Understanding The Difference Between W2 and 1099

If you are a business owner or a freelancer, you may have heard of the terms W2 and 1099. These are two different types of tax forms that are used to report income and taxes for workers in the United States. Depending on whether you hire someone as an employee or an independent contractor, you will need to use either a W2 or a 1099 form to comply with the IRS rules and regulations.

But what exactly are the differences between W2 and 1099? How do they affect your tax and legal obligations as an employer or a worker? What are the pros and cons of hiring W2 employees versus 1099 contractors? And how can you choose the best option for your business needs? Continue reading this blog to find out all the answers to these questions and more.

What is a W2 Employee?

Man filling up a form

A W2 employee is someone who works for an employer under an employment agreement. They typically receive a regular wage or salary, and have taxes withheld by their employer. A W2 employee also receives benefits from their employer, such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement plan, etc.

This subjects a W2 employee to the control and direction of their employer. Where the employer determines how, when, where, and what the employee does which includes providing the W2 employee with training, tools, equipment, and resources to perform their job.

A W2 employee would then receive a Form W-2 from their employer at the end of the year. This form shows the total amount of wages paid and taxes withheld for the employee and the employee would then use this form to file their personal income tax return.

What is a 1099 Contractor?

Contract Workers DiscussingA 1099 contractor is someone who works for a client under a contract or agreement. They are paid based on the results or outcomes of their work, not on the hours worked and do not have taxes withheld by their client. A 1099 contractor is responsible for paying their own taxes, such as income tax, self-employment tax, etc.

A 1099 contractor is not subject to the control and direction of their client. The contractor decides how, when, where, and what they do. The contractor also provides their own training, tools, equipment, and resources to perform their work.

A 1099 contractor receives a Form 1099-NEC from their client at the end of the year. This form shows the total amount of payments made to the contractor for their services. The contractor uses this form to report their income and expenses on their Schedule C.

Differences in Tax and Legal Obligations

Men Discussing Legal Obligations

One of the main differences between W2 and 1099 is how they affect your tax and legal obligations as an employer or a worker.

As an employer, if you hire someone as a W2 employee, you have to:

  • Withhold federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, and state and local taxes from their wages.
  • Pay half of the Social Security tax and Medicare tax for them.
  • Pay unemployment tax (FUTA) and state unemployment tax (SUTA) for them.
  • Provide them with workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Comply with labour laws, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, anti-discrimination, etc.
  • Provide them with benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement plan, etc.
  • Issue them a Form W-2 at the end of the year.

As an employer, if you hire someone as a 1099 contractor, all you have to do is:

  • Pay them based on the terms of your contract or agreement.
  • Not withhold any taxes from their payments.
  • Not pay any taxes or benefits for them.
  • Comply with contract laws, such as breach of contract, intellectual property rights, etc.
  • Issue them a Form 1099-NEC at the end of the year if you paid them more than $600.

As a worker, if you are hired as a W2 employee, you have to:

  • Receive a regular wage or salary from your employer.
  • Have taxes withheld from your wages by your employer.
  • Receive benefits from your employer.
  • Follow your employer’s rules and policies.
  • File your personal income tax return using your Form W-2.

As a worker, if you are hired as a 1099 contractor, you have to:

  • Receive payments from your client based on the results or outcomes of your work.
  • Pay your own taxes, such as income tax, self-employment tax, etc.
  • Not receive any benefits from your client.
  • Set your own rules and policies.
  • File your personal income tax return using your Form 1099-NEC and Schedule C.

Pros and Cons of Hiring W2 Employees

Women Making Decisions

Alt text: Women Making Decisions

Now that you know what they both are and the differences between them, here's some pros and cons for your business for hiring them, starting with the W2 employees:

Pros:

  • You have more control and direction over your employees. You can train them, supervise them, and evaluate them according to your standards and expectations.
  • You can build a loyal and committed workforce. You can retain your employees for the long term by providing them with benefits, incentives, and opportunities for growth and development.
  • You can ensure quality and consistency in your products or services. You can monitor and improve your employees’ performance and productivity, and ensure that they follow your brand guidelines and values.

Cons:

  • You have to pay more taxes and benefits for your employees. You have to withhold and pay various taxes for your employees, such as federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, unemployment tax, etc. You also have to provide them with benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement plan, etc.
  • You have to comply with more laws and regulations. You have to follow labor laws, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, anti-discrimination, etc. You also have to deal with potential legal issues, such as wrongful termination, harassment, workers’ compensation claims, etc.
  • You have less flexibility and scalability in your business. You have to commit to paying your employees a fixed amount of wages regardless of your business performance or demand. You also have to deal with the challenges of hiring, firing, training, managing, and motivating your employees.

Pros and Cons of Hiring 1099 Contractors

Hiring 1099 contractors also has its pros and cons for your business. Here are some of them:

Pros:

  • You pay less taxes and benefits for your contractors. You do not have to withhold or pay any taxes for your contractors, such as federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, unemployment tax, etc. You also do not have to provide them with any benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement plan, etc.
  • You comply with fewer laws and regulations. You do not have to follow labor laws, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, anti-discrimination, etc. You also have less legal liability for your contractors’ actions or mistakes.
  • You have more flexibility and scalability in your business. You can pay your contractors based on the results or outcomes of their work. You can also adjust the number and type of contractors you hire depending on your business needs and budget.

Cons:

  • You have less control and direction over your contractors. You cannot train them, supervise them, or evaluate them according to your standards and expectations. You also cannot prevent them from working for other clients or competitors.
  • You have less loyalty and commitment from your contractors. You cannot retain your contractors for the long term by providing them with benefits, incentives, or opportunities for growth and development. You also have to deal with the potential loss of knowledge and expertise when they leave.
  • You have less quality and consistency in your products or services. You cannot monitor or improve your contractors’ performance and productivity. You also cannot ensure that they follow your brand guidelines and values.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between W2 and 1099

Man Ticking Checkboxes

Alt text: Man Ticking Checkboxes

Choosing between W2 and 1099 is not a simple decision. It depends on various factors that affect your business goals and needs. Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing between W2 and 1099:

  • The nature of the work: Is the work core or peripheral to your business? Is the work short-term or long-term? Is the work regular or sporadic? Is the work simple or complex? Generally speaking, if the work is core, long-term, regular, and complex, you may want to hire a W2 employee. If the work is peripheral, short-term, sporadic, and simple, you may want to hire a 1099 contractor.
  • The level of control: How much control do you want or need over the worker? Do you want to dictate how, when, where, and what the worker does? Do you want to provide the worker with training, tools, equipment, and resources? Do you want to monitor and evaluate the worker’s performance? Generally speaking, if you want more control over the worker, you may want to hire a W2 employee. If you want less control over the worker, you may want to hire a 1099 contractor.
  • The cost-benefit analysis: How much does it cost to hire a W2 employee versus a 1099 contractor? How much benefit do you get from hiring a W2 employee versus a 1099 contractor? Do you want to save money on taxes and benefits, or do you want to invest in your workforce and brand? Generally speaking, if you want to save money on taxes and benefits, you may want to hire a 1099 contractor. If you want to invest in your workforce and brand, you may want to hire a W2 employee.
  • The risk assessment: How much risk are you willing or able to take on as an employer or a worker? Do you want to avoid potential legal issues, such as misclassification, lawsuits, audits, penalties, etc.? Do you want to protect your intellectual property rights, trade secrets, customer relationships, etc.? Do you want to ensure compliance with the IRS and other authorities? Generally speaking, if you want to avoid risk, you may want to hire a W2 employee. If you are comfortable with risk, you may want to hire a 1099 contractor.

Best Practices for Compliance

Whether you choose to hire W2 employees or 1099 contractors, you have to follow some best practices for compliance. Here are some of them:

  • Use clear and written contracts or agreements. You should have a clear and written contract or agreement with your workers that specifies the terms and conditions of the work relationship, such as the scope of work, the payment terms, the duration of the contract, the termination clauses, the confidentiality clauses, etc.
  • Follow the IRS guidelines and tests. You should follow the IRS guidelines and tests for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The IRS uses three main criteria: behavioral control, financial control, and relationship type. You can find more information on the IRS website.
  • Keep accurate and complete records. You should keep accurate and complete records of your workers’ payments, expenses, taxes, benefits, contracts, etc. You should also issue the appropriate tax forms to your workers at the end of the year, such as Form W-2 or Form 1099-NEC.
  • Consult with a professional. You should consult with a professional accountant, lawyer, or tax advisor before hiring any workers. They can help you understand the tax and legal implications of your decision, and advise you on how to comply with the relevant laws and regulations.

Everyone has Different Hiring Needs

Hiring workers is an important decision for any business owner or freelancer. You have to choose between W2 employees and 1099 contractors based on various factors that affect your business goals and needs.

W2 employees are workers who work for an employer under an employment agreement. They receive a regular wage or salary, have taxes withheld by their employer, receive benefits from their employer, and are subject to their employer’s control and direction.

1099 contractors are workers who work for a client under a contract or agreement. They are paid based on the results or outcomes of their work, pay their own taxes, do not receive any benefits from their client, and are not subject to their client’s control and direction.

There are pros and cons of hiring W2 employees versus 1099 contractors for your business. You have to weigh the costs and benefits of each option, and consider the nature of the work, the level of control, the cost-benefit analysis, and the risk assessment.

You also have to follow some best practices for compliance when hiring workers. You have to use clear and written contracts or agreements, follow the IRS guidelines and tests, keep accurate and complete records, and consult with a professional.

We, at Recruitery, hope this blog post has helped you understand the difference between W2 and 1099, and how to make the right decision for your business. If you require any assistance for any of your hiring needs, be it W2 or 1099 related, do reach out to us so we can assist you to the best of our abilities. And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you!