I have written several times about potential undesirable consequences of misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor. It’s time for an update.
In 2012, California Labor Code Section 226.8 took effect. That statute is directed toward willful (i.e., voluntary and knowing) misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Consequences can include the following. (more…)
This post discusses a recent decision by which the California Supreme Court adopted the so-called ABC Test for misclassification of employees as independent contractors.
Four months ago, I wrote about a Wall Street Journal report. According to that report, the Internal Revenue Service planned to audit 6,000 randomly-selected U.S. companies to determine the extent to which companies misclassify employees as independent contractors. (See The “Independent Contractor” Trap Becomes More Dangerous.) Today The New York Times reported that both federal and state officials are cracking down on misclassification (U.S. Cracks Down on Contractors as a Tax Dodge). The incentive: To reduce record budget deficits.
By misclassifying personnel, companies avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes. The article goes on to say that, on average, misclassified personnel do not report 30% of their income. The 2010 federal budget projects that the crackdown will net at least $7 billion over ten years.
Implication of contractors as a tax dodge for companies of all sizes:
If you have been lax in classifying workers, now would be a good time to start doing things correctly. Avoiding the “Independent Contractor” Trap may help you determine how to improve your classification procedures.
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510 547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.
Earlier this year, I wrote Avoiding the “Independent Contractor” Trap about the dangers that companies face if they misclassify employees as independent contractors. The Wall Street Journal recently reported (Employers and Workers Clash in Court Over ‘Contractor’ Label) that those dangers have increased.
According to the WSJ article, the Internal Revenue Service will audit 6,000 randomly-selected U.S. companies in its first attempt since 1984 to quantify the extent of employee misclassification. The IRS is not taking this step merely to help the individuals involved receive the pay and benefits to which they are entitled – state and federal governments stand to gain billions of dollars every year from withholding taxes, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation if workers are classified properly.
Even greater than the risk of a government audit is the risk that a disgruntled “independent contractor” will file a wage claim (see Wage Claims – Nasty but [Sometimes] Necessary).
Avoiding the “Independent Contractor” Trap lists factors that can help you determine how to classify workers properly.
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.
Small companies usually need to conserve cash, so they often turn to independent contractors rather than employees. This makes perfect sense – unless the company falls into what I call the independent contractor trap.
If there is not enough work to justify a regular employee, the company can use an independent contractor when needed. That way the company avoids making unemployment and social security contributions. Also, it does not pay benefits such as health and life insurance, retirement plan contributions and personal time off.
There can be problems, however. If the individual really is doing the work of an employee – is misclassified – the Internal Revenue Service or, in California, the Employment Development Department might reclassify the individual as an employee, erasing the presumed financial benefits.
This post discusses why – especially now that Assembly Bill No. 5 (AB-5) has taken effect – in California corporate officers are considered employees rather than independent contractors.
California Corporate Officers Employees by Statute
The starting point is California Unemployment Insurance Code Section 621. This Section states, in relevant part:
“Employee” means all of the following:
(a) Any officer of a corporation.
This post is about employment law. It is directed particularly to people from other countries who are not familiar with U.S. employment practices.
It is based on my answer to a Quora question. Please see What are the most important aspects of American labor law that a foreigner trying to make a terrestrial logistics company in (any state of) the U.S. should take into consideration?
I am providing this answer based on my experience helping dozens of international clients conduct businesses in the U.S.