Employees or Independent Contractors?
It is critical that small business owners correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.
Before you can determine how to treat payments you make for services, you must first know the business relationship that exists between you and the person performing the services. The person performing the services may be –
An employee (common-law employee)
An independent contractor
In determining whether the person providing service is an employee or an independent contractor, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and independence must be considered.
Employee (Common-Law Employee)
Under common-law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed.
Example: Donna Lee is a salesperson employed on a full-time basis by Bob Blue, an auto dealer. She works 6 days a week and is on duty in Bob’s showroom on certain assigned days and times. She appraises trade-ins, but her appraisals are subject to the sales manager’s approval. Lists of prospective customers belong to the dealer. She has to develop leads and report results to the sales manager. Because of her experience, she requires only minimal assistance in closing and financing sales and in other phases of her work. She is paid a commission and is eligible for prizes and bonuses offered by Bob. Bob also pays the cost of health insurance and group-term life insurance for Donna. Donna is an employee of Bob Blue.
People such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers, or auctioneers who are in an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the general public are generally independent contractors. However, whether these people are independent contractors or employees depends on the facts of each case. The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. The earnings of a person who is working as an independent contractor are subject to Self-Employment Tax.
If you are an independent contractor, you are self-employed. To find out what your tax obligations are, visit the Self-Employed Tax Center.
You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.
If an employer-employee relationship exists (regardless of what the relationship is called), you are not an independent contractor and your earnings are generally not subject to Self-Employment Tax.
However, your earnings as an employee may be subject to FICA (Social Security tax and Medicare) and income tax withholding.
For more information on determining whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, refer to the section on Independent Contractors or Employees.
Have additional questions on this and other small business topics? Book an appointment with one of our FREE Small Business Counselors.