From the Hotline: Determining Independent Contractor or Employee

Question: How can you determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee?

Answer: Generally, independent contractors are self-employed individuals who work on special projects that require no training, may work from either the employer site or another location, and do not need direction or the company’s materials to do the job. Additionally, these individuals are typically paid based on contract milestones.

Under federal “common law” rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what, when, and how the work will be done. This is true even if the person in question has the freedom to determine when certain work actions are taken. According to the IRS, “What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed.”

Some states look to the federal common law rules, while others, such as Oregon, New York, and California, have their own additional tests of whether an individual is an independent contractor or employee. Many states publish fact sheets or handbooks with these guidelines to aid employers in making the appropriate classification.

The key in making this determination is to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

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. In short, you will want to examine this decision carefully, so as to avoid tax consequences by misclassifying someone as an independent contractor.

Source: www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Employee-(Common-Law-Employee)