Misclassification of Workers as Independent Contractors: How to Take Advantage of IRS’s New Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

Marcia Swihart Orgill

By Marcia Swihart Orgill

Both the IRS and the Department of Labor have indicated their intent to target misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees. In the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, $240 million is allocated for initiatives specifically related to enforcing this misclassification.

Employers who have misclassified workers in the past may want to consider taking part in a new program that will allow them to voluntarily correct their misclassification of workers at a relatively low cost. As part of its “fresh start initiative”, the IRS recently announced a new Voluntarily Classification Settlement Program (VCSP).

Under this program, eligible employers will only pay an amount that equals just over one percent of the wages paid to the misclassified workers in the past year, if they prospectively treat these workers as employees. The IRS will not audit employers on payroll taxes related to these workers for past years, and employers will not be subject to interest or penalties for past misclassifications.

In order to be eligible for the program the employer must:

  1. consistently have treated the workers in the past as non-employees,
  2. have filed all required Forms 1099 for the workers for the previous three years, and
  3. not currently be under audit by the IRS, the Department of Labor, or a state agency concerning the classification of these workers.

To apply for the program, an employer must file Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, at least 60 days before it wants to commence treating the workers as employees.

Employers participating in the program will be subject to a six-year statute of limitations for the first three years under the program, rather than the three-year statute of limitations that generally applies to payroll taxes.

Information about the VCSP is contained in IRS Announcement 2011-64.

Posted by Attorney Marcia S. Orgill. Orgill concentrates her practice in the area of business and personal taxation—especially complex domestic and international tax strategies.

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