The High-touch Legal Services® Blog…for Startups!

© 2009-2017 Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law

Do We Need One EIN or Two?

Internal Revenue Service logo, for post about whether a business needs one EIN or twoThis post is the result of an email exchange that I had with a foreign entrepreneur. He raised a question that I had not previously considered: When should a business have one EIN (Employer Identification Number), and when should it have two? (more…)

How Can I Find a Lost EIN?

Internal Revenue Service logo, symbolizing a lost EINAn Employer Identification Number, issued by the Internal Revenue Service, is the most important identifying number for US businesses, especially for tax purposes. This post addresses how you can find a lost EIN.

Find the Lost EIN Yourself

The IRS Lost or Misplaced Your EIN? page starts by recommending searches for existing records that should include the lost EIN:

  • The IRS confirmation notice that was provided when the EIN was issued.
  • Bank accounts that were opened, or governmental licenses that were issued, based on the EIN.
  • Tax return that were filed.
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Independent Contractors: Misclassification Can Be Expensive

Picture of several gold bars, symbolizing the cost of misclassifying an independent contractor

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…)

Am I in Trouble if My Accountant Used His SSN to Get My Corporation’s EIN?

Internal Revenue Service logo

Late last year (see Foreign Company Alert: Obtaining an EIN may be your Biggest Challenge in the U.S.), I wrote about the procedure by which a U.S. entity may obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when its foreign owner lacks a social security number (SSN). I recently answered an Avvo question about what to do when the specified procedure is not followed.

The questioner’s accountant had used his (the accountant’s) SSN to obtain an EIN online for his client’s corporation because the client’s foreign owner had no SSN. The client suspected – correctly – that this was not the right thing to do (the Internal Revenue Service “does not authorize” this action).

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Every Partnership Needs an EIN

I recently met two individuals who formed a business partnership. They were pretty informal about the process: They had no written partnership agreement. More surprisingly, they had not obtained an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service.

Failure to obtain an EIN was a legal mistake. The IRS’s Do You Need an EIN? page states that when a business is operated as a partnership, it must obtain an EIN. (more…)

Contractors as a Tax Dodge – NYT Reports U.S. to Crack Down

Logo for New York Times, which published an article about independent contractors as a tax dodgeFour 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.

Foreign Company Alert: Obtaining an EIN may be your Biggest Challenge in the U.S.

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service, which issues EIN (Employer Identification Number)When a foreign company wants to start up in the U.S., it usually creates a separate corporation here so U.S. obligations and liabilities will not flow back to the overseas parent. The U.S. corporation needs a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) – at the very least, to open a bank account, even if the corporation will have no employees in the U.S. In a recent post on its website (Use of Nominees in the EIN Application Process), the Internal Revenue Service recently made it more difficult for foreign companies to obtain an EIN.

To obtain an EIN, the corporation typically provides the social security number (SSN) of a “principal officer”. In the past, the IRS was rather vague as to what this term meant, stating that it referred to a “president, vice president, or other principal officer”. So, for example, if the corporation’s overseas president did not have an SSN because s/he never worked in the U.S., the corporation could temporarily appoint as vice president an individual who has an SSN, which the corporation then would use to apply for an EIN.

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Entrepreneurs Take Care: Raiding Employee Withholdings May Send You to Jail

Last month, I posted Your Business is Dead ? Are You Liable for its Obligations?, which stated that, generally, once a business is dissolved, the owners will be personally liable for the business’s obligations only to the extent that the owners received distributions at the time of dissolution.

A significant exception to the foregoing rule, however, concerns company personnel who are responsible for making, but fail to make, withholding payments to the Internal Revenue Service.

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The “Independent Contractor” Trap Becomes More Dangerous

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.

Should I form an LLC or a corporation?

Drawing of question marks, illustrating the question whether to form an llc or a corporationFairly frequently, an individual will ask whether to should form an LLC (limited liability company) or a corporation for a business. Here are the factors that I typically find are most important.

First, we can pretty much dismiss basic income tax considerations. By default, an LLC is not taxed as a separate entity but a corporation is taxed separately. However, there are ways to override the default tax treatments. An LLC may elect to be taxed as a separate entity by filing IRS Form 8832. Subject to certain limitations, a corporation can avoid separate taxation (i.e., can become an “S corporation”) by filing IRS Form 2553. (Please note, however, that once a company is in business, certain types of transactions can have different consequences for LLCs than for corporations. Accordingly, every company should consult with a tax advisor both up-front and on an ongoing basis.)

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