THE BIG QUESTION Independent versus Employee Status

Are your workers independent contractors or employees? This is a compelling question, especially where the Internal Revenue Service is concerned. Every worker claiming status as a non-employee means payroll taxes and social security contributions that won't fall into the IRS's pocket.

Now many states are taking a closer look at the question, too. They are increasingly on the lookout for new sources of state revenue, including workman's compensation and unemployment insurance, both of which can be bypassed when a business uses independent workers.

What can a business owner/manager do to keep on the right side of both federal and state tax patrols? Here are a few precautionary steps to safeguard the status of workers as independent contractors.

1. Encourage (or at least allow) the worker to provide his own assistants, including their hiring, supervision, and compensation.
2. Allow workers to establish their own schedule of work days/hours.
3. Be sure that workers provide their own equipment and most supplies.

An alternative may be to use an employee of a temporary service. These services can provide personnel experienced in the job required and, since this worker is actually an employee of the temporary service, all federal and state taxes and fees are handled at that end as well. Although you may pay more for this type of worker, you will avoid concerns about meeting government regulations and restrictions that often come packaged with the independent status.

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