Both UBER and Lyft consider their drivers as independent subcontractors, not to be confused with W-2 based employees. But when it comes to reporting the income provided by them, the drivers are considered neither.
The IRS rule for Independent Contractors are that anyone receiving a cash/check based income directly from an employer that is above $600, needs to receive a 1099-Misc for that tax year. Traditional employers submit, to the IRS and the employees, a W-2 form for the income paid out and tax that was paid to the IRS throughout the year.
But people that work for UBER, Lyft, TaskRabbit, etc receive neither of those forms. If they get anything from them, it would be a 1099-K, a very new and sort of complicated addition to the 1099 tax form “family”, which is used mainly to report credit and debit card transactions through a merchant services.
Many drivers that had been employees for most of their lives and are now their own “bosses” and are making their own hours have no idea what kind of information they need to keep or how to even handle this 1099-K form. They have never filed a Schedule-C on their return, or ever paid self-employment tax, so this 1099-K form just adds to the confusion.
It’s also not clear as to why UBER sends out the form to everyone regardless of the amount (min. threshold is 200 transactions per month or exceed $20K) and Lyft doesn’t send one out until it reaches those minimums.
Either way, from a legal and ethical standpoint, the taxpayer needs to file ALL of their earned income throughout the year regardless of how the companies that paid them files.