Do household workers need to fill out a W-9 form?

When you operate as a business organization, it is relatively native to differentiate between freelancers and officially hired employees, so there are no questionable moments taxation about and documents to file. However, when you independently hire an in-home worker like a nanny or a ‘seasonal’ plumber, it goes differently, depending on a type of services your household workers provide. Some are considered direct employees while some remain in the ‘freelancing’ zone. Formal procedures for both categories as well as IRS forms differ a lot.

Tax forms

There are two blanks for each category:

  • W-9 is designed for independent vendors or any other kind of business which operate as an individual proprietor.
  • W-4 is a blank to be completed by employees for employers to know how much income to withhold from wages.

Both documents are downloadable – you can find them on the official IRS website. These forms come in fillable PDF files, so any document editor will allow to fill out the boxes on a computer rather than by hand. There’s an option to print blanks, though.

Independent contractor or not?

To qualify as a freelancer, the worker must be able to determine various aspects such as time, days to work, how and where services are provided. Also, contractors use their own equipment to perform tasks. An example of an independent contractor who fall into the category of household services would be a gardener – their job is not regulated by an employer. So your gardener is supposed to supply a W-9 when it comes to taxes.

When you begin controlling the process of how the work is done, your household workers become your employees. Say, you hired a cleaning lady to help you out. She comes to you on a daily basis, and you regulate her duties around the house. So, if you ask yourself ‘does my cleaning lady have to sign a W-9’, the answer is: no. She is regarded as an employee, and you have to work with W-4s instead of W-9s.