Tag Archives: Gig Workers

Federal Tax Obligations of Gig Workers | Legal Thoughts

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Transcript of Legal Thoughts
Published July 25, 2021

Federal Tax Obligations of Gig Workers

Legal Thoughts is an audiocast presentation by Coleman Jackson, P.C., a law firm based in Dallas, Texas serving individuals, businesses, and agencies from around the world in taxation, litigation, and immigration legal matters.

This episode of Legal Thoughts is an audiocast where the Attorney, Coleman Jackson is being interviewed by Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant of Coleman Jackson, P.C. The topic of discussion is “Federal Tax Obligations of Gig Workers”. You can listen to this podcast by clicking here:

If you enjoy this podcast, make sure to stay tuned for more episodes from the taxation, litigation, and immigration Law Firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. Be sure to subscribe. Visit the taxation, litigation and immigration law firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. online at www.cjacksonlaw.com.

TRANSCRIPT:

ATTORNEY: Coleman Jackson

LEGAL THOUGHTS

COLEMAN JACKSON, ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

ATTORNEY: Coleman Jackson

Welcome to Legal Thoughts

My name is Coleman Jackson and I am an attorney at Coleman Jackson, P.C., a taxation, litigation and immigration law firm based in Dallas, Texas.

In addition to myself, we have Alexis Brewer – Tax Legal Assistant, Leiliane Godeiro – Litigation Legal Assistant, Gladys Marcos – Immigration Legal Assistant, and Johanna Powell – Tax Legal Assistant.

On today’s “Legal Thoughts” podcast, our Tax Legal Assistant, Alexis Brewer, will be interviewing me on the important topic of: “Federal Tax Obligations of Gig Workers.”

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

Hi everyone, my name is Alexis Brewer and I am a Tax Legal Assistant at the tax, litigation and immigration law firm of Coleman Jackson, Professional Corporation. Our law firm is located at 6060 North Central Expressway, Suite 620, right here in Dallas, Texas.

Good afternoon, Attorney; thank you for agreeing to sit with me as I interview you with respect to this hot tax topic: “Federal Tax Obligations of Gig Workers.”

Let’s jump right in,

Question 1: What is gig work and who classifies as a gig worker?

Attorney Answer – Question 1:

Hello Alexis.

The IRS defines gig work as “any activity where people earn income providing on-demand work, services or goods. Often, it’s through a digital platform like an app or website.” Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in gig workers.

Gig work includes jobs like:

  1. Driving for ride-sharing apps or deliveries (for example: Uber, Amazon, DoorDash)
  2. Running errands or completing tasks (for example: Instacart or TaskRabbit)
  3. Selling goods online or renting equipment (for example: Etsy or online shops)
  4. Renting out property or part of it (for example: Airbnb or Turo)
  5. Providing creative or professional services (for example: Upwork or Handy.com)
  6. Any other temporary, on-demand or freelance work

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

Question 2: What do gig workers need to know about their federal tax obligations?

Attorney Answer – Question 2:

First and foremost, Alexis, Gig workers must know that gig work is taxable under the Internal Revenue Code!

Whether it’s a full-time job or just a side hustle, taxpayers must report gig income on their federal tax return. Under the 2021 American Rescue Act, the reporting threshold for gig workers was reduced to $600 with no minimum transaction requirement. That means regardless of how many “jobs” or transactions you do, if you made more than $600, you are required to pay taxes on that income.

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

Well, what taxes are gig workers responsible for?

Attorney Answer – Question 3:

This is a very complex question, and requires a nuanced answer since it depends on whether the gig worker is properly classified as an employee or as an independent contractor.

The IRS defines an employee as “anyone who performs work when an employer has the right to control what will be done and how it will be done. Even if the employer gives freedom of action.” This is the most intuitive classification because it is the normal employee/employer relationship we’re used to.

When a gig worker is classified as an employee, their employer withholds required taxes from the employee’s paycheck; such as, Income Taxes, Social security taxes & Medicare. Let me point out that Texas does not have a state income tax. As with typical employee-employer jobs, gig employees who are properly classified as an employee will receive a standard w-2, and includes their gig earnings reported on their W-2 on their annual Form 1040 tax return.

The more difficult or complex situation occurs when a gig worker is properly classified as an independent contractor. The general rule is that a worker is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. For example, independent contractors normally have the freedom to hire others to complete their work.

Unlike employees, independent contractors do not have withholdings taken out of their paychecks before they receive them. This means independent contractors will receive annually a Form 1099 instead of a Form W-2.  Independent Contractors are responsible for paying self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes consist of the same two parts: Social security & Medicare. Unlike when the worker is an employee and employers pay one-half of these taxes, independent contractors are required to pay the entire amount of these taxes.

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

How will gig workers know if they are employees or independent contractors?

Attorney Answer – Question 4:

It is the employer/business owner who will make this classification because they are ultimately responsible for withholding taxes if the worker is an employee. (If the employer cannot decide, Form SS-4 can be filed with the IRS, and the IRS will make the determination. Form SS-4 can be filed by the employer or the worker. Currently the IRS may take up to 6 months to process Form SS-4).

To determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor the employer will examine the relationship between the worker and the business.

Employers (or the IRS, if necessary) will need to consider all evidence of the degree of control and independence in this relationship. The facts that provide this evidence fall into three categories – Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and Relationship of the Parties.

  1. Behavioral Control covers facts that show if the business has a right to direct and control what work is accomplished and how the work is done, through instructions, training, or other means.
  2. Financial Control covers facts that show if the business has a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job. This includes:
    1. The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses
    2. The extent of the worker’s investment in the facilities or tools used in performing services
    3. The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market
    4. The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or incur a loss, and
    5. How the business pays the worker
  3. Relationship of the Parties covers facts that show the type of relationship the parties had. This includes:
    1. Written contracts or oral agreements describing the relationship the parties intended to create
    2. Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay, or sick pay
    3. The permanency of the relationship, and
    4. The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company

Employers will need to consider the entire relationship with the worker when determining whether to classify the worker as an employee or independent contractor. Proper classification of workers is governed by federal and state labor laws and misclassification of workers can carry huge federal and state consequences.

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

Okay, so let’s say a gig worker is classified as an independent contractor and is responsible for the self-employment tax you referenced.

QUESTION 5:
What does this mean?

Attorney Answer – Question 5:

If a gig worker is classified as an independent contractor, they are responsible for self-employment taxes.  The United States tax system is a pay-as-you-go system, which means that gig workers classified as independent contractors who earned over $600 during the tax period are required to pay quarterly estimated tax payments.

The general rule is that everyone is required to pay federal taxes as they earn/receive income. Again, a pay-as-you-go system. Estimated tax payments are required when earned income is not subject to automatic withholdings (as with employees) and taxpayers expect to have tax liability at the end of the year.

Estimated taxes are calculated at the beginning of the year and are paid on a quarterly basis, typically due on April 15, June 15, and September 15 of the tax year, and the final payment is made on January 15 of the following year. Failure to pay estimated tax could result in a tax penalty assessment by the IRS.

INTERVIEWER: Alexis Brewer, Tax Legal Assistant

Attorney, thank you for such clear and thorough answers to my questions this afternoon. We’ve discussed a lot in a very short period of time, so let me wrap up my questions regarding the gig worker and federal income taxes with this one final question.

QUESTION 6:
What are the big takeaways for gig workers?

Attorney Answer – Question 6:

Thank you, Alexis for your excellent questions on this very important tax topic, because you are right, the gig economy took off during the pandemic.  Let me summarize like this—

  1. The main takeaway is that gig work is taxable!
  2. The next big takeaway is that gig workers tax reporting responsibilities are based on how their company/employer classifies them… either as an employee or as an independent contractor:
    1. If a gig worker is classified as an employee, taxes will be withheld from their paycheck, and they will receive a standard Form W-2.
    2. If a gig worker is classified as an independent contractor, no taxes are withheld, and they are responsible for paying self-employment taxes for earnings over $600.
  3. Finally, the last major takeaway is that if a gig worker is an independent contractor and is responsible for self-employment taxes, they may also be required to make quarterly estimated income tax payments directly to the IRS. I cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping up with estimated tax payments if required.

Interviewer Wrap-Up

Attorney, thank you for siting with me today to explain how U.S. law:

  1. Defines what the term, “gig workers” even means,
  2. Splits gig workers into two broad classifications as either employees or independent contractors, and
  3. How U.S. tax law imposes varying federal tax obligations and responsibilities upon gig workers depending upon how they are classified by their employers – as either employees or independent contractors.

It seems like the overall idea here is that gig workers need to be aware of how their employers are classifying them, especially if they are independent contractors. And a general takeaway here is that surprises are not good where federal tax obligations and responsibilities are concerned.

To our listeners who want to hear more podcast like this one please subscribes to our Legal Thoughts Podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify or where ever you listen to your podcast. Take care, everyone!  And come back in about two weeks, for more taxation, litigation and immigration Legal Thoughts from Coleman Jackson, P.C., located right here in Dallas, Texas at 6060 North Central Expressway, Suite 620, Dallas, Texas 75206.

English callers:  214-599-0431 | Spanish callers:  214-599-0432 |Portuguese callers: 214-272-3100

Attorney Closing Remarks

This is the end of today’s Legal Thoughts!

Thank you all for giving us the opportunity to inform you about: “Federal Tax Obligations of the Gig Worker.”

If you want to see or hear more taxation, litigation and immigration LEGAL THOUGHTS from Coleman Jackson, P.C.  Subscribe to our Legal Thoughts Podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast.

Stay tuned!  We are here in Dallas, Texas and want to inform, educate and encourage our communities on topics dealing with taxation, litigation and immigration.  Until next time, take care.