Have you gotten a bonus from your credit card company for successfully referring friends or family for new cards? You may owe taxes on that bonus.
People who thought they were getting a perk with no strings attached are getting 1099 tax forms from some major card brands, including Chase, American Express and Discover.
It’s been unwelcome news. “It’s one of those things where you don’t really think ahead about the tax implications,” said Rebecca Hawes, legislative counsel to the National Association of Enrolled Agents, a professional group for federally certified tax experts.
The forms known as 1099s are used to report various types of nonwage earnings, including miscellaneous income. In general, if a business pays you at least 0, it must report the payments to you — and to the Internal Revenue Service — using Form 1099.
Whether rewards or bonuses are taxable depends on whether they are tied to spending on the card, tax experts say. If you get cash back or rewards from a credit card in exchange for buying things with the card, the Internal Revenue Service generally doesn’t consider the rewards taxable, said Donald Zidik, a certified public accountant at Waldron H. Rand & Company, near Boston.
If, for instance, you earn 2 percent cash back for the amount you spend, or earn 5,000 bonus points or frequent flier miles if you spend a certain amount of money within three months of opening the card account, that’s not taxable. “It’s considered more of a rebate or discount,” Mr. Zidik said.
But if you earn a reward or bonus for simply opening an account — or referring a friend who opens a new account — that amount is considered to be taxable. Hence, the tax forms some consumers are receiving.
American Express has sent 1099-MISC forms to cardholders, with copies to the I.R.S., if they earned 0 or more in total value for referral bonuses in 2018, said a spokeswoman, Heather Norton. She said the company discloses in the terms of its offer that the value of a referral bonus may be taxable income.
“The value of the Referral Bonus may be taxable income to you, and we may be required to send you a Form 1099-MISC and file it with the I.R.S.,” reads a notice for an offer attached to the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles card, for example.
Mary Jane Rogers, a spokeswoman for Chase, says that issuing 1099-MISC forms isn’t new. The forms reflect payments for items like referral bonuses, which are given to customers who refer a friend to Chase, or a bonus for customers who sign up for paperless bank statements.
In Chase’s case, she said, the forms are likely getting attention from customers because the bank made errors in calculating the amounts on a “few thousand” forms and had to reissue them.
Some Chase forms sent this year showed much higher dollar amounts than expected, according to the credit card website Doctor of Credit. In some cases, the bank reported a bonus of 500 points as 0, which assigns a value of per point — much higher than is typical.
Assigning a cash value to rewards points or frequent flier miles is a bit of a gray area since the value of points can vary depending on how the cardholder redeems them. But a value of 1 cent per point is common, said Brian Riley, director of the credit advisory service at Mercator Advisory Group. At a penny a point, 500 points would equal .
At Discover, card holders who earned 0 or more on “nontransactional” rewards are sent 1099-MISC tax forms, said a spokesman, Derek Cuculich. Those include rewards for referring a friend, a one-time cash back “match” bonus given to new cardholders and the “good grades” program, which offers statement credits of a year to holders of its student card if they maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
There haven’t been any recent public edicts from the I.R.S. on the topic, Mr. Zidik said. But banks may be influenced by a 2014 ruling by the United States Tax Court, which held that the value of an airline ticket bought with frequent flier miles that were received as a premium, in exchange for opening a bank account, must be included as income.
“The tax court case could likely be driving the banks to issue the 1099s,” Mr. Zidik said. The banks could also face penalties, he said, for not issuing the forms when required.
Here are some questions and answers about credit card bonuses:
Do I have to report card bonuses as income if I don’t receive a Form 1099?
You should. While the card company must send out the form for payments to an individual that total 0 or more, a bonus is considered income even if it’s below that threshold, Mr. Zidik said. “Any type of income, no matter how small, has to be reported,” he said.
How much you actually pay in taxes on the amount, however, depends on your overall income and tax bracket, Ms. Hawes said.
What if I receive a corrected 1099 form after filing my tax return?
In general, if people get a corrected 1099-MISC, they should contact their tax professional because they may need to file an amended return, Mr. Zidik said.
Does this make referring friends to get a bonus more hassle than it’s worth?
“It’s definitely a disincentive,” Mr. Riley at Mercator said. Although the amounts involved may be relatively small, he said, you still have to pay attention to forms that are filed with the I.R.S., to avoid potential penalties or interest for underreporting income.
Scott Mayerowitz, executive editorial director at The Points Guy, a website that covers card rewards topics, said having to pay taxes does take away some of the positive feelings from earning bonuses. But it’s likely that in most cases, he said, “You’re still coming out ahead.”
Ms. Rogers, of Chase, said, “Our customers love the rewards that come with our cards, and we really don’t hear concerns about tax implications.”B:
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【锦】【同】【时】【开】【始】【修】【行】【造】【化】【之】【主】【留】【下】【的】【武】【技】，【一】【共】【有】【四】【门】，【分】【别】【为】“【擎】【天】【指】”，“【生】【死】【眼】”，“【无】【畏】【盾】【墙】”【和】“【一】【线】【穿】【梭】”。 【想】【要】【修】【行】【这】【四】【门】【武】【技】，【只】【能】【从】【造】【化】【法】【决】【上】【开】【始】【修】【行】，【并】【且】【这】【四】【种】【法】【决】【的】【运】【行】【必】【须】【要】【有】【血】【脉】【之】【力】【的】【加】【持】，【这】【也】【使】【得】【这】【四】【门】【武】【技】【都】【是】【特】【殊】【化】【的】，【也】【就】【是】【无】【法】【拷】【贝】【的】。 【若】【非】【古】【道】【的】【血】【脉】，【其】【他】【人】