Form W2 vs 1099: An Overview

Updated on January 27, 2024 - 10:30 AM by Admin, TaxBandits

Form W-2 and Form 1099 are both essential forms for reporting income, but they have distinct roles and requirements based on employment status. Form W-2 is used to report the income paid and taxes withheld from the paychecks of employees (regular employees) during the year. On the other hand, a 1099 Form is used to report income or other payments made to non-employees, typically independent contractors, freelancers, or other non-payroll professionals, during the year. In this article, we will explore the key differences between these two forms and their respective filing requirements.

1. What is Form W-2?

Form W-2, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is used by businesses to report employee compensation, benefits, and the amount of taxes withheld from the employee's paycheck during the year. Businesses are required to file Form W-2 for each employee (who are classified as full-time or part-time employees) if they have paid $600 or more and withheld taxes during the year. Additionally, a copy of the form must be submitted to the SSA before the deadline.

2. What is Form 1099?

Form 1099 is a collection of tax return statements used to report various types of compensation and payments made to individuals who are not classified as employees. These non-employees encompass freelancers, independent contractors, self-employed individuals, and other non-payroll professionals.

Businesses and individuals have an obligation to file Form 1099 for these non-employees if they have provided compensation or wages for services rendered and have not withheld taxes as they would under a typical employer-employee agreement. Form 1099 should be filed with the IRS, and a copy should be distributed to recipients before the deadline.

3. Form 1099 vs W2 employees: What’s the difference?

The primary difference between 1099 employees (often referred to as independent contractors) and W-2 employees (regular employees) lies in their employment status, tax treatment, and the way they are classified by the employer. Here are the key distinctions:

Employment Relationship

  • W-2 Employees: W-2 employees have a traditional employer-employee relationship with the company. They work under the direct control and supervision of the employer, who withhold income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from their paychecks. Employers also typically provide benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.
  • 1099 Employees (Independent Contractors): 1099 employees, or independent contractors, are considered self-employed individuals or businesses. They are not employees of the company they provide services to but are engaged for specific projects or tasks. Independent contractors have more autonomy in how they complete their work, and the hiring company does not withhold taxes from their payments. They are responsible for paying their own taxes and usually do not receive traditional employee benefits.

Tax Responsibility

  • W-2 Employees: Employers are responsible for withholding federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, from the wages of W-2 employees. Employers also contribute to these taxes on behalf of the employee.
  • 1099 Employees (Independent Contractors): Independent contractors are responsible for paying their own income taxes, including self-employment taxes (which cover Social Security and Medicare contributions). They must make estimated tax payments throughout the year and handle their tax filings independently.

Benefits and Protections

  • W-2 Employees: W-2 employees typically have access to employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacation, and workers' compensation. They may also be eligible for certain labor law protections, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, and unemployment benefits.
  • 1099 Employees (Independent Contractors): 1099 Independent contractors are not entitled to employee benefits from the hiring company. They are responsible for their own insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits. They do not receive employment-related legal protections and may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Contract Duration

  • W-2 Employees: W-2 employees often have ongoing, long-term relationships with their employers and work regular hours.
  • 1099 Employees (Independent Contractors): Independent contractors are typically hired for specific projects or limited duration, and their working hours can be more flexible.

4. Form W2 vs 1099: What's the difference?

The W-2 Form and 1099 Form are used to report income earned by employees; however, there are some major differences that distinguish each form. Here are the key differences between the Form W-2 and 1099 forms:

Aspect Form W-2 Form 1099


Used to report income earned by employees who are classified as regular employees by their employer.

Used to report income and other payments made to non-employees during the year

Who must file


Businesses and Individuals

Who receives

Regular employees

Non-employees (e.g., independent contractors, freelancers)

Tax Withholding

Employers withhold income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes

No tax withholding, recipients are responsible for paying taxes

Income Sources

Typically covers salary, wages, tips, and other forms of compensation

Covers various types of income, such as freelance earnings, interest, dividends, rent, and more

5. How to determine an independent contractor ?

The major difference between an W-2 employee or independent contractor is the degree of control the business has over the employee. To determine whether a worker is an independent contractor, the IRS employs a set of criteria that assess the degree of control the business has over the worker. This evaluation involves considering the following factors:

  • Behavioral Control: Whether your business has control or the right to control how the worker performs their job. Factors such as instructions given, training provided, and the degree of supervision all play a role in determining the level of behavioral control.
  • Financial Control: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? These include considerations like the method of payment, reimbursement of expenses, and who provides necessary supplies.
  • Type of Relationship: Examines the nature of the relationship, looking at aspects such as the existence of a written contract between the parties, the permanency of the relationship, and whether the worker is entitled to employee-type benefits.

These elements help in determining the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor.

6. Can an individual get both a W-2 and a 1099?

There are instances where an individual may receive both a Form W-2 and a 1099. One such scenario arises when a person holds a dual role within a corporation, functioning as both an officer and an employee while also serving on the board of directors. In this situation, they would receive a W-2 for employee compensation and a 1099 for the fees earned in their capacity as a corporate director, which is classified as a non-employee position.

Additionally, an individual may obtain both types of information returns from the same company within the same tax year. This can happen if an independent contractor providing services to the company is subsequently hired as an employee. In such a case, the individual would receive a 1099 for payments received during their tenure as an independent contractor and a W-2 for payments once they join the company's payroll.

7. Why is it important for employers to correctly classify workers?

Ensuring the accurate classification of workers is crucial for employers due to various legal and financial implications. Misclassifying employees can lead to several significant consequences:

  • Financial Penalties: Incorrect classification may result in the need to repay wages, employment taxes, and other potential penalties. In cases where misclassification is deemed intentional or fraudulent, penalties can be as severe as 20 percent of wages paid, along with the entire FICA amount, including both the employee and employer shares.
  • Personal Liability: Owners can be personally held liable for income taxes and the employee share of FICA that should have been withheld, amplifying the financial burden and personal risk.
  • Criminal Penalties: The IRS might pursue criminal penalties of up to $1,000 per misclassified worker, emphasizing the seriousness of the consequences related to worker misclassification.
  • Department of Labor Penalties: Apart from IRS penalties, the U.S. Department of Labor can also impose its own penalties for the misclassification of workers, further complicating the financial repercussions for the business.

To avoid potential penalties, businesses can explore options such as seeking Section 530 relief, which provides a safeguard against employment tax penalties if payments to contractors have been consistently reported on 1099s and there is a reasonable basis for their classification as independent contractors. Additionally, employers can consider the IRS' Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) as a means to voluntarily reclassify contractors as employees, thereby minimizing penalties and ensuring compliance with tax obligations.

8. Form W2 vs 1099 workers: How do tax rates differ?

The tax rates for 1099 and W-2 workers differ significantly due to variations in the tax obligations of employers and independent contractors.

For employees who receive W-2s, the employer is responsible for paying half of the Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, which amounts to 7.65 percent of the employee's wages. The remaining 7.65 percent is withheld from the employee's paycheck by the employer and submitted to the IRS.

On the other hand, independent contractors who receive 1099s are liable for the full 15.3 percent self-employment tax on their earnings. Unlike W-2 employees, independent contractors are considered self-employed individuals and are responsible for both the employer and employee portions of the FICA taxes, which include the Social Security and Medicare taxes.

9. Form W2 vs 1099: When is the deadline to file?

The deadlines for filing Form W-2 and Form 1099 depend on whether you're an employer or a payer, and there are some exceptions for specific types of 1099 forms:

  • Form W-2: Employers must file Form W2 with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and provide a copy to their employees by January 31st of the following year. For instance, for income earned in 2023, employers need to provide Form W-2 to employees and file it with the IRS by January 31, 2024.
  • Form 1099: For most Form 1099 categories, payers must provide Form 1099 to the recipients (such as independent contractors or vendors) by January 31st of the following year. A copy of Form 1099 should be submitted to the IRS by the last day of February (February 28) if filing by paper or by March 31 if filing electronically.

However, there are some exceptions to these deadlines:

  • Form 1099-NEC: Both the recipient copy and the IRS copy should be filed with the IRS by January 31st.
  • Form 1099-MISC (Box 8 or 10): If payments were reported in Box 8 or 10 of Form 1099-MISC, the deadline to distribute recipient copies is February 15th.
  • Form 1099-B and Form 1099-S: The deadline to distribute recipient copies for these forms is also February 15th.
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Note: If any of the deadlines falls on a public holiday or weekend, the deadline moves to the next business day.

10. How to File Form 1099 and W-2 with TaxBandits?

With TaxBandits, filing your W-2 and 1099 forms becomes a swift and straightforward process. In just a few easy steps, you can ensure tax compliance. TaxBandits offers features like bulk upload, internal audit checks, TIN matching, and the convenience of e-filing for both federal and state copies. You can distribute recipient copies through postal mail or online access, accommodating your recipients' preferences.

Additionally, TaxBandits streamlines vendor onboarding with its W-9 management tool, simplifying the collection and integration of vendor 1099 information into your returns. Overall, TaxBandits is a comprehensive solution that makes tax form filing efficient and hassle-free.

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