Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't be a faux-indie.

I receive so many questions asking whether someone should choose to work as a self-employed or an employee. The simple answer is: It is not a choice. It is circumstance that determines your work status.

The complication arises because everyone wants to manipulate the work situation to his or her best tax advantage. More often it is the person doing the hiring who wants to cheat. Yup. It's cheating. It's fraud.

Who gets screwed: The one who does the hiring or the one who does the work? More often the one who does the work.

Do many get away with it? Yes, they do.

Do they get caught? Sometimes.

Are taxes, interest and penalties assessed when caught? More often, yes.

Why do workers accept an unfair and fraudulent work status? Because they need the money. If they question or complain they will not get the work because someone else will step right in to do the job as a faux-indie.

Be sure to read Employee vs. Self-employed for more info on how the IRS determines work status.

Below are four worker situations that my web visitors questioned. And there's one question from someone doing the hiring.

BTW -- I've shortened their queries a bit.

Hi June,

I graduated from dental school and found 2 part-time jobs working as a dentist in Queens, NY. Both employers are classifying me as an Independent Contractor and will file a 1099 at the end of the year.

I get paid $500/day. I think I'm supposed to be an employee since they are dictating the days and hours I'm that I'll be working and they are supplying their patients, office and supplies for me to use to treat their patients.

The thing is this seems to be the norm for dentist jobs in NYC. Every interview I've been on has only offered a 1099.

-- Jennie

[Jennie then listed many questions on how to avoid this situation, including incorporation, forming an LLC. None would be to her advantage. She is an employee.]


I work in Farmville, VA as an office assistant for 3.5 years. My problem is this: The IRS defines me as an employee. The company I work for would rather list me as a self-employed person which I have done for the past 3 years. I need to know how they should record reimbursements I receive so they do not show up on my 1099 as income. They use QuickBooks and I am the one entering the bank statements monthly. What is the best way to record these reimbursements?


[The company would "rather" list you as a self-employed. Rather?! Tahirah is an employee. The reimbursed expenses are expenses of the employer.]


I'm debating on either becoming a w-2 employee for my Dad's company or an Indie and charge his home health care business a consultant fee. I've kept my self up to date with Medicare laws for home health care and have been training individuals for Medicare billing as well as setting up their organizations. My dad's company (who has two other partners) are requesting my help and I need to let them know how I want to get paid.

Please help me in this ordeal, would this profession be considered self-employed or would it constitute a relationship. I will inform this agency the guidelines and audit patient charts and will propose a corrective action. I have never worked independently so I'm a little worried about calculating my own taxes.

I would appreciate all your help.

Thanks. Fahad
West Chester, OH

[Were Fahad to offer his services to only his father he would be an employee. But since he offers similar and related services to many others it appears he is self-employed.]


I came across your site and it's very good. I'm trying to determine if I'm an Indie. I started working for just one mortgage processing company that had only 1 client.

I signed an indie contractor agreement. So I got a 1099-MISC.

The mortgage company was my only source of income. I have a lot of freedom to do my job but all my business was paid by one company who had 1 client. They did have some control as to what banks business was done with. I had expenses but of course no taxes taken out. It will make a huge difference as far as my tax bill this year since not having worked as a 1099 person, I didn't set much aside in quarterly payments, oops!! What am I??

Broomfield, CO

[How much is a "lot of freedom?" What is "some control?" A contract does not change or negate tax regulation. This should have been discussed with the mortgage company before Harvey started to work for them. He is an employee.]

Hi June,

I'm a Self Employed Website Designer living in Ocala, FL. I started my business in 2009. I haven't the income to hire any employees at this time.

I have considered inviting a private contractor in to help out with sales and client services. He would get a percentage of any work he brings in. I've found someone with sales experience who would like to do this, but he's not self employed. What steps does he have to take to become a private contractor? And, what steps do I need to take to have a private contractor work for my business?

Thank you,
Ocala, FL

[Only if the worker offers his services to others in addition to Sandra and he also meets the relationship-control criteria may he be considered an independent.]

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