Am I Required to Fill Out a W-9 as a Sole Proprietor?

By Kay Lee

As the tax filing deadline looms each year, taxpayers begin to compile the relevant information to file income taxes. In addition to filing personal income taxes, business owners and employers must make sure to file their business tax returns and provide paperwork to employees, contractors and other individuals as required by the IRS. A sole proprietorship and its owner are treated as a single entity under tax law, and often must fill out a Form W-9.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietor is the owner of a sole proprietorship, which is a business entity formed with little formality. Sole proprietors are not considered independent of their sole proprietorship for tax purposes; this means that the sole proprietor will include business expenses and income on his personal income taxes. The IRS essentially treats sole proprietors as self-employed individuals for tax purposes.

IRS Protocol

When a business hires and pays a sole proprietor, such as a computer repairman, the business must report the payment to the IRS to help ensure that the sole proprietor pays taxes on the funds. In order to report this information and determine whether to withhold taxes from payments, the hiring business asks the sole proprietor to complete IRS Form W-9. This form asks for the mailing address and taxpayer identification number of the hired party. The hiring party is required by law to provide the IRS and the hired party with a Form 1099 if the payment for the services exceeds a certain threshold.

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Purpose of W-9

The purpose of a Form W-9 is to provide the IRS with a checks and balances system; thereby, allowing the IRS to verify whether individuals or business entities are reporting the correct sources of income. Forms W-9 are used to certify the accuracy of the taxpayer identification number. Also, the W-9 allows the hiring party to determine whether the individual or entity being hired is subject to backup withholding, which is the mandatory withholding of taxes from certain payments.

Sole Proprietor W-9 Requirements

Since a sole proprietor and his sole proprietorship are considered a single entity for tax purposes, the sole proprietor must fill out Forms W-9 for business transactions. The hiring party is required to request the information and the sole proprietor must fill out the Form W-9 accurately, under penalties of perjury. The sole proprietor will designate that it is a sole proprietor and accordingly, any income paid from that business relationship will be reported to the IRS provided it exceeds certain thresholds.

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