How to Fill Out a W9 for a Sole Proprietor

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Fill Out a W9 for a Sole Proprietor

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

If you are a freelancer, sole proprietor, or have a side gig, you've likely been asked by a person or business that you work for to fill-out a W-9. The following is what that means and how to do it.

Pen sitting on top of a contract and W-9

W-9 Terminology

There is a lot of terminology thrown around in association with W-9s. Understanding some key terms will help you understand the W-9 and other tax and business forms.

An independent contractor is a nonemployee who provides services to other people or businesses. For example, a freelance graphic designer is an independent contractor. A W-9 is a tax form (Form W-9), the Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification that independent contractors fill out and provide to the people and businesses they serve. At tax time, the people and businesses provide independent contractors with a summary of their earnings on a miscellaneous income form (Form 1099-MISC). For this reason, independent contractors are sometimes referred to as “1099s" or being “1099'd."

How to Fill Out Your W-9

Obtain a copy of the most up-to-date Form W-9 from the IRS. The form does not change frequently, but you should always obtain it directly from the website rather than using a saved version on your computer just in case.

Lines One Through Seven

Fill in the information requested on lines one through seven. Put your personal name on line one if you operate as a sole proprietor, meaning you have not formed an entity such as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). If you are a sole proprietor but operate under a different name, called "doing business as" or DBA, write your DBA on line two. If you are an LLC or corporation, write your LLC or corporation's full name on line one and do not write anything on line two.

In box three, select the type of business you run. If you are an LLC, it is a little tricky. If you are the only member of your LLC and have not filed a form requesting to be taxed like a corporation, select the “individual/sole proprietor or single-member LLC" box. If you are a multimember LLC or a single member LLC that has elected to be taxed like a corporation, select the “limited liability company" box, then write in the letter that corresponds with your tax election in the box. If you are uncertain about box three, ask your accountant.

List the address you use for your business on lines 5 and 6. Most people will not have anything to add on line 4 or line 7.

Use Your SSN or FEIN

Fill in either your personal social security number (SSN) or your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) in Part I. If you are a sole proprietor, use your social security number. If you are a business entity, use your business's FEIN. If your business does not have a FEIN, you can request one online.

Check Your Certification, Sign, and Date

Read the certification in Part II and make sure it is accurate. If it is, sign and date the W-9 in the signature section at the bottom.

The W-9 also has instructions at the bottom to help you fill it out correctly. If you are unsure about something, ask an experienced friend or trusted professional.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.