The distinction between independent contractors and employees is significant for employers, especially when they file their federal tax returns. While employers owe only the payment to independent contractors, employers owe employees a series of federal payroll taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment, and federal tax withholding. Thus, it is often tempting for employers to avoid these taxes by classifying their workers as independent contractors rather than employees.
If, however, the IRS discovers this misclassification, the consequences might include not only the requirement that the employer pay all owed payroll taxes, but also hefty penalties. It is important that employers be aware of the risk they take by classifying a worker who should or could be an employee as an independent contractor.
The IRS considers all the facts and circumstances of the parties in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. These are numerous and sometimes confusing, but in short summary, the IRS traditionally considers 20 factors, which can be categorized according to three aspects: (1) behavioral control; (2) financial control; (3) and the relationship of the parties.
Examples of behavioral and financial factors that tend to indicate a worker is an employee include:
The worker is required to comply with instructions about when, where, and how to work;
The worker is trained by an experienced employee, indicating the employer wants services performed in a particular manner;
The worker’s hours are set by the employer;
The worker must submit regular oral or written reports to the employer;
The worker is paid by the hour, week, or month;
The worker receives payment or reimbursement from the employer for his or her business and traveling expenses; and
The worker has the right to end the employment relationship at any time without incurring liability.
In other words, any existing facts or circumstances that point to an employer’s having more behavioral and/or financial control over the worker tip the balance towards classifying that worker as an employee rather than a contractor. The IRS’s factors do not always apply, however; and if one or several factors indicate independent contractor status, but more indicate the worker is an employee, the IRS may still determine the worker is an employee.
Finally, in examining the relationship of the parties, benefits, permanency of the employment term, and issuance of a Form W-2 rather than a Form 1099 are some indicators that the relationship is that of an employer–employee.
Please contact our office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.
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Since 1999, Berrios & Associates, Inc. has been providing a distinctive mixture of leadership-knowledge, and customer service satisfying client needs in advisory, tax, and outsourcing. Serving a diverse client base from individuals and sole proprietors to private corporations with nationwide and international locations. In the domain of accounting firms, Berrios & Associates has engraved a distinctive business based on diverse solutions through the interpersonal relationship of corporate and personal tax, corporate back office support, and business growth advisory. The firm directs clients through their everyday operations to ensure they have the right business model in place to meet their business goals.