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Finance concept with W9 TIN tax form

What is an IRS W9 Form?

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The IRS W9 is one of the simplest of all IRS forms to fill out. It’s also one of the most important from the standpoint of the government. The W9 helps the IRS keep track of independent contractors, consultants and a variety of other self-employed workers. Those workers must include income made in their part-time or side jobs if it reaches a certain level. The W9 from employers tells the IRS to expect that income to be included on the tax returns of those individuals or businesses.

Understanding the W9 Form

It is the obligation of the company or individual hiring self-employed workers to have each and every worker in that category fill out a W9 form. The form itself can be completed in a minute or less. All that’s require is your name and Social Security number, or in the case of a business working as a consultant or subcontractor to another company, the business name and Employer Identification Number.

Who Must Fill Out an IRS W9 Form?

Any individual or company who is self-employed should fill out a W9 form for every company that the individual or company receives payment from. For example, an accountant in a company who performs freelance accounting services for clients that’s not in any way connected to his main employer should file W9 forms for every client.

Income Reporting Limits

If you work as a consultant to a company or individual during the year, fill out a W9 form but earn less than $600, you do not have to report that income to the government and the money is taxed. That’s true even if you work for several clients, as long no individual client pays you $600 or more during the year. For example, if the Associated Press hired hundreds of freelance photographers during the year to take pictures in circumstances in which staff photographers for the AP were not available, each of those fill-in photographers would be required to fill out an IRS W9 form. The AP then would report the income paid to any of those photographers once it reached the $600 level during the year. That reporting would then trigger the government to look for a corresponding amount of income on the tax return of the fill-in photographer.

Penalties Related to the IRS W9 Form

According to, a taxpayer who does not provide a correct social security number or Employer Identification Number on the IRS W9 form faces only a $50 fine if the IRS determines the mistake was not something intended to defraud the government. A penalty of up to $500 is possible in cases where it’s clear the mistake was not a simple error and taxpayers could be subject to possible imprisonment for lying on W9 forms to gain an economic advantage.

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