimbursements are not considered taxable. Some examples of nontaxable transactions include: 

  • Money received from a family member as a holiday or birthday gift
  • Money received from a friend covering their portion of a restaurant bill
  • Money received from your roommate or partner for their share of the rent and utilities

Fact: Payment apps may request tax information from you

Now that this new law is in effect, payment apps like PayPal may reach out to you to confirm tax information, such as your employer identification number, individual tax identification number or Social Security number. If you own a business, you most likely have an EIN, but if you’re a sole proprietor or individual freelance or gig worker, you’ll provide an ITIN or SSN. 

Read moreYes, You Can File Taxes on Your iPhone or Android Device. Here’s How

Fiction: Personal items sold at a loss will be taxed

If you sell personal items for less than you paid for them and collect the money via third-party payment apps, this new legislation won’t affect you. For example, if you buy a couch for your home for $500 and later sell it on Facebook Marketplace for $200, you won’t owe taxes on the sale. That’s because it’s a personal item you’ve sold at a loss. However, you may be required to show documentation of the original purchase to prove that you sold the item at a loss.

However, if you have a side hustle where you buy items and resell them for a profit via PayPal or another digital payment app, then earnings over $600 will be considered taxable and reported to the IRS. 

Make sure to keep a good record of your purchases and online transactions to avoid paying taxes on any nontaxable income — and when in doubt, contact a tax professional for help.



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