IRS 1096 Form: What It Is, How to File and More

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1040, W-2, 1099 — there are quite a few tax forms that most of us have heard of (or have had to file!) at least once in our lives. But for every familiar form you regularly submit, there are dozens more that you might not have encountered just yet. Form 1096 is one of these less well known tax forms. It requires very little information, and you attach it to a list of other tax forms you’re submitting to the IRS. You only need to use it if you’re mailing your taxes in on paper.

Tax forms can sometimes seem like endless combinations of numbers, letters and rectangles. Thankfully, most of us only need a few forms to file our taxes, and the IRS provides clear instructions for doing so. IRS Form 1096 is similarly easy to use and understand, but there are a few important things to know about it before you file.

What Is Form 1096?

IRS Form 1096 is the Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns. Unlike most tax forms, Form 1096 serves as a summary rather than a source of information in a tax return. When you file your taxes electronically, you don’t need to use this summary tax document. Instead, Form 1096 helps make paper tax filings more organized by serving as a sheet that alerts the IRS about certain tax forms included in the filing. 

Many people mistakenly suggest that business owners are the only ones who need to submit Form 1096, but a variety of taxpayers use the form. Most taxpayers don’t need to use Form 1096, either because they file electronically or because the forms that require Form 1096 aren’t part of their tax returns. Rather than receiving Form 1096 from another source, you include Form 1096 with your paper tax return when applicable.

You only have to file Form 1096 when you mail in a tax return that includes a specific list of tax forms. Form 1096 is required for taxpayers who file Form W2-G, Form 1097-BTC, certain versions of Forms 1098 and 1099, Form 3921, Form 3922, and certain versions of Form 5498. 

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What Is IRS Form 1096 Used For?

IRS Form 1096 offers more information for the employees at the IRS who need to process your tax return than it does for you as the taxpayer. This form is included along with the other forms that make up your tax return. It alerts the IRS representative who’s processing your taxes that you have a few tax forms that are out of the ordinary. 

The tax forms that trigger the use of Form 1096 include those related to very diverse forms of income, such as gambling winnings, income from trading Bitcoin, mortgage interest and stock incentives. If you need to use Form 1096, you probably earn income from extensive investments, have multiple streams of income or own a corporation. There are many income scenarios that can require the use of this form. 

What’s on Form 1096?

Form 1096 is a very simple tax form. The top of the form includes space for you to enter your demographic information. This includes your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, fax number, employer identification number and Social Security number. There’s also space to list an additional person the IRS can contact if they have questions regarding your form. Usually, this would be a tax preparer, accountant or responsible employee in the financial department of your business. Next, you list the number of applicable tax forms you’re submitting along with your Form 1096. 

The parts of the form requiring calculations are boxes four and five. In box four, you list the sum of all federal income tax withholdings you’ve paid during the tax year. In box five, you list the total amount of money you’re reporting with the form. A key on page two of the form explains where to get the information for both boxes. The key lists all the forms you can submit that require Form 1096, and it explains which boxes on Form 1096 those forms can change. 

For each form that has boxes four and five respectively listed, you need to add up the sum of all the totals that can contribute to box four or the sum of all the forms that can contribute to box five to come up with the totals to put on Form 1096. If you’ve done all your tax forms correctly, the numbers in boxes four and five should match the sum of all applicable totals on corresponding forms, according to the key. 

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How to File Form 1096

It’s important to remember that Form 1096 is only necessary if you’re filing a paper tax return by mail. If you’re filing your return electronically, you don’t need to complete Form 1096. This form has the sole purpose of simplifying the process of filing paper tax returns that are more complicated or that include tax forms people use less often. 

Although there’s a sample online, you must order a submittable version of the form from the IRS. (The IRS scans your form, and the online version isn’t compatible with the agency’s scanning system.) Some stores also sell Form 1096, but the packs often come in much higher quantities than the average person needs. The IRS has a predicted turnaround time of 10 days for form orders.

Read the instructions of the 1096 and other tax forms you submit carefully. It may be necessary to fill out Form 1096 multiple times in one tax filing. When filing the form, you include it at the front of the other forms it pertains to, and you can mail all applicable forms included in your tax return to the designated address for your state.  Although you file Form 1096 as part of your tax return, note that there are various deadlines throughout the year for forms that require the use of Form 1096.

When it comes to tax forms, IRS Form 1096 might be the simplest one you’ll ever fill out. The most complicated part of using the form is understanding when you need it and where to mail it.