IRS Form W-9: a How-to Overview

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W-9 Tax Form

If you have ever worked as a freelancer or independent contractor, you have probably completed IRS form W-9 in the past. The W-9 form, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, collects key information for businesses that use vendors to perform services. Every year end, businesses must issue 1099 forms to their vendors and submit vendor payment information to the IRS for all payments totaling $600 or more throughout the preceding year.

Name and Type of Independent Contractor

It may be hard to believe since it is an IRS form, but the W-9 form is very easy to complete. First step, you will need to enter your name, and business name if applicable, as shown on your income tax return. If you added a business name, you will need to indicate what type of business you are: sole proprietorship, partnership, C or S corporation, trust/estate, limited liability company, or “other”. If you are a freelancer, chances are you are most likely a sole proprietor or have an LLC. Corporations require a lot of paperwork and filings on an annual basis, so you would know if you were one.

Next, you need to identify exemptions, if any. This would only apply to you if you are exempt from backup withholding (e.g., corporations). You can refer to the instructions attached to the W-9 form for a complete list of exempt payees and applicable codes to be used.

What Address to Use?

Providing your address on form W-9 may be trickier than it seems at first glance. What if your home address is different from your business address? Can you use a P.O. Box address? As with your name, use the address you will use on your income tax return. If you have a business address but use your home address for your income tax return, then use your home address for form W-9 as well. This allows the IRS to easily match your 1099s with your income tax return.

Providing your Tax Identification Number

The next section is requests your tax identification number. This refers to either your individual Social Security Number (SSN) or your Employment Identification Number (EIN) if you are operating as a business. If you have not received your EIN yet, simply write “”applied for”” in the provided space and notify the requestor of your number as soon as you receive to prevent being subjected to backup withholding.

Along with your tax identification number, Form W-9 also asks for the requester’s name and address but this is optional and can be left blank.

Attesting to the Truth

Under this section, you will need to swear that the information you provided is truthful. Specifically, you attest that the tax identification number you submit is correct and it is yours, you are not subject to backup withholding, and you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. person. The W-9 form instructions include a complete list of who is considered a U.S. person for tax purposes. Non-U.S. citizens or persons may need to complete form W-8 or form 8233 instead.

Remember that intentionally providing misinformation on any tax-related form, including form W-9, can result in fines and/or jail time.

Sign, Submit, and Done!

Finally, you will need to sign and date the W-9 form. Although not legally required unless the IRS provided notice you previously provided an incorrect tax identification number, most requestors ask for the form to be signed and dated.

Upon completion, you must return the W-9 form to the requestor, not the IRS. It is good practice to encrypt the form if you are emailing a scanned copy to the requestor to protect your information.

And this is all that is required of you to complete form W-9. The form is thus nothing more than to assist those hiring independent contractors in collecting accurate information to help ensure all transactions are properly reported to the IRS.