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Form 1096: A Simple Guide to Mailing 1099s (And Other Tax Forms)

By Nick Zarzycki on March 25, 2019

If you run a small business and paid an independent contractor to do work for you this year, odds are you need to submit Form 1096 to the IRS.

What is Form 1096? Who needs to file one? And how does it work?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Form 1096?

Form 1096 is a cover sheet used to mail forms for reporting non-employee income to the IRS.

If you’re a small business, odds are you’ll mainly be using it to submit Form 1099, the form you use to tell the IRS whenever you’ve paid an independent contractor more than $600 in a financial year.

Other forms that are less likely to be filed by a small business but also need a Form 1096 cover sheet include Forms 1097, 1098, 3921, 3922, 5498, 8935, and W-2G.

Form 1096 is only used for paper submissions to the IRS. For information about filing the above forms electronically, see Publication 1220.

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What does it look like?

Form 1096 is a one-page form from the IRS that looks like this:

IRS Form 1096

There are two main parts to Form 1096.

The first part, including boxes 1-5, asks you for basic information like your name, address, contact information, employer identification number, and the total number of 1096 forms you’re submitting to the IRS this year. If you don’t have an Employer Identification Number, write down your Social Security Number instead.

Remember that the information you’re entering here applies to you, not the independent contractor you’re submitting a 1099 for.

The second part, Box 6, lists every possible form you could attach to Form 1096. Below each form name is a box—mark an “X” inside to indicate which form you’re attaching to that particular Form 1096.

How many Form 1096s do I have to file?

Every Form 1099, 1097, 1098, 3921, 3922, 5498, 8935, and W-2G that you mail to the IRS must come with its own Form 1096 cover sheet. Since each form needs its own 1096, there should be only one “X” mark in box 6 on every 1096 you submit.

Remember that the IRS treats every version of Form 1099 as a separate type of form, and that there are 16 different versions of Form 1099.

Also keep in mind that if you need to submit 250 or more copies of Form 1096, you must file electronically. Failing to do so could result in a penalty from the IRS.

Can I print Form 1096 off the internet?

No. In order for the IRS to process Form 1096, you must submit a scannable version of the document, which you have to order from the IRS ahead of time.

Printing a PDF of the form from the IRS website will result in a document that cannot be scanned by the IRS. Submitting one of those to the IRS could result in a penalty.

How do I order a scannable version of Form 1096 from the IRS?

To order Form 1096 from the IRS, visit www.IRS.gov/orderforms, go to “Online Ordering for Information Returns and Employer Returns,” and enter the number of 1096s you’d like the IRS to mail you into the menu below.

Form 1096 selection online

Click “Add to Cart” to add the forms to your order. Click the “View Cart” button and then the “Checkout” option in your shopping cart to complete your order.

These forms are provided by the IRS free of charge, and you should receive your order within 10 business days.

Can I order these forms over the phone?

Yes. Call 1-800-tax-form (800-829-3676) Monday to Friday, 7:00 am to 10:00 pm local time (PST in Alaska and Hawaii) to order any of the forms you see on www.IRS.gov/orderforms. Make sure to have your name, address and contact information on hand when you do.

Can I file Form 1096 electronically?

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ll mainly be using Form 1096 to submit some version of Form 1099. According to the IRS, individuals filing 1099s electronically do not need to submit an accompanying 1096.

If you’re e-filing any of the other forms associated with Form 1096, you must use the IRS’s FIRE system to do so. (See Publication 1220 for more information about e-filing Form 1096.)

When is it due?

If you’re using Form 1096 to submit Form 1099 and you’re reporting payments in box 7, both must be submitted together to the IRS by January 31. Otherwise, the deadline is February 28, 2019 if you file on paper, and March 31, 2019 if you file electronically.

If you’re submitting Form 1096 with Forms 1097, 1098, 3921, 3922, or W-2G, the deadline is February 28.

If you file any of these forms late, the penalty is $50 per form if you submit within 30 days of the due date. After that, the penalty goes up to $100. If you fail to file by August 1, the penalty goes up to $260. If you intentionally fail to file, the penalty increases to $530.

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This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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