Apr 06, 2021

What Is a W9 Form?

Form W9—as stated on the form itself—is a “Request for Taxpayer Identification and Certification” by a person or organization.

The W9 (W-9) form is an IRS document used to provide a US citizen’s taxpayer identification number (TIN) to another person or organization who will need to report specific information about that taxpayer to the IRS such as income paid, IRA contributions made, interest payments, capital gains, and other transactions within the year.

The W9 form is tied to the IRS tax form 1099, which will eventually be used to report earnings. Most often, the W9 and subsequent 1099-NEC form are used for independent contractors, freelancers, or consultants. These 2 documents work hand-in-hand to make sure that each US citizen accurately reports all their earnings to the IRS. 

If you’re wondering whether you need to complete or request a W9, keep reading to learn more about this common IRS tax document.

Who Needs to Fill Out a W9?

The W9 form is most commonly used for freelancers or independent contractors—not full-time employees—who an organization expects to pay more than $600 within the year. The purpose of the W9 is merely to provide the company with your appropriate taxpayer identification information so they correctly complete and submit your 1099.

As such, you—an independent contractor—will be the person who fills out the W9 tax form.

Where Do I Get a W9 Form?

You can access and download Form W9 directly from the IRS’s website. However, most organizations will send you a copy of the W9 form as part of the onboarding process as an independent contractor.

Businesses must submit a tax form 1099 for any contractor they pay $600 or more to throughout the year. Rather than scrambling to collect tax ID numbers from contractors while they are preparing their tax documents, it helps to have TINs on file as soon as possible.

Therefore, you may be asked to complete a W9 even if you don’t expect to earn $600 or more as a precaution.  

Is W9 the Same as 1099?

No, the W9 and 1099 are not the same IRS tax document. Form W9 is a prerequisite for tax form 1099. The W9 provides the information needed on the 1099 to correctly identify the US taxpayer.

What’s the Difference Between Form W9 and Form W4?

A W4 and W9 tax form both ask for information about the taxpayer and are both used by an organization to correctly identify and report earnings throughout the year. However, the W4 is for employees the organization will be withholding income or payroll taxes from. The W9 is intended for independent contractors who will need to pay their own taxes on those earnings.

How Do I Complete Form W9?

Unlike many other tax documents, the W9 form is relatively simple to fill out. You will need to have some information on hand, but the form shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to complete once you’re ready.

You will be asked the following:

  • Your name: This should match the name that the IRS has on file for you.
  • Business name: If you’re completing the form as an entity and that name is different from your own, put that legal entity name here.
  • Federal tax classification: If you’re filing as an individual, you’ll select the first option. If you’re filing as an entity, you’ll need to confirm the type of business (corporation, partnership, LLC, etc.).
  • Address/Account Numbers
  • Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN): The most important information on the form—you will need to input your Social Security number (SSN) if you’re filing as an individual or Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you’re completing the W9 as an entity.
  • Signature

When Do I Need to Complete a W9?

You need to complete and submit your W9 before an organization begins filing your 1099. Because the W9 form contains personal, private information, you should only submit it to people and organizations you trust.

When Do I Need to Update My W9?

You only need to update your W9 if information on the form has changed. For example, if you originally filed as an individual but decided to create an LLC for tax purposes, you will need to change your information and submit your EIN.

When Do I Need to Request Form W9?

If you’re hiring or have hired an independent contractor who you’ve paid or expect to pay $600 or more, you will need to request them to complete a W9 tax form. In addition to the W9, you will also need to complete and file Form 1099. While there are many 1099 forms, you’ll likely need to submit the 1099-NEC (formerly 1099-MISC) for independent contractors and freelancers.

Whether you’re a contractor or a business owner, the W9 form is an IRS document worth understanding. Simply, this tax document is used to communicate a taxpayer’s ID with another person or entity. 

This ID is then used in tax documents submitted by that person or entity to the IRS that will ultimately be reconciled against what the taxpayer submits to the IRS for earnings that year. If you’re looking for more tax resources and assistance, sign-up for our email list or browse our blog.

 

About the author

Derek Miller
Derek Miller
Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.

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