Intellectual property license agreements often include a provision by which the licensor is paid a royalty that is calculated as a percentage of the revenue received by the licensee from licensed products. Given that licensees have a financial incentive to reduce the amount of revenue that is reported*, the prudent licensor includes an audit provision in the license agreement.
The audit provision typically:
- Specifies the frequency and nature of audits that may be conducted;
- Provides that the licensee will pay any underpayment amount that is discovered plus interest; and
- Obligates the licensor to pay for the audit unless the underpayment exceeds X% of the royalty that was due, in which case the licensee must reimburse the licensor for the cost of the audit.
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.