W-2 or 1099-NEC: Which Form Should Your SMB Use for Which Workers?

John F. Coggin, CPA MBAPrincipal, John F. Coggin CPA, PLLC

Filing annual wage reports is just one of the many end-of-year responsibilities expected of every business. But the task is not as straightforward as some would think. The reports get sent to the people who have received wages, and at the same time they get filed with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In some cases, they get filed with both. The question of which is appropriate rests entirely on who is being paid and how the relationship between them and the business is categorized.

Wage reports are prepared for employees as well as for independent contractors, but each type of wage earner receives a different form for filing their income tax returns. The information that a business provides to the appropriate government agency needs to match the information submitted by the wage earner, both to ensure accuracy and that they are paying the taxes that they owe. Businesses are expected to use the correct form, and in order to do that they need to be certain as to whether or not the person that they are paying is considered an employee. Getting this right is important, as incorrectly labeling an individual as a non-employee can result in significant penalties.

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