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Navigating the world of taxes can feel overwhelming, especially when forms like the W-9 come into play. But it doesn’t have to. A W-9 is essential for independent contractors, freelancers, and anyone involved in business outside traditional “9-to-5” employment. Understanding what a W-9 form is and how to accurately complete it is crucial for making sure you get paid and taxed correctly.

Follow this guide to learn the essentials of the W-9 form to stay on the right track for taxes.

What is a W-9 form?

The W-9 form is officially called a “Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.” It’s a key document used by the IRS to gather information from individuals who provide services as independent contractors or freelancers and other businesses acting as vendors.

Unlike traditional employees, whose tax details are collected through W-4 forms, individuals working independently must fill out a W-9. You provide your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), which could be a Social Security number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN). The W-9 helps businesses accurately report to the IRS the money paid to contractors, ensuring everyone pays their taxes accurately.

In some cases, other businesses that pay you income in the form of interest or dividends, like a bank or real estate brokerage, may ask for a W-9 so they can prepare accurate 1099 forms during tax season.

For more insight, learn more about tax refunds and the best ways to use one.

Who needs to fill out a W-9 form?

If you provide services to a business and earn more than $600 in a calendar year, you’re likely required to provide a W-9.¹

If you want to keep your Social Security number private or work as a registered business, like an LLC or S Corporation, you can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free.² This number is like a Social Security number for your business.

Many companies ask for a W-9 up front when hiring a new contractor or freelancer to ensure compliance with IRS regulations, even if they may not pay you more than $600.

Steps for filling out a W-9 form

Completing a W-9 form is pretty straightforward – you likely already know all of the information that needs to be included. You can download a blank PDF version of Form W-9 from the IRS website.

H3 – Step 1 to fill out Form W-9: Add contact and business information

  • Box 1: Provide your name or business name as shown on your income tax return.
  • Box 2: Add your business name if it’s different from Box 1.
  • Box 3: Select your federal tax classification, such as sole proprietor or LLC.
  • Box 4: Specify any exemptions if applicable.
  • Box 5 to Box 7: Input your street address.
  • Optional: Provide the requester’s information if known.

If you’re a freelancer and work with many clients, consider keeping a copy of Form W-9 easily available on your computer, as you can send the same form to multiple clients. You don’t need to update your W-9 unless your information changes or a new version of the form comes out from the IRS.

H3 – Step 2 to fill out Form W-9: Add your tax ID number

In part two, you fill in your taxpayer identification number (TIN). This is either your Social Security number or Employer ID number.

If you don’t have an EIN and want one, you can get one on the IRS website in just a few minutes. The EIN system only operates on weekdays from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm Eastern. You can get an EIN here. Keep that number handy, as you’ll need it for your W-9 and other tax forms.

H3 – Step 3 to fill out Form W-9: Sign and date your form

The last step is certification of your form, which is a fancy way of saying you need to sign and date the form and guarantee its accuracy. Lying on your W-9 form is illegal, so double-check that your information is accurate before signing and giving it to the payer.

Chime tip: For a comprehensive guide on tax terminology, visit our glossary of tax terms.

Pro tips for W-9 form submission

To make the W-9 form submission process as smooth as possible, follow these tips:

  • Thoroughly review all instructions provided.
  • Verify the accuracy of your information before submission.
  • Keep your data private where possible to prevent identity theft.
  • Seek guidance from a financial expert if uncertain.
  • Confirm your self-employment status to ensure proper reporting.
  • Maintain a copy of your form for your records.
  • Update your information as necessary.
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Filling out a W-9 is easy but important for freelancers and contractors

As gig-based jobs, freelancing, and side hustles flourish, knowing how to fill out a W-9 is essential. Luckily, it’s a simple form and is easy to complete.

By providing your tax information through this form, you can avoid potential penalties and ensure compliance with IRS requirements. Check out our complete guide on filing taxes as a freelancer for other steps in the process.

FAQs

What happens If I do not provide a W-9 form?

Not providing a W-9 when requested can result in backup withholding, where the payer must withhold tax from your income at the current rate set by the IRS.³

Is W-9 income taxable?

Yes, income reported through a W-9 is taxable. Reporting this income on your tax return is vital to avoid underreporting penalties.

What's the safest way to submit your W-9?

The safest way to submit your W-9 is directly to the person or company who requested it, preferably through secure electronic means or in person, to lower the risk of identity theft.

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Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank, N.A. and Stride Bank, N.A. (“Banks”). Banks are not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

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¹ Information from Internal Revenue Service "Forms and Associated Taxes for Independent Contractors" as of April 12, 2024: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/forms-and-associated-taxes-for-independent-contractors

² Information from Internal Revenue Service "Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online as of April 12, 2024: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online

³ Information from Internal Revenue Service "Backup Withholding" as of April 12, 2024: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/backup-withholding

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