Making a Fillable 1099 MISC PDF for Printing

What do you do when you have to fill out a printed form, and you want it to look “typed”? (Remember typewriters? Remember how easy it was to stick a form in them and type in your answers?! Sigh.)

This was the conundrum I was faced with recently when I needed to fill out some 1099 MISC forms for some people I had hired last year. I only had a few to fill out, and I use an old version of Quicken for my personal finances, which doesn’t print 1099 forms. (Some other accounting programs do, such as Quickbooks and MYOB, but that’s overkill for me.)

There are two good solutions to this problem:

  • Find a PDF form that someone else has created which you can fill out and print from. I tried. Couldn’t find one. (But I’ll give you one at the end of this article.)
  • Use InDesign.

Making the Form

I had the preprinted forms I needed to fill out, and I knew I could print on them with my desktop laser printer. The problem was putting the right information in the right place. InDesign is great at putting things in the right place, but you need to know where to put them.

The solution is to scan the form and place the image in InDesign. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap to scan almost every kind of document these days, but any scanner will do. You could even take a photo with your phone and place that, as long as the image isn’t distorted.

When you place the form image in InDesign, align it to the page as well as you can, then put it on its own layer and lock the layer. Then create a new layer for your form objects.

1099 form in indesign

You have two options here: First, you could simply make text frames for each area on the form, fill them out, then print directly from InDesign. If you do that, be sure to hide the background image layer or set it to non-printing first.

However, the method I prefer is to make a generic PDF, then fill it in in Acrobat, and then print from there.

To do that, you want to use CS6. (Or, if you’re using an earlier version, you can get form fields with this trick.) I’m going to focus on doing it with the built-in tools.

In the image above, I’ve added text frames over each area and selected a form element from the Type pop-up menu in the Buttons and Forms panel. Most of the frames are Text Fields, but there are a couple of checkboxes, too.

Tips: For frames that need more than one line (such as the big name and address field), make sure you turn on the Multiline checkbox in the panel. Also, name your fields carefully, especially when you have a lot of them.

Bonus tip: If you have two or more fields in your document that need to have the same information (such as your name and address), name them exactly the same. That way, when you enter information in Acrobat in one place, they’ll update in all those other fields automatically.

It’s also a good idea to set the tab order of the fields, so you can jump from one to the next with the Tab key in Acrobat (use Object > Interactive > Set Tab Order).

set tab order for forms

Make Your Own PDF

To make the form fields work in the PDF you need to export as PDF (Interactive), not PDF (print). Make sure you the Create Acrobat Layers checkbox:

export pdf form

When you open the file in Acrobat, the fields will be fillable! Unfortunately, if you print the PDF, the background appears, too. Apparently InDesign doesn’t make the background layer non-printable, so you have to set that yourself. To do that, open the Layers pane in Acrobat Pro, right-click the background layer, and choose Properties:

layer properties in acrobat

Next, in Layer Properties, set the Print pop-up menu to Never Prints:

make layer non printing

Finally, save the PDF, and make a backup. (I find that I’m forever messing up my “original” pdf forms, so it’s good to be able to get it back.)

You can fill out the form in Acrobat, put your form in your laser or inkjet printer, and print to it. However, when printing, be sure to turn off Page Scaling in Acrobat’s Print dialog box! Otherwise, your data will almost certainly mismatch your printed form.

don't scale in acrobat

Download the Files

Just want the files I made, instead of creating your own? No problem:

Of course, all of this is relevant for all kinds of forms, not just 1099.

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Comments

10 Comments on “Making a Fillable 1099 MISC PDF for Printing

  1. @Chris: I mentioned it in passing in the article: You can make it non-printing, but InDesign doesn’t appear to pass that information through in the PDF. Perhaps a bug that will get fixed?

  2. David, forgive a question from an ignorant foreigner, but what is a 1099 form? Initially I had a vision of poor David having to fill out one thousand (and) ninety-nine different forms. Surely not even American bureaucracy could be that cruel?
    But I am encouraged by your final sentence.

  3. @Chris: Non-printing doesn’t stop it from being exported into the PDF (you could argue that it should, I guess). You want it in the PDF because you need to see the background in Acrobat, to know what field is what. But you just don’t want it to print.

    @Furry: The US internal revenue service has the most wonderful naming for its forms — I suppose every large bureaucracy does — so the 1099 MISC is sent to people to whom you have paid a reasonably large sum of money; the 1099 INT is paid by banks to people who have received interest; individuals file a 1040 form for their annual taxes… you can download many of these forms from the IRS as PDF, and many of them already have fillable fields in them, so you can fill-and-print. But some forms must be printed on their official paper — that’s where this technique comes in handy.

  4. Thanks David. What a clever hacky solution! A faux fillable form. I just need to lodge this in my brain for future use.

  5. What is the benefit of the extra work taking it to PDF? Why not just use the InDesign created form? Link each text box together so you can jump from one to the next. Save it as a template. Then open, fill in the form, turn off the background layer and print onto the form.

  6. @Lucille: If I only had to fill out one form, I’d just make text frames in InDesign (not bother with form objects) and print from there. But if I’m going to use the form a few times, or I want to save it for filling in later, or share it with others, then an interactive fillable PDF form is the way to go.

  7. this is great. would you consider posting an updated version for use in this year’s tax return (for the 2013 hires)
    thanks very much for sharing this. for the tech challenged, this is really helpful.

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