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Let's say you go on a freelancing platform and hire a designer to make a website for you. They never reveal their real name, photo or location and payment is requested via Bitcoin. The job completes successfully and far as you've concerned you've just transferred $1,000 to a completely anonymous person who may be located at any corner of the planet. You also have no way of ever contacting them again, as their email address was single-use just for this job and they'll never access it again.

Would this violate any laws? Does it matter if you pay them as an individual or as a business entity? For the sake of this question assume that the person/entity paying is located in the US.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Feb 22 at 14:27
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You cannot do this legally

General rules

Under US law you are required to file a Form 1099 with the IRS for this payment if it was for a trade or business purpose. ( $1,000.00 is above the current reporting limit of $600.) This you cannot do without the recipient's name (personal or business) and address. You will also need their SSN or TIN. Failure to file the 1099 may be a violation of law.

Private people, as well as businesses, get 1099s which are also filed with the IRS. I myself have received 1099s as a private individual for freelance work. (Corporations mostly do not get 1099s.)

Private individuals as well as businesses report payments on 1099s.

Such a person might be involved in unlawful tax evasion, and the demand for payment in bitcoin might support a reasonable suspicion of this. If so, you might be accused of being an accessory.

If the person is foreign (non-US) and the work was not done in the US it may not need to be reported, but if you do not know the person's location you cannot safely assert that it is outside the US.

If you intend to deduct the payment on your own taxes as a business expense, you may also need to have a receipt showing the recipient of the money.

It would seem that if the payor/client is in the US and the work was done for a trade or business (which includes a non-profit, but not a hobby or personal site) and the amount is $600 or more, there is no safe and legal way to hire a person or firm without knowing the name, address, and (in most cases) TIN (taxpayer identification number) of the contractor, or at least using ones "best efforts" to obtain the TIN. See the various IRS instructions below for details.

IRS Instructions

According to the Form 1099-Misc/1099-NEC insatructions

Report on Form 1099-MISC [or 1099-NEC] only when payments are made in the course of your trade or business. Personal payments are not reportable. You are engaged in a trade or business if you operate for gain or profit. However, nonprofit organizations are considered to be engaged in a trade or business and are subject to these reporting requirements.

Generally, payments to a corporation (including a limited liability company (LLC) that is treated as a C or S corporation) [are not reportable].

If you are required to file Form 1099-MISC, you must furnish a statement to the recipient.

Enter [in Box 3] other income of $600 or more required to be reported on Form 1099-MISC that is not reportable in one of the other boxes on the form.

File Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation (NEC), for each person in the course of your business to whom you have paid the following during the year:

At least $600 in ... Services performed by someone who is not your employee (including parts and materials) (box 1);

Generally, you must report payments to independent contractors on Form 1099-NEC in box 1.

If the following four conditions are met, you must generally report a payment as NEC.

  • You made the payment to someone who is not your employee.
  • You made the payment for services in the course of your trade or business (including government agencies and nonprofit organizations).
  • You made the payment to an individual, partnership, estate, or, in some cases, a corporation;
  • You made payments to the payee of at least $600 during the year.

Instructions for Form 1042-S specify that one must report for foreign payees:

Compensation for independent personal services performed in the United States.

General Instructions for Certain Information Returns says:

Recipient names.

Show the full name and address in the section provided on the information return. If payments have been made to more than one recipient or the account is in more than one name, show on the first name line the name of the recipient whose TIN is first shown on the return.

...

TINs.

TINs are used to associate and verify amounts you report to the IRS with corresponding amounts on tax returns. Therefore, it is important that you report correct names, social security numbers (SSNs), individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs), employer identification numbers (EINs), or adoption taxpayer identification numbers (ATINs) for recipients on the forms sent to the IRS.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Feb 22 at 14:31
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This is trivial with a middle-man: for a practical example, I have absolutely no idea who my landlord is, or anything about them (well, apart from that they own this house and were willing to rent it to me). I pay their agent, and their agent pays them. Such arrangements are very common, and entirely legal: I know enough about the corporation acting as their agent to pay and deal with them, and that corporation knows enough about the landlord to pass the money on.

If they were particularly paranoid, they could have arbitrarily many middlemen in between the members of the public that they're dealing with and the recipient, each knowing nothing about anybody except their neighbours in the chain, passing through pretty well any sequence of different jurisdictions that they decided was sufficient to assuage their paranoia, and could change who they were using as middlemen between each transaction.

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    In the case of a landlord, the actual owner of the property would bge shown on public records, if you wanted to look. But a 1099 is not required to be field for a corporation anyway, because the IRS has other ways to make sure that corporate income is reported. But When you must file a 1099, if the person you pay is an intermediary, that person or entity is requited to fiel one in turn, so the whole chain should be on record with teh IRS, in a normal case. Yes it can be evaded. – David Siegel Feb 20 at 19:35
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    @DavidSiegel Sure, a lot of the reason that I don't know in this particular case is laziness, and sure the government could find out everything easily enough, but the question was whether someone could keep their identity secret from the person who is spending them (who is presumably not the IRS), to which the answer is an easy "yes", if we allow for middlemen. – user3482749 Feb 20 at 19:51
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    Isn't a contract signed - even if it was signed by the agent - at least in the name of the actual owner? So wouldn't you know who they are? - At least, if the agent is actually an agent, and not leasing the building "wholesale" and subletting to you in their own right. – I'm with Monica Feb 22 at 7:41

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