Independent Contractors: Financial control

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Since so many homeschool organizations hire workers as Independent Contractors, it might be helpful to examine the difference between employees and independent contractors.

This is the second of a 3-part series on the definition of of independent contractor and  will examine one of the factors the IRS uses to determine worker classification: Financial Control.

The IRS has some helpful information on how to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor at  https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Financial-Control

 Financial control refers to facts that show whether or not the business (or nonprofit organization) has the right to control the economic aspects of the worker’s job.

The financial control factors fall into the categories of:

  • Significant investment
  • Unreimbursed expenses
  • Opportunity for profit or loss
  • Services available to the market
  • Method of payment

Significant investment

An independent contractor often has a significant investment in the equipment he or she uses in working for someone else.  However, in many occupations, such as construction, workers spend thousands of dollars on the tools and equipment they use and are still considered to be employees. There are no precise dollar limits that must be met in order to have a significant investment.  Furthermore, a significant investment is not necessary for independent contractor status as some types of work simply do not require large expenditures.

Unreimbursed expenses

Independent contractors are more likely to have unreimbursed expenses than are employees. Fixed ongoing costs that are incurred regardless of whether work is currently being performed are especially important. However, employees may also incur unreimbursed expenses in connection with the services that they perform for their business.

Opportunity for profit or loss

The opportunity to make a profit or loss is another important factor.  If a worker has a significant investment in the tools and equipment used and if the worker has unreimbursed expenses, the worker has a greater opportunity to lose money (i.e., their expenses will exceed their income from the work).  Having the possibility of incurring a loss indicates that the worker is an independent contractor.

Services available to the market

An independent contractor is generally free to seek out business opportunities. Independent contractors often advertise, maintain a visible business location, and are available to work in the relevant market.

Method of payment

An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time. This usually indicates that a worker is an employee, even when the wage or salary is supplemented by a commission. An independent contractor is usually paid by a flat fee for the job. However, it is common in some professions, such as law, to pay independent contractors hourly.

 

Read the other factors that determine IC status:

Behavioral Control

Type of Relationship

And always remember:

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

Still confused? Maybe my book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help. It’s written just for homeschool leaders.

Or perhaps you prefer a private phone consultation. I offer a worker classification determination to help homeschool groups know if they are classifying their workers correctly.

Carol Topp, CPA

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