As a small business owner, you may face the issue of whether to classify workers as employees or as independent contractors.
Classifying your workers as independent contractors generally saves you money. That’s because you avoid paying employment taxes and benefits on their behalf.
If the IRS determines that you misclassified your employees as contractors, you could end up paying all of the employment taxes and benefits that would have been paid over the years. Depending on the size of your work force, the cost to your business could be substantial.
In determining whether the person providing a service is an employee or an independent contractor, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and independence must be considered. There are three primary categories of control and independence that the IRS considers when determining if a worker is a contractor or an employee:
Behavioral. Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job? If yes, the worker is an employee.
Financial. Are the business aspects of the worker's job controlled by the payer? This includes things like how the worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed and whether the employer provides tools and supplies. If yes, the worker is an employee.
Type of relationship. Are there written contracts or employee-type benefits? If contracts are involved, the worker may be a contractor. If benefits such as a pension plan, insurance and vacation pay are made available, the worker most likely is an employee.
Deciding whether a worker is a contractor or employee can get complicated. And remember that there are significant financial consequences for incorrectly classifying a worker. Barry J. Pierce is a certified public accountant in Kaufman.