How to handle reimbursements to Independent Contractors

This is an excerpt from IRS Publication 463, “Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses”, Chapter 6:

Rules for Independent Contractors and Clients

This section provides rules for independent contractors who incur expenses on behalf of a client or customer. The rules cover the reporting and substantiation of certain expenses discussed in this publication, and they affect both independent contractors and their clients or customers.

You are considered an independent contractor if you are self-employed and you perform services for a customer or client.

Accounting to Your Client

If you received a reimbursement or an allowance for travel, entertainment, or gift expenses that you incurred on behalf of a client, you should provide an adequate accounting of these expenses to your client. If you do not account to your client for these expenses, you must include any reimbursements or allowances in income. You must keep adequate records of these expenses whether or not you account to your client for these expenses.

If you do not separately account for and seek reimbursement for meals and entertainment in connection with providing services for a client, you are subject to the 50% limit on those expenses. See 50% Limit in chapter 2.

Adequate accounting.   As a self-employed person, you adequately account by reporting your actual expenses. You should follow the recordkeeping rules in chapter 5 .
How to report.   For information on how to report expenses on your tax return, see Self-employed at the beginning of this chapter.

Required Records for Clients or Customers

If you are a client or customer, you generally do not have to keep records to prove the reimbursements or allowances you give, in the course of your business, to an independent contractor for travel or gift expenses incurred on your behalf. However, you must keep records if:

  • You reimburse the contractor for entertainment expenses incurred on your behalf, and
  • The contractor adequately accounts to you for these expenses.
Contractor adequately accounts.   If the contractor adequately accounts to you for entertainment expenses, you (the client or customer) must keep records documenting each element of the expense, as explained in chapter 5 . Use your records as proof for a deduction on your tax return. If entertainment expenses are accounted for separately, you are subject to the 50% limit on entertainment. If the contractor adequately accounts to you for reimbursed amounts, you do not have to report the amounts on an information return.
Contractor does not adequately account.    If the contractor does not adequately account to you for allowances or reimbursements of entertainment expenses, you do not have to keep records of these items. You are not subject to the 50% limit on entertainment in this case. You can deduct the reimbursements or allowances as payment for services if they are ordinary and necessary business expenses. However, you must file Form 1099-MISC to report amounts paid to the independent contractor if the total of the reimbursements and any other fees is $600 or more during the calendar year.