What is a W-9 form and who fills it out?

IRS form W-9

Form W-9 is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax document businesses use to collect information from individuals receiving income. It is sometimes referred to as a Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form.

W-9 tax forms enable businesses to confirm a payee’s personal information for tax purposes, including their name, address, and taxpayer identification number (TIN). Both U.S. citizens and individuals with resident alien status may receive a request for this information.

What is a Form W-9 used for?

A W-9 represents a formal written request from a company to confirm a payee’s taxpayer identification number. Employers and other entities that pay people for work must file an internal document with the IRS for tax purposes.

Why do companies use a W-9 tax form?

Organizations use an IRS W-9 form to collect an employee’s TIN and report earnings or losses that could affect their taxable income (usually via Form 1099). To do so, they need the proper taxpayer information, which is why W-9 forms are typically requested by employers, clients, or other entities before work starts. A 1099 is only required if the company has paid the independent contractor more than $600.

Why do taxpayers need a Form W-9?

A 1099 form contains information about the income a freelancer, independent contractor, or other party receives. While this information is included in W2 forms for traditional employees, separate documents are used for independent contractors, unrelated vendors, and similar parties.

When employers use Form W-9 to generate Form 1099, the independent contractor should receive a copy of this document for income tax filing purposes. This will be used to determine the individual’s tax responsibility. If a W-9 is not completed, the payor should withhold taxes from the payee’s earnings at a rate of 24%.

Who fills out Form W-9?

W-9 forms are typically completed by anyone who performs work for another party but isn’t their employee. This applies to independent contractors, freelancers, and gig employees who don’t perform work under a traditional employment relationship. Sometimes, a W-9 may also be requested by a financial institution to open up a new account.

What’s included on a W-9?

IRS Form W-9 includes details about the independent contractor’s name, address, and other information used for tax purposes. For instance, it also includes details about tax exemptions and the individual’s SSN or employer identification number.

Section I (lines 1–7)

Here’s a brief walkthrough of how to complete a W-9 form:

  • Line 1: Enter your name as it appears on your tax return.
  • Line 2: Provide your business name or “disregarded entity” if the name under which you’re doing business is different from your personal name. This applies to sole proprietors and single-member limited liability corporations (LLCs).
  • Line 3: Provide your business entity based on the federal tax classifications: LLC, sole proprietorship, C corporation, S corporation, trust/estate, or “other.”  
  • Line 4: Most individuals will leave the exemptions boxes blank. However, if you are a corporation exempt from backup withholding, you’d enter code “5.” However, this would rarely apply to independent contractors.
  • Lines 5 & 6: Provide the street address, city, state, and ZIP code used on your tax return. Independent contractors who have office space should still use their home address if that’s what appears on their other tax forms.
  • Line 7: This step is optional but may be used to include the requester’s information. Some independent contractors fill this out and retain a copy for their personal records.

Part I

In this part, you’ll provide your TIN. Most independent contractors, freelancers, and similar workers use their Social Security Number (SSN) as a TIN. If you own a different type of business other than a sole proprietorship, you’ll input your employer identification number here.

Part II

This component requires you to assert that the information included on the form is accurate and that you are a U.S. citizen or other U.S. person as defined on the form. You’ll then provide your signature and the date when the form is completed.

What is the deadline for the W-9 tax form?

Unlike other tax documents, there is no official deadline for completing a W-9 form since its only purpose is to provide the company with the independent contractor’s taxpayer information. However, since companies must file Form 1099 by January 31 for the previous year, and Form W-9 is needed to complete that information, it makes sense to request this form as early in the working relationship as possible to prevent delays. 

If a company paid a freelancer for their services in 2022, the individual should have filled out Form W-9 for 2022 well in advance of the January deadline in 2023. The W-9 form for a particular year is used to generate the Form 1099 that will be filed by January 31 of the following year.

Where can I get a Form W-9?

Free W-9 forms can be downloaded online from the official IRS website. Most employers now accept electronic copies. Note that the document was revised in 2022, so be sure to use the latest version: Form W-9 2022.

What's the difference between a W-8 and a W-9 form?

A W-8 is like a W-9 but it is used by non-resident aliens who perform work or make income in the United States, and it’s used by foreign business entities who make income in the United States. More information can be found at the IRS website.

Disclaimer: This article and all information in it is provided for general informational purposes only. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or tax advice. You should consult with a qualified legal or tax professional for advice regarding any legal or tax matter and prior to acting (or refraining from acting) on the basis of any information provided on this website.

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