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W-9 Form Demystified. Step-By-Step Guide for Freelancers in 2024

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As an independent contractor or freelancer, it's essential to understand various tax forms that pertain to your business. One such form is the taxes W-9 form, which plays a crucial role in ensuring proper tax reporting. In this article, we will delve into the details of the editable W-9 form, its purpose, how to obtain and fill it out correctly and shed light on some cases where you may not use it.

What Is a W-9?

The W-9 tax form, officially known as the "Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification," is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form used to gather information from independent contractors, freelancers, and other self-employed individuals about their tax identification number (TIN) and legal name for tax purposes. 

Clients who hire your services may require you to complete a W-9 form when working as an independent contractor or freelancer. This form helps them fulfill their obligation to report the payment they make to you to the IRS accurately.

What is W-9 tax form used for?

The W-9 paper is a critical piece of documentation in the U.S. tax system, serving various administrative and compliance-related purposes. Main W-9 purpose of form is to provide necessary taxpayer information to help employers accurately report income paid to independent contractors and freelancers to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Businesses file this information using the 1099 form and retain a W9 copy for their records. If you are an independent contractor, your clients may ask you for a filled-out W-9 to correctly report the payments they've made to you.

How to Fill Out the W-9 Form

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Filling out the W-9 form is pretty simple; here are key steps to avoid any potential issues with the IRS down the road:

  1. Start completing by downloading a free W-9 tax form from the IRS website. Though your employer might supply you with the IRS tax form W9, you can download it directly from the website.
  2. In the first section, input your legal name as it appears on your tax documents into line 1 of the fillable W-9. 
  3. If you have a business or DBA name, include it on line 2. If not, leave it blank. 
  4. Next, on line 3 of the W-9 paperwork, specify your tax classification that matches your current situation. This helps the Internal Revenue with your W-9 and tax purposes. If you're a sole proprietor, single-member LLC, or an individual, that's what you'll list. Also, if you're an S corporation, C Corporation, partnership, or multi-member LLC, mention that as well.
  5. On line 5, input your mailing address where you expect to receive important tax info. Your client will use this address if you're an independent contractor or a freelancer when preparing your 1099-MISC for tax filing. 
  6. Line 6 is for entering the city, state, and zip of your address. 
  7. Subsequently, on the fillable W-9 form, specify your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), which could be your Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN), depending on the structure of your business. If you're an individual, use your SSN. As a sole proprietor or a sole-member LLC, you can use your EIN or SSN. Other business entities should use the EIN.
  8. Once you've filled out the W-9 online, you'll need to date and sign Part II of the form. This is required to certify that the information you submitted is correct. However, you only need to sign if you're completing it due to an inactive broker account during 1983, a real estate transaction, or open-interest, broker, dividend, or barter exchange accounts after 1983. 

Remember to securely send the filled W-9 form only to trusted individuals or establishments, considering its sensitive information. This way, you can confidently achieve accurate tax filing using the W-9 blank form.

W-9 online signing

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Signing a W-9 form online is becoming increasingly popular as it leads to greater efficiency and ease of document submission, particularly for freelancers and independent contractors who may not have access to printers and scanners. Here's a here are three ways you can sign this IRS form:

  • Type: You can easily type your name in the designated signature field in the form. The online platform enables different font options for signatures; you get to select any that closely resembles your signature. This feature digitally inserts a signature-style font of your name into the signature box.
  • Draw: This platform lets you draw your signature using a mouse or trackpad. Click on the ‘draw’ option, then use your trackpad or mouse to create your signature. This method yields a result that closely mimics your real, handwritten signature. However, it may require a bit of practice to get it right, especially if you're using a device with a sensitive touchpad or an inaccurate mouse.
  • Upload: Another method available for you is the ability to upload an image of your signature. If you select this option, you'll need to sign a piece of paper, then scan or click the picture of your written signature and save it on your computer first. After that, you upload the image file to the designated area on the form. This method provides a very accurate and professional-looking signature but requires a bit of extra time and equipment.

How to obtain a W-9 form

Obtaining a writable W-9 form is straightforward. You can either download a W-9 form online directly from the IRS website or use an online tax service. The downloadable W 9 in PDF can be filled electronically, helping to streamline your tax paperwork. It's worth noting that you must check for the most recent version since the IRS occasionally updates these forms. You need to provide an esign W-9 to validate your filled-out form.

When can I not fill out a W-9 form

There are instances where you should not fill out a W-9 form:

  • Non-U.S. Citizen: If you are not a U.S. citizen or other U.S. person, such as a resident alien, you typically cannot fill out a W-9 form. Non-U.S. persons use a different form, likely a W-8 series form.
  • Not an independent contractor or freelancer: If you are not operating as a freelancer, independent contractor, or business owner but rather as an employee, then you do not need to fill out a W-9 form. 
  • Not Providing Services to a Business: A W-9 form is typically completed by independent contractors and business owners who are providing a service to another business. If you are an employee, you would instead fill out a W4 form
  • Not receiving reportable income: If a company did not pay you more than $600 in a single tax year, they would not necessarily need a completed W-9 from you.
  • Untrustworthy requestor: If you do not trust the person or entity asking you to fill out a W-9 form, don't. This form contains sensitive information (like your social security number) that could be misused. 
  • You're a Minor: While there are circumstances where minors might fill out a W-9 form, generally, if you're under 18, you won't fill out W-9 online. There are exception though, especially in situations where a minor is self-employed.

Please remember to consult with a tax or legal professional for advice suited to your specific situation if you have any questions.

W-8 vs W-9 form

These two forms have similarities in that U.S. financial institutions often require them to ensure compliance with tax laws. However, a W-8 form is primarily for entities who are foreign persons. In contrast, the W-9 is for U.S residents, including U.S citizens, resident aliens, and specific types of entities. 

W-9 form vs W-2

W-2 and W-9 forms are both crucial pieces of tax paperwork, but they are used for very different purposes. Whereas a W-9 is filled out by independent contractors and freelancers, a W-2 form is filled out by your employer if you're a regular employee, not a contractor. Your employer uses a W-2 form to report how much they've paid you in wages and how much they've withheld in taxes. On the other hand, the W 9 blank simply collects information about you as an independent contractor and does not report any payments or tax withholdings.

W-9 vs 1099 form

While they are related, it's essential to understand the difference between a W-9 and a 1099 form. A W-9 forms collects the Tax ID numbers and other relevant information from independent contractors and freelancers. 1099, on the other hand, is used by businesses to report to the IRS the amount of money they've paid to non-employees in the course of their business, such as contractors, freelancers or self-employed individuals.

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