Starting free-lance translator as a subcontractor
Thread poster: Roxane Alles

Roxane Alles
United States
English to French
Mar 21, 2016

Good morning,
I am French, living in the US (for now) with a J-2 visa and a valid work authorization. I am switching fields from Science (I have a PhD in Biology) to translation (I already did some translation work a few years ago). My cousin in France is a translator and is getting more work than he can achieve and would like to send them to me as a subcontrator. I am in Ohio and while trying to get legal info to make sure i do everything right, i ended up have to take some free business classes where they explained us the various forms of businesses, scared us into getting an attorney and an accountant and discouraged us of working as a sole proprietorship. I am now completely lost regarding what i NEED to do or not. Do I need to pay for some kind of licence (there was a fee for sole proprietorship but i read online that i don't need to apply to anything, just pay my taxes...)? Do I need an EIN? I tried to apply on the IRS website but it didn't work! My cousin wants to make sure we are doing everything right and is not convinced about just using my SSN. How can I reassure him that it is the right way to do it? If I am his subcontractor, do I need this 1099 form even though he is not in the US? Where can I get it if so? Anything i need to do to be allowed to work from my home? Did I forget something essential? I would first start working just for him for the first months or so and later on try to find new clients once i am "back in the saddle".
I know this is a lot of question but i can't seem to find anyone to answer me properly!
Thank you very much for any help you can get me!


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:04
German to English
Some information Mar 21, 2016

I don't live in Ohio, so I cannot comment on whether a business license is required. In most states, small sole proprietorships do not require a business license.

Regarding federal taxes: your social security number is sufficient. You will need to file a Schedule C when you report your income for 2016 next year. If you have a large income from self-employment, you will need to make quarterly estimated payments to the IRS, but this is based on income from the previous year, so don't worry about that right now.

If you're being paid by a foreign entity there is no 1099 form (this is a report to both you and the Internal revenue Service). This is issued only in the US by US-based companies.

The important thing is to keep track of your translation-related income and expenses. Good bookkeeping is important for all businesses.
Good luck!


Patrick Porter
United States
Local time: 10:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sole proprietor Mar 21, 2016

Generally speaking, you can work as a sole proprietor using just your SSN. When you file your tax forms, your income will be declared on a "Schedule C" and will count toward your personal income tax. You need not form a company and/or be taxed as a company. That is an option, but not a necessity. In fact, some company structures would still allow the profits to "flow-through" and be taxed as personal income directly, but the simpler option is to just start working straightaway and treat it as a sole-proprietorship.

The 1099 should be inapplicable to your cousin based outside the U.S. (unless his business pays taxes in the U.S. and the work he sends you would be a deduction from those taxes). That's because the main purpose of the form is for U.S. taxpayers who employ subcontractors to document the payment as a business expense (and to report it to the IRS). When a company files a 1099 with the IRS on your behalf, you get a copy at the end of the year as a sort of reminder that the IRS knows about this money.

But a translator may have significant income from outside the U.S., in which case the best practice is to keep thorough and accurate records, for your own benefit when calculating your taxes, as well as for the possibility of being audited.

In any case, however, it might not be a bad idea to contact an accountant and possibly even a lawyer to get specific advice about your situation. But in general a person can just start working as an individual subcontractor and report the income on his/her personal income tax forms.


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