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Update: When I say anonymous, I don't necessarily mean from the IRS (although that would be ideal). I mean anonymous from the general public. I don't want anyone to be able to look up my real name and be able to find out I am making a NSFW game. I don't care if it's publicly available that I have a general partnership. What I want to hide, is the fact that I am making a NSFW game.

I am making a NSFW game and splitting the profits 50-50 with someone I've met online. I learned that that is enough to form a general partnership, and now I will have to file a form 1065. Both of us want to remain anonymous and don't want to even tell each other each other's names.

All of our work is done online so we don't need a physical address. More importantly, I don't feel comfortable telling the government I am making a NSFW game, but the majority of these questions are asking for specific details about what my partnership is about:

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Is there any way to do this anonymously? Anonymous might be the wrong word: do I have to tell the government I am making a NSFW game? Do I need to know my partner's personal information to fill this out? What form does my partner need to fill out? Are they also going to file a form 1065?

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    It's a bad idea to engage in long-term business relationships with people when you don't know their identities. When you both don't even know each others names, who are you going to sue when one of you breaks their contractual obligations? Porn is a business. It's a filthy business, but a business nevertheless. When you don't treat it like one, you are going to run into problems. – Philipp Sep 4 at 10:21
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    Keep in mind that in a partnership, both (all) partners are responsible for all of the debts of the business. If your business takes out a loan and your partner steals the money and disappears, you're responsible for repaying the loan. If you don't know who your partner is you can't get any of that back from them. – Pete Becker Sep 4 at 12:51
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    As a minor addendum here, if - incredibly, beyond all belief - one went ahead and actually created offshore-state LLCs, a partnership, filed 1065s, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc .. @CluelessInvestor there is unfortunately ZERO CHANCE you will be able to open a bank account. Banks are not stupid. They laugh at paper entities, fake company agents, etc. Banks get ALL the info on ALL the human actual ultimate beneficiaries. There is unfortunately just no chance in the world that any bank would give an account in the situation described. – Fattie Sep 4 at 16:54
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    In general, forming any legal entity anonymously is going to be nearly impossible by design. It would be far too easy to use such a thing to conceal criminal activity like money laundering, illegal campaign contributions, etc. Trying to do such a thing will probably draw more attention than just registering the business openly and honestly. – bta Sep 4 at 19:45
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    Also on the threat model front I am recalling several instances in the past years where entities thought they had set things up correctly only to be discovered by dedicated journalists . It's much like computer security: if someone is dedicated enough they can get through a lot of doors that seem locked and impenetrable. – eps Sep 6 at 16:55
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The answer is simple in my opinion: Don't form a General Partnership with someone you barely know on the internet.

The General Partnership is something that makes it easier to start a small business with multiple people who completely trust each other, like maybe a farm run by the whole family unit, or a store run by two close friends. A counter example would be a tech start up founded by a couple of university students, usually that's already too large and unpersonal to be suited for a General Partnership.

If you form a General Partnership, you and the artist both can make decisions for the company, alone, and both are fully liable not just for your own actions but also for the other's actions.

The top voted answer on your other question suggests a vendor-buyer relationship and that's exactly what you should do to keep things simple and separate. The difference to a General Partnership is mainly wording: You don't have a joint business, you have two businesses which are closely linked. The game company tells the art company what art they need, the art company provides art in exchange for half the profit.

Of course there might be more back and forth going on, and you don't need to be a dictator about the evolution of the game, but no one at the IRS cares about that, that's just customer service the art company provides, or whatever. If the venture takes off and the artist also wants a more formal share of the company, then you can still form a formal business together, but then probably not a General Partnership but rather a "Corporation" or something - as far as I can tell a corporation is the USA equivalent of the "Société anonyme" that exists in Europe in one form or another and literally means anonymous corporation for good reason.

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    This answer is completely correct. It is beyond silly to think of a formal partnership for such a trivial thing. I've had online products that made high six figures and those involved just split up the money. It's just completely ridiculous to go in to detail about jurisdictions, forms etc when the answer here is just "don't be silly!" – Fattie Sep 4 at 12:42
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    +1 Partnerships are rarely used by anyone (at least in the US) who knows what they are doing. They are used sometimes in joint-ventures created by two corporations, for example but mostly they are formed by accident when groups of people start a business without forming an LLC or LLP. – JimmyJames Sep 4 at 17:27
  • I'm so confused. In the linked post, it seemed to be saying, simply because I called this person my partner somewhere on the Internet, that makes it official in the IRS's eyes, and that's all it takes to form a general partnership. are you sure your advice applies to America? – Clueless Investor Sep 4 at 19:06
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    @CluelessInvestor Basically, standard partnerships are shit. You almost surely don't want to be involved in one. As this answer explains, you become responsible for anything your partner does if a 3rd party reasonably believes your partner was acting on behalf of your company. That last bit is important, it's irrelevant what you actually did, it's what some other party believes. Because they suck so bad, it's barely worth talking about the practical issues around what you are asking. Harper's answer is probably the most relevant for your situation or go with the vendor approach. – JimmyJames Sep 4 at 20:58
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    @CluelessInvestor I would also not be so nonchalant about the risks. What if someone takes over your site and uses it to install malware? Are you ready to lose all of your assets? Not worth it. Creating an LLC is basically paperwork. Just do it regardless of whether you form a joint entity or not. Harper mentions some things that are important. If you don't make it a 'real' company, it may not protect your assets. – JimmyJames Sep 4 at 21:02
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Both of us want to remain anonymous and don't want to even tell each other each other's names. Is there any way to do this anonymously?

Yeah. Fire up those Wyoming LLCs.

An LLC can be a general partner.

It's perfectly legitimate to have a general partnership between "New Start Flying Wings LLC" and "Not Slightly From Wyoming LLC".

Note that you'll have to jazz up your LLC a little bit in order to keep it from being a "Single Member (pass-through) LLC", which in the IRS's eyes is a "disregarded entity". Have a second Member, or elect corporate tax treatment.

Anonymous might be the wrong word: do I have to tell the government I am making a NSFW game?

IRS doesn't care whether your game is a Pac-Man knockoff or Solitaire or one of those city building games or whatever.

However DOJ cares about porn. So you need to keep an eye on the trends in porn regulations and practical enforcement. Generally USA porn laws give a light touch to porn that doesn't involve real actors, but there's still an obscenity "line" you should not cross. And it's anyone's guess where that line is, because DOJ intentionally leaves the industry guessing as to what they consider obscenity. For instance (live) bondage producers mostly stuck to gentle loving bondage until Insex broke a bunch of taboos and mostly got away with it. Other producers tested sexual intercourse in gentle bondage, and the bar moved again. There's no published guidance as to what content is allowed; just a series of taboos. It's 50 shades of grey.

So you want good porn lawyers to help guide you.

Do I need to know my partner's personal information to fill this out?

You'll need to know your partner's LLC's name, EIN and Wyoming registered agent address to fill the 1065 out (or to be more precise, the K-1 forms which are part of the 1065).

What form does my partner need to fill out? Are they also going to file a form 1065?

The partners don't file multiple Form 1065s. The partnership files one. It lists all partners (again: these partners can be LLCs).

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    I have to say it would be total madness to form a partnership for a trivial online game making a few thousand $ a year. – Fattie Sep 4 at 12:38
  • Of course, once you start bringing other shareholders into your LLC, they are going to want to know what it is that they are going to be shareholders in, and you will have to pay them their share of any dividends that the company pays. – Simon B Sep 4 at 19:47
  • @Fattie I know. But that is the question... one of the problems with any such venture is it can suddenly hit huge... and now you're rolling in the dough and worryingly under-incorporated for what you do. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 4 at 19:50
  • I looked into this and to start up a Wyoming LLC, you need a real person to be the proxy owner. I don't know how/if I can find anyone like this, since the whole reason I'm doing it is to try to stay anonymous. The CPA told me there's nothing that would stop this person from taking all the money? – Clueless Investor Sep 6 at 0:12
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    @CluelessInvestor There are Registered Agent companies in Wyoming which will handle all that for you, or you could use an attorney or CPA. Those people would be fiduciaries; they can't run off with the money without extreme consequences. End of the day you have to tell somebody who you are. To me, anonymity is about making legally smart choices about who that is, to maximize your protection. I don't know what it is to you. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 2:12
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I would suggest that you might want to pay a CPA to assist you in filling this document out (for the first time, anyway) as they generally have a very detailed understanding of the law and your obligations. But if you really prefer to do this yourself, you should read the IRS's instructions for form 1065 (which are quite long but very detailed and may be helpful if you're unsure what to put for a specific item). Be sure to scroll down or use the table of contents on the left, as the top part of that page is a listing of everything that has recently changed (which you likely don't need to care about, at least for your first time filing). It then goes on to give both general and specific instructions for the form, which is probably what you want to be reading.

Now, to your specific questions:

Is there any way to do this anonymously?

Heck no. Each partner will need to provide all of their personal information on a copy of Schedule K-1, which must be attached to Form 1065. Your real-world identities will be associated with this partnership, and with each other, like it or not.

Depending on how much you're willing to spend on this, you may be able to hire a lawyer, CPA, or tax preparer to act as a third-party intermediary. They would receive Schedule K-1 from each partner, compile the whole thing together, and then submit it to the IRS. As a result, you would be able to keep your identities secret from each other. If you're going to consult a CPA anyway, you may want to ask if this is a service they are willing to offer, or if they can give you a referral to someone who can do it.

[D]o I have to tell the government I am making a NSFW game?

Probably not. You have to list your "principal business activity" and "principal product or service," but the former is just a matter of picking a code out of this list, and the latter can (probably) just be "video games" or similar (assuming you call yourself a "software publisher"). They don't actually want to know what kind of game you're making. They just want a general category of business. In the event you get audited, they might ask you to demonstrate evidence for all of your business expenses, and in principle, they might also ask you to demonstrate evidence of revenue, but this is usually just a matter of showing them paystubs, invoices, etc. I would be rather surprised if they wanted to see the actual game itself, although I suppose anything is possible if (for whatever reason) they suspect you of committing fraud.

Regardless, it is very unlikely that the government will care that you're making an NSFW game. NSFW products are a big business, and perfectly legal (in most cases). It's much more likely that your bank will care.

Are they also going to file a form 1065?

No, the partnership files one for both of you. That means either you file it, or they file it, not both. But you will (probably) both need to both fill out schedule K-1 as discussed above.

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  • I have set up an appointment with a CPA, but in the meantime I was curious if I need to know my partner's SSN to fill out this form? My partner doesn't feel comfortable giving it to me (which i understand) – Clueless Investor Sep 4 at 0:26
  • @CluelessInvestor: The IRS wants a copy of schedule K-1 for each partner, and K-1 asks for SSN. They don't particularly care who fills it out and who hands it in, but it must be attached to form 1065, so it's going to be challenging to keep this information private. – Kevin Sep 4 at 1:24
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    Note that you can ask a lawyer to act as a go-between. He would get both your personal data, and fills the paperwork, and of course commits to not tell each of you the others data. – Aganju Sep 4 at 1:59
  • @Aganju: Added a note about that, thank you. – Kevin Sep 4 at 2:02
  • If your partner doesn't trust you enough to share their SSN (and vice versa) then you really shouldn't be entering into a general partnership – Dancrumb Sep 5 at 16:10
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I think the core point is that the Government needs a person and address, so they can contact you (to go after you for taxes, etc.). Therefore, anonymity to the government is not possible.

However, you can go to a lawyer, and contract him to act in your both names founding a trust*, and give his address and name as a contact on the company (the company would be owned by the trust).
This way, the government has a contact point, and the contact point (the lawyer) is responsible for the company paying taxes, and is keeping your identies hidden. The lawyer in turn knows your data, and forwards the tax filings etc., and knows how to find you.

[*trust might not be the proper term]

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    If you're going to go to the trouble of setting up an entire trust, you should incorporate an LLC (or some other form of corporation) and use that instead of the partnership. – Kevin Sep 4 at 2:05
  • @Kevin if I go that route, can I remain anonymous? – Clueless Investor Sep 4 at 2:19
  • You're missing a closing parenthesis (not enough characters for me to edit) – Kat Sep 4 at 2:20
  • @CluelessInvestor: In general, the IRS will know everything, but depending on state law, it might be possible to be anonymous to your partner. Talk to a lawyer or CPA and ask their advice. They probably can give you more specific information. – Kevin Sep 4 at 3:12
  • @CluelessInvestor - a number of people have told you a number of times: you can NOT be anonymous. Sure, you can maybe hide your name on Patreon. But honestly, if you're dreaming of bearer bonds, Swiss offices and the like - that is gone with the wind. NO privacy has been possible since, say, the 1980s. Honestly, as everyone has said endlessly, the answer is a simple "No". – Fattie Sep 4 at 12:44
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To answer your specific question, that hasn't been answered:

Is there any way to do this anonymously?

Yes, you can give it away for free instead of selling it.
Otherwise, you'd better have your ducks in a row.

Maybe that advice about Wyoming LLCs will work, but from what I've seen people tend to figure out more than you'd expect.

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