Employee or Contractor? Which One Are You?

There has been much controversy lately regarding the “Employee or Contractor” question. You see it everywhere in the post-Great Recession economy; people either work as contractors to earn extra money or find themselves in this world due to the job market. However, there are benefits and risks to both sides of this equation. Most importantly, the IRS has an opinion on the conclusion!

Employee vs. Contractor

Employer Perspective


The contractor workforce is significant for employers. They don’t need to pay for Workers’ Compensation, FICA, Medicare, Unemployment Taxes, and benefits in general. Employers can save over 10% before benefits are considered by paying 4% for clerical workers’ compensation rates and 7.65% for payroll taxes. It is also much easier for employers to remove contractors.


The government may come back and deem contractors employees and charge or fine for the items that were avoided.

Contractor Perspective


Contractors can make more money as the employer generally pays more than the market rates, given the abovementioned savings. Contractors also typically will have more flexibility in schedules and other areas.


Contractors can carry a great deal of risk. Health Insurance will NOT pay if individuals suffer injuries while performing job duties. However, insurance exposure is a first risk that is rarely considered. Additionally, if they are in a car accident and are conducting commercial activities, Personal Auto Insurance will NOT pay. In short, contractors must secure business policies if they regularly do this work.

Contractors are also liable for the taxes that the employer was able to save. At a minimum, contractors owe “both sides” of FICA and Medicare, which is 7.65% (15.3% total). In addition, contractors receive 1099s, not W-2s, and have NO withholding, so they owe income taxes on these amounts. If they work enough, they may be subject to quarterly withholding. Contractors must discipline themselves and set aside taxes to avoid being in dire straits on April 15!

What are the Rules?

This can be more of an art than a science. Several areas need review:


Does the contractor do this for other people? A plumber who has dozens of clients is a contractor. Comparatively, a plumber that works in your facility full-time is likely not a contractor.


Does the company control or have the right to control what the contractor does and how the job is done? The company should be focused on the result, not the process. If the company legislates the process and timing, it will jeopardize the contractor’s status.


Are the business aspects of the contractor’s job controlled by the company? This includes how the contractor is paid and when they are paid. Who provides the tools and the means of work? How are business expenses handled? At a basic level, does the contractor invoice the company? Contractor status will be problematic if these processes look the same for regular employees.

Type of Relationship

Are there written contracts? Will the engagement last more than a year?  Will the relationship continue, and is the work performed a vital aspect of the business? Does the contractor have a risk of not being paid if the work is not done? The status will be questioned if there isn’t a typical business relationship with the contractor.


There continues to be more government enforcement action on this issue. Contact us if you are unsure about your workforce or the difference between an employee or contractor.

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