If someone works for you, are they an employee or independent contractor? For an employee, you must withhold the usual taxes–social security, federal and state withholding, medicare and unemployment. The employee pays part of the withholding and you pay additional amounts. For an independent contractor, you pay a flat amount. No taxes, social security or other amounts are withheld. A small business paying employees pays a salary and also additional social security, medicare and unemployment taxes. It costs the small business more money to have employees working than to have independent contractors working.
So, as a business owner you decide to classify all your workers as independent contractors so that you do not have to withhold taxes, social security, medicare and unemployment taxes. Smart thinking, right? Well, maybe not so smart. The IRS has started an agency wide employment tax program that addresses worker classification and other employment tax issues, meaning you can look for more IRS enforcement in the future relating to worker classification.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), TIGTA, recently reported that misclassification of employees as independent contractors affects millions of workers and contributes to ever increasing the tax gap. When an employee is misclassified, tax revenues are not reported or paid and the burden of uncollected taxes shifts to other taxpayers. Read Full Report Here
The IRS’ most recent estimate of the tax gap is approximately $345 billion. The employment tax portion of this figure due to under reporting is estimated to be about $54 billion with an estimated $1.6 billion being attributable to worker misclassification. However, the $1.6 billion estimate is based on Tax Year 1984 data. The IRS conducted a preliminary analysis of Fiscal Year 2006 operational and program data and found that under reporting attributable to misclassified workers is likely to be markedly higher than the $1.6 billion.
All this means is that the IRS sees significant losses in tax collection and will be instituting worker classification programs in the near future.
In my next post, I will tell you how the IRS decides if your worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
This post is not legal advice nor is it tax advice.