Can an Intern be an Independent Contractor? (Answers revealed in James Bond movies)

IMG_1068Among James Bond films, Rotten Tomatoes ranks Never Say Never Again 18th out of 26, with a mediocre 63% rating. (Bond movie quiz at the end of this post, for patient readers.)

It’s a cliche saying, I know, but my first reaction when asked this question was, “I’d never say never, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where that would work.” (That was also my second reaction and my third. Let’s just say that’s my reaction.)

Let’s run this through the gauntlet. Remember, it’s not your choice whether an intern is an independent contractor or an employee. The law decides that for you, based on the nature of the relationship.

Test #1: Economic Realities Test. Under federal wage and hour laws, an independent Continue reading

Trump’s Tax Plan Is Great News for Independent Contractors! Here’s Why.

IMG_1063President Trump’s tax plan, released last week, is great news for independent contractors. Contractors may be able to cut their tax rates by half (or more) by creating an entity, instead of contracting as an individual. Indirectly, this would help companies who use contractors as well. Here’s why:

Benefit to Individuals:

For individuals, the proposal would reduce personal tax rates modestly. An individual being paid as an independent contractor will likely see a reduction in marginal tax rates, but the range is likely to remain somewhere between 25% and 35%, depending on income level.

For individuals being paid through their homemade entities, however, the proposal could result in substantial savings. Currently, pass-through entities like LLCs pay taxes at the rate of the individual. The sole owner of an LLC would pay taxes on the LLC’s profits at the individual’s personal income tax rate, likely between 25% and 35%.

Under the proposal, however, pass-through entities such as LLCs and partnerships would instead be taxed on pass-through business income at 15%. That’s a sizable savings compared to 25-35%. [Note 9/29/17: Latest proposal would tax entities at 20%, not 15%, but there’s still a long way to go before any of this becomes law.  And it may never become law.  For now, it’s just a proposal.]

If this proposal passes, individual independent contractors will have a strong financial incentive to incorporate. Creating an LLC is relatively inexpensive. If it leads to Continue reading

What is the IRS Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP)? How Can It Limit Misclassification Liability?

dollar-independent contractor misclassification-IRS-VCSP-1443244_1920The IRS offers a settlement option for companies that suspect they have been misclassifying their independent contractors and wish to reclassify them as employees.

The Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) requires companies to meet certain eligibility criteria to participate but, in exchange, the IRS rewards participating companies with a steep discount off potential back taxes and penalties.

To participate in VCSP, a company:

  1. Must declare its intent to reclassify one or more independent contractors as employees;
  2. Must have consistently treated this class of workers as non-employees;
  3. Must have filed Forms 1099 for payments made to these employees; and
  4. Cannot be under a misclassification audit by the IRS, DOL, or a state government.

Benefits for participating companies include:

  1. Pay only 10 percent of the employment tax liability that would have been due on compensation paid to the workers for the most recent tax year, determined under the reduced rates of section 3509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. See VCSP FAQ 15, for information on how payment under the VCSP is calculated. Also see Instructions to Form 8952;
  2. No liability for any interest and penalties on the amount; and
  3. No IRS employment tax audit with respect to the worker classification of the workers being reclassified under the VCSP for prior years.

The settlement process requires companies to sign a closing agreement with the IRS.

Is this a good deal? It can be, but it depends on the overall circumstances. Some factors to consider before applying include: Continue reading

Tip: Avoid Rebranding Former Employees as Independent Contractors

taxes-tax-evasion-police-handcuffs

It has become fairly common to take an outgoing employee and rebrand the employee as a consultant / independent contractor — either as part of a severance plan or to phase the employee into a retirement status. Continue reading

How Does the IRS Determine Who is an Employee?

accountant-accounting-adviser-advisor-159804

The IRS uses a Right to Control Test to determine whether a worker is an employee for tax purposes.

If the employer has the right to control the worker, that individual is deemed an employee and the company is subject to employment tax obligations. If the company does not exercise control over the worker but instead gives that worker significant independence, then the worker is generally viewed as an independent contractor. The more control and supervision by the employer, the more likely the worker will be deemed an employee.

Continue reading