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Use the IRS 20 Factor Test to Determine Employee or Independent Contractor Status

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Before your company can legally classify a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee, serious research and analysis must be undertaken. Be sure to review and apply the IRS guidelines below to the specific job which you are considering independent contractor status for. Go through each factor and analyze the job on a step by step basis before arriving at a conclusion. Remember, this is a balancing act, so make sure the scale tilts significantly in your favor before solidifying IC status for your personnel:

IRS 20 Factor Test

  1. Instructions.  Workers who must comply with your instructions as to when, where, and how they work are more likely to be employees than independent contractors.
  2. Training.  The more training your workers receive from you, the more likely it is that they’re employees. The underlying concept here is that independent contractors are supposed to know how to do their work and, thus, shouldn’t require training from the purchasers of their services.
  3. Integration.  The more important that your workers’ services are to your business’s success or continuation, the more likely it is that they’re employees.
  4. Services rendered personally. Workers who must personally perform the services for which you’re paying are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors usually have the right to substitute other people’s services for their own in fulfilling their contracts.
  5. Hiring assistants. Workers who are not in charge of hiring, supervising, and paying their own assistants are more likely employees.
  6. Continuing relationship. Workers who perform work for you for significant periods of time or at recurring intervals are more likely employees.
  7. Set hours of work. Workers for whom you establish set hours of work are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors generally can set their own work hours.
  8. Full time required.  Workers whom you require to work or be available full time are likely to be employees. In contrast, independent contractors generally can work whenever and for whomever they choose.
  9. Work done on premises.  Workers who work at your premises or at a place you designate are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors usually have their own place of business where they can do their work for you.
  10. Order or sequence set.Workers for whom you set the order or sequence in which they perform their services are more likely employees.
  11. Reports.  Workers whom you require to submit regular reports are more likely employees.
  12. Payment method.  Workers whom you pay by the hour, week, or month are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors are usually paid by the job.
  13. Expenses.  Workers whose business and travel expenses you pay are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors are usually expected to cover their own overhead expenses.
  14. Tools and materials.  Workers who use tools, materials, and other equipment that you furnish are more likely employees.
  15. Investment.  The greater your workers’ investment in the facilities and equipment they use in performing their services, the more likely it is that they’re independent contractors.
  16. Profit or loss.  The greater the risk that your workers can either make a profit or suffer a loss in rendering their services, the more likely it is that they’re independent contractors.
  17. Works for more than one person at a time. The more businesses for which your workers perform services at the same time, the more likely it is that they’re independent contractors.
  18. Services available to general public.  Workers who hold their services out to the general public (for example, through business cards, advertisements, and other promotional items) are more likely independent contractors.
  19. Right to fire.  Workers whom you can fire at any time are more likely employees. In contrast, your right to terminate an independent contractor is generally limited by specific contractual terms.
  20. Right to quit. Workers who can quit at any time without incurring any liability to you are more likely employees. In contrast, independent contractors generally can’t walk away in the middle of a project without running the risk of being held financially

Enforcement of Non-Compete Not Dependent on Solicitation of Former Clients or Use of Confidential Information

Monday, April 12th, 2010

In TEKsystems, Inc. v. Bolton, (2010), the Maryland Federal District Court recently reinforced Maryland law on the point that the enforcement of a covenant not to compete is not dependent on whether the competing former employee solicits his former employer’s clients or uses its confidential information, but rather on whether or not the scope of the restrictive covenant is reasonable. The only factors that will determine whether the non-compete is valid are its temporal and geographical limits, the employer’s legitimate business interests, the employee’s unique and specialized skills, any undue hardship on the employee, and the public interest served by enforcing the restrictive covenant.

The non-compete found in the former employee’s employment agreement contained standard language prohibiting the former employee from engaging “in the business of recruiting or providing on a temporary or permanent basis technical service personnel, industrial personnel, or office support personnel” for a period of 18 months after termination of employment, and within a geographical limitation of a 50-mile radius of the employee’s former office. Both the period of time of 18 months and the geographical scope of 50 miles have been held as reasonable on numerous occasions by Maryland courts.
The Court also found that the employer had legitimate business interests in enforcing the covenant, the employee possessed unique and specialized skills, and the employee would not suffer undue hardship by enforcing the covenant. The enforcement of the non-compete was upheld against the former employee.

To read a comprehensive blog of all of the issues address by the Court in this case, visit the blog of the Business Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association at http://marylandbusinesslawdevelopments.blogspot.com/search/label/Injunctive%20Relief.

Employment Agreement or Independent Contractor Agreement?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

When looking to hire new personnel, my small business clients often ask me to draft the contract between the business and the new hire. It is oftentimes not until this point that the business has examined whether the new hire is an independent contractor or employee. An agreement used for an employee will be different in many key respects than an agreement drafted for use with an independent contractor. With that in mind, the following is a summary of the key differences between an employee and an independent contractor.

Much of this information has been taken from the IRS website at www.irs.gov, which contains a wealth of information on the subject and which I highly recommend every business reads when facing this issue. Just recently, the IRS published IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2009-20, which is summarized below.

-Hiring a worker as an independent contractor instead of as an employee will generally lessen the amount of taxes a business pays, because when a worker is an employee, employers must pay state and federal unemployment tax, social security tax and workers compensation/disability premiums to a State Insurance Fund. When a worker is an independent contractor, the business is not required to withhold these taxes or make these payments. That responsibility falls on the worker.

-The IRS uses three characteristics to determine the relationship between businesses and workers: Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and the Type of Relationship.

-Behavioral Control looks at whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done. The more control a business can exert over the work to be performed, the more likely the worker is an employee. Conversely, the more freedom and discretion the worker has in performing the work, the more likely the worker is an independent contractor. Do not confuse this with the business’s ability to control the result of the work done, a business is always permitted to exert control over results, and such control has no bearing on the contractor/employee discussion. Rather, the IRS examines the means by which the worker does the work.

-Financial Control looks at whether the business has the right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job. In other words, if the worker is on an employer’s payroll and receives a steady paycheck, the likelihood increases that the worker will be deemed an employee.

-The Type of Relationship factor relates to how the workers and the business owner perceive their relationship. It should be noted that the IRS will make its determination using substance over form, meaning that while it is interested in how the relationship between the parties is perceived by the parties, the IRS will make its determination ultimately regardless of how the parties paper their relationship.

In addition to the above points, the IRS has made clear in earlier publications that the following factors will also play a role in its determination:

-Who supplies the equipment, material, tools, workstations, and other items in order for the worker to perform the job. The more materials that the business supplies, the more likely the worker is an employee.

-Who controls the worker’s hours of employment.

Many times the characterization of the relationship between a worker and a business will be easy to determine. Sometimes, however, the line between employee and independent contractor will be blurred. It is in such a situation that the above factors must be analyzed carefully so that at the outset, a well written agreement hat accurately captures the parties’ relationship can be drafted and executed by the parties.