I’ve read that third parties like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, etc., are now required to issue 1099-Ks to all their users who receive more than $600 in peer-to-peer payments during any tax year. I always use Zelle to send financial gifts to family members or friends instead of mailing a check. My 2023 gifts will amount to several thousand dollars each for many recipients. Do we know how the IRS will distinguish these 1099s from those that must be reported as income on their tax returns? Should I avoid headaches and return to mailing checks?  

This shouldn’t become a headache.

Gifts aren’t subject to the 1099-K reporting rule because they aren’t taxable to recipients. (And they’re taxable to the donor only if they exceed a $12.06-million lifetime limit.

True, third-party payment companies must now report $600-plus payments for goods and services to the IRS on Form 1099-K and send a copy of the form to the payment recipient. But Venmo and PayPal ask their users to check a box indicating whether a payment is a gift or a business transaction. If you check the right box — and take care to send gifts to the recipients’ personal accounts, not their business accounts — no 1099s should be issued for your gifts.

Zelle isn’t subject to the 1099-K reporting rules that apply to third-party settlement companies. For tax regulatory purposes, it’s considered an “automated clearing house” doing direct bank-to-bank transactions; so it doesn’t issue 1099s. But this doesn’t mean people can evade reporting taxable income by using Zelle. You’re legally required to report income from business transactions on your return whether or not it’s also reported on a 1099-K.

The bottom line

Third-party payment platforms aren’t required to issue 1099s for payments that are gifts.

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