Photo of 384 Court Street Auburn, ME 04210There is significant confusion surrounding whether or not landlords need to file form 1099s for the amounts that they pay for services.  Owning a rental property is an activity carried on regularly and continuously for profit, and many landlords consider themselves to be in business.  However, the IRS considers most rental activities to be passive activities, rather than active businesses.  If that is the case, are landlords exempt from filing form 1099?

Congress sought to clear up the confusion in 2010 when they passed a law that explicitly defined receiving rental income as conducting the trade or business of renting out property, subject to 1099 reporting requirements.  Congress later repealed that part of the law before it took effect (Hill).  Repeal aside, the IRS continued to include questions about 1099s on page 1 of Schedule E, the form individuals use to report rental income.   One question asks if the taxpayer is required to file form 1099, and the other asks if they have done so.  The has caused many small landlords to wonder if they needed to file 1099s for any service providers that they’ve paid more than $600 during the year.  These questions on schedule E have even confused a number of CPAs and other tax professionals on the issue.

The AICPA tried to clear up the confusion among its members  with an article about 1099 requirements for rental properties and also wrote a open letter to the IRS in 2013 to express its position and request further guidance.  It is the position of the AICPA that landlords only need to file form 1099 when their rental activities rise to the level of a trade or business (Porter).  This means that most owners of rental properties who are not engaged in other real estate businesses do not need to file 1099 forms.  In the letter, the AICPA proposes changes to the language of the form and instructions that would clarify this point.

The specific criteria used to determine if a landlord is running a business or merely investing are discussed here, but it is the position of the AICPA and this author that most small landlords remain exempt from the requirement to file 1099 forms for their service providers, despite the recently-added questions on Schedule E.



American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. (17, January, 2013).  Letter to the IRS.  Retreived 6, January, 2013.

Hill, Claudia.  (2013, March 6). Should Landlords be Filing 1099s for Service Providers.  Retrieved 6, January, 2014 from

Internal Revenue Service.  (2013).  Schedule E (Form 1040) Supplemental Income and Loss – Draft.  Retrieved from–dft.pdf

Published by Albert E. Bergen, CPA

Albert E. Bergen, CPA is a certified public accountant from Auburn, Maine. He provides income tax and financial services to clients in Lewiston, Auburn, and throughout Maine. He expects to receive his MBA from the University of Southern Maine in 2014 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Maine.

Join the Conversation


    1. Excellent articles; glad I found them. Would this apply to a majority interest in a family partnership held by a real estate professional that has 20+ small single family residential properties?


      1. Hi Michael,

        I missed your comment when it first came through. That’s an interesting question and I’d actually have to spend billable time looking into it to get a solid answer. My gut feeling is that it would be a trade or business with respect to the real estate professional, and therefore would need to file the 1099s – even though it would still generate passive rental income for the minority members. Don’t rely on that opinion – it’s just my first thought on the subject.

        1. My thoughts were the same. I thought it rose to the level of a business and I filed form 1099’s for the family business. If I was wrong, I saw no harm. I didn’t mention that the business actually operates at a profit.


  1. Thank you for the helpful and informative posting. I am a small landlord and did not fully understand the issue until I read your take on it.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am a widow who inherited my husband’s triplex. I have one unit that I use to supplement my social security and this has been worrying me. For me, an honest handyman is so hard to find and when I mentioned to one of them that I may need to issue him a 1099, he was not happy. I just want to do the right thing but this puts my mind at ease. Thank you..

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: