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Are You an Independent Contractor?
Advance Notes: If you are not employed a company that you are doing an assignment for, you are, no doubt, an independent contractor. These are freelancers such as yourself who sell their services to a number of businesses on a contract basis. With each company it’s usually for a temporary time and for a specific photographic project.
Q: Can I be an independent contractor for the same business for a long period of time?
A: Usually not. Independent contractors are in business for themselves, and do similar work for a variety of businesses. Thus the name "independent."
Q: If I’m an independent contractor, then I cannot be considered an employee?
A: No, not usually. Taxes are not withheld from your fee. You don't receive employee benefits (insurance, sick pay etc.) the company or the person who hired you does not file payroll tax returns for you. You are paid your full fee. You receive IRS Form 1099 by January 31 of the following year, and pay your own taxes.
Q: Who determines if you are an independent contractor or an employee?
A: Your prospective “employer,” usually. He or she would like to not consider you an employee, thus relieving him or her of providing you with the usual employee benefits. The IRS, private accountants and attorneys, and the Tax Courts, have often debated over who should be classified as an employee and who should be classified as an independent contractor.
Q: Are there any advantages to me as a photographer to be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor?
A: If you are an employee, if certain legal situations should arise, it would be your employer, rather than you, who would be answerable to the legal complaint. Another benefit could be that your taxes are taken out of your salary, which would relieve you of having to pay them yourself at tax time.
Q: Are there risks for an employer who attempts to classify me as an independent contractor, rather than an employee?
A: Yes, there are. If an employer misclassifies you as independent contractor, and fails to justify your role, the IRS may levy significant penalties. Employers should seek legal advice as to how to classify an independent photographer working on a part-time basis for the company.
Rohn Engh, veteran stock photographer and best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos” and “sellphotos.com,” has helped scores of photographers launch their careers. For access to great information on making money from pictures you like to take, and to receive this free report: “8 Steps to Becoming a Published Photographer,” visit http://www.sellphotos.com