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Global Work Glossary

Lost in a maze of global employment jargon? Find your way out with our handy collection of work and HR terminology

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1099 employee

What is a 1099 employee?

1099 employees are freelancers or self-employed workers; the term originates from the 1099 IRS form used to report income paid to independent contractors. These are people who are not considered to be employees of an organization, but who are hired just to perform specific tasks or services.

These tasks could be anything from graphic design or catering, but what all 1099 work has in common is that it is done on the employees’ own schedule. One of the defining characteristics of a 1099 employee is that they control how and when they complete tasks versus being asked to do so in certain ways and at certain times by employers.

Other factors that distinguish 1099 workers include the level of control the hiring entity has over the employee, the type of work being performed (1099 employees are usually hired for specialist skills), and the permanence of the working relationship. If a contractor received benefits, this also wouldn’t be classed as meeting 1099 criteria.

Unlike full-time employees, 1099 workers are responsible for managing their own taxes. This means they pay both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes as well as any applicable local and specialized taxes.

When paying a 1099 worker, you need to provide them with a 1099-NEC (Non-employee Compensation) form if you’ve paid them $600 or more during the tax year. This details the total compensation you’ve paid and is also sent to the IRS for tax reporting. You don’t need to withhold or file taxes, unemployment insurance, or business expenses.

If your contractor has already established their own C-corp or S-corp, you don’t need to provide them with a 1099 as they will be considered a separate business entity. Instead, you may need to provide them with a Form W-9, which is used to collect their taxpayer identification number (TIN).

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