The terms “employees” and “independent contractors” are often used interchangeably describe workers whom a business hires. However, there are some stark differences between them, specifically in regards to how they treated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a business owner, you might be wondering how exactly employees differ from independent contractors. Below, you’ll learn more about these two classifications of workers and their respective nuances.
What Is an Independent Contractor?
An independent contractor is a non-employee worker who has control over the work he or she performs. The IRS explains that, as a general rule, a worker is considered an independent contractor if he or she can control their work. In other words, independent contractors can choose whether or not to perform a work-related task and when to perform it. His or her employer — known simply as a payer — cannot require the independent contractor to perform ongoing or otherwise pre-scheduled work.
What Is a Employee?
An employee, on the other hand, is a worker who doesn’t have control of his or her work. A worker is considered an employee if his or her employer can dictate their work. Employees typically have little or no say regarding their work schedule. Rather, they are required to perform specific tasks at specific times.
Differences Between Independent Contractors and Employees
Aside from the terminology differences, the IRS treats employees and independent contractors very differently from each other. If you hire an independent contractor, he or she will be responsible for withholding and paying their own income taxes and Social Security. If you hire an employee, however, you must withhold and pay the employee’s income taxes and Social Security.
Furthermore, employees are entitled to certain benefits in the United States that aren’t offered to independent contractors. There’s both a federal minimum wage and state-specific minimum wages that all employers must follow when paying their employees. Independent contractors aren’t subject to these minimum wages. Employers can technically pay them less.
Employees are also eligible for overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all employees who work over 40 hours in a single week are entitled are overtime pay of at least 1.5 times than their standard pay. These are just a few benefits that are only offered to employees. Employers aren’t required to offer these benefits to workers who are classified as independent contractors.
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