If I Pay a Lawyer, Do I Need to Issue Them a 1099?

Internal Revenue Service form 1099-MISC is a specific tax form used when a business or organization pays an independent contractor more than $600 during the course of the tax year. The tax rules governing when you have to issue a 1099 to an attorney can be difficult to apply, and you should talk to a tax professional if you need tax advice or assistance.


Businesses Vs. Individuals

The IRS requires businesses and organizations to report payments made to independent contractors and service providers, including attorneys. However, individuals are generally exempt from this requirement unless they hire the attorney or law firm in the course of their business. For example, if you hire an attorney to defend you against a traffic ticket, you don't have to issue the attorney a 1099. If, on the other hand, you are a sole proprietor and hire an attorney to sue another business that owes your business money, you may have to provide the attorney a 1099.


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Time And Amount

The 1099 reporting requirements only apply to businesses or organizations, and only in specific conditions. A business has to provide an attorney or law firm a 1099 if the business pays that attorney more than $600 for legal services in the same calendar year. If, for example, a business pays a law firm $500 one year and $500 the next, the business is under no obligation to provide the 1099, even if paying the same attorney.


Form 1099 requires the business that made the payments to include specific information when providing the form to a legal services provider. The form requires the payer to include its name, Employer Identification Number as well as the recipient's name and employer identification number. The taxpayer has to include the total amount of fees paid to the attorney in Box 14 "Gross Proceeds Paid to an Attorney."



The IRS reports that the 1099 rules do not apply to legal payments in some situations. If the wages paid to attorneys are reportable on form W-2, the business does not need to make a separate record of the payment on form 1099. Also, profits distributed by a partnership to any of its partners, that are also reportable on schedule K-1 through forms Form 1065 or 1065-B are also exempt from the 1099 requirements.