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Navigating Murky Waters: Tax Challenges for Home-Based Businesses | Part Eight

    Published July 28, 2023

    Table of Contents

    • Part One: Importance of Home-based Businesses in the modern economy
    • Part Two: Tax Obligations for Home-Based Businesses
    • Part Three: Identifying Tax Deductions for Home-Based Businesses
    • Part Four: Overview of deductible business expenses for home-based businesses
    • Part Five: Understanding self-employment tax Obligations
    • Part Six: Overcoming Obstacles with Sales Tax
    • Part Seven: Collecting and Reporting Sales Tax
    • Part Eight: Employment Taxes and Independent Contractors


    In the last post, we provided a comprehensive overview of the processes involved in collecting and reporting sales tax for home-based businesses. We discussed the importance of determining the applicable tax rates, incorporating sales tax into pricing, updating invoicing systems, and providing clear sales receipts. We also outlined the steps for reporting and remitting sales tax, including determining obligations, registering for a sales tax permit, maintaining accurate records, calculating and reporting tax, and remitting payments. Additionally, we highlighted common sales tax mistakes to avoid, such as failing to register for a permit and misclassifying products or services. Lastly, we covered use tax obligations, explaining what use tax is, how to calculate and report use tax liabilities, and strategies for complying with use tax regulations.

    Employment Taxes and Independent Contractors

    Today, we will look at the differences between hiring employees and engaging independent contractors when expanding your business. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for entrepreneurs considering hiring help. By examining control and supervision, tax and legal obligations, long-term commitment, and cost considerations, you can make informed decisions that align with your business goals.

    Hiring Employees vs. Independent Contractors

    When expanding your business and considering hiring help, it’s important to understand the differences between hiring employees and independent contractors. Here are some key points to consider:

    Hiring Employees:

    1. Control and Supervision: As an employer, you have more control over employees. You can direct and supervise their work, set their schedules, and provide them with training and resources.
    2. Tax and Legal Obligations: Hiring employees comes with various tax and legal responsibilities. These include withholding and remitting payroll taxes, providing benefits such as healthcare and retirement plans, and complying with employment laws, such as minimum wage and overtime regulations.
    3. Long-Term Commitment: Hiring employees typically involves a long-term commitment. You may need to provide stability, job security, and advancement opportunities. Employees become an integral part of your business and contribute to its growth and success.
    4. Cost Considerations: Hiring employees can be more costly than engaging independent contractors. In addition to wages, you need to factor in expenses such as payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and benefits. There may also be costs associated with recruiting, training, and managing employees.

    Independent Contractors:

    1. Flexibility and Autonomy: Independent contractors operate with more autonomy. They typically have specialized skills or expertise and can perform tasks or projects according to their own methods and schedules. Contractors are responsible for managing their own work and meeting project deliverables.
    2. Tax and Legal Considerations: When engaging independent contractors, you generally do not have the same tax and legal obligations as with employees. Contractors are responsible for their own taxes and often provide their own equipment or supplies. However, ensure that you correctly classify workers to avoid misclassification penalties.
    3. Short-Term or Project-Based Engagement: Independent contractors are often hired for specific projects or a defined period. This flexibility allows you to tap into specialized skills as needed without a long-term commitment. Contractors provide services on a contractual basis, and the relationship typically ends upon project completion.
    4. Cost Considerations: Engaging independent contractors can be cost-effective as you are not responsible for providing benefits or incurring other employment-related costs. However, contractors generally charge higher rates than employees due to the self-employment taxes they must pay and the lack of benefits.

    Differences between employees and independent contractors

    1. Control and Supervision:
    • Employees: Employers have the right to control and direct employees’ work. They can set schedules, provide instructions, and supervise the details of how tasks are performed.
    • Independent Contractors: Contractors operate with more independence and control over their work. They determine how and when to complete tasks and are not subject to direct supervision by the hiring party.
    1. Relationship and Commitment:
    • Employees: The employer-employee relationship is typically long-term and ongoing. Employees are an integral part of the business, and there is an expectation of continued employment.
    • Independent Contractors: The contractor-client relationship is often project-based or limited in duration. Contractors are hired to complete specific tasks or projects, and the relationship ends once the work is finished.
    1. Tax and Legal Obligations:
    • Employees: Employers are responsible for withholding and remitting payroll taxes, such as income tax and Social Security/Medicare taxes, on behalf of their employees. Employers must also provide certain benefits, such as workers’ compensation insurance and unemployment insurance.
    • Independent Contractors: Contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes, including self-employment taxes. They are not eligible for employee benefits provided by the hiring party.
    1. Equipment and Supplies:
    • Employees: Employers typically provide employees with the necessary equipment, tools, and supplies to perform their work.
    • Independent Contractors: Contractors generally use their own equipment and provide their own supplies to complete the contracted work.
    1. Financial Arrangements:
    • Employees: Employees receive a regular salary or wages from their employer, often on a set schedule. They may be eligible for additional compensation such as bonuses or commissions.
    • Independent Contractors: Contractors are usually paid a flat fee or an agreed-upon rate for the specific project or task. They may invoice the hiring party for their services.
    1. Benefits and Protections:
    • Employees: Employees may be entitled to benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and other benefits provided by the employer. They are also protected by various employment laws, such as minimum wage and overtime regulations.
    • Independent Contractors: Contractors do not typically receive employee benefits unless they provide them for themselves. They are not covered by employment laws and regulations that apply to employees.

    Tax implications of hiring employees or engaging independent contractors

    The tax implications of hiring employees or engaging independent contractors differ in several ways. Here are some key points to consider:

    Hiring Employees:

    1. Payroll Taxes: As an employer, you are responsible for withholding and remitting various payroll taxes on behalf of your employees. These taxes typically include federal and state income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Both you and your employees contribute to these taxes, with the employer responsible for withholding the employee’s portion from their wages.
    2. Employer Contributions: When you have employees, you are required to make certain contributions on their behalf. This includes the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal and state unemployment taxes. Additionally, you may be responsible for providing and contributing to employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and workers’ compensation insurance.
    3. Reporting Requirements: As an employer, you have reporting obligations related to your employees. This includes providing them with W-2 forms at the end of each year, which summarize their wages and tax withholdings. You must also file various employment tax returns and reports, such as Form 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return) and Form W-3 (Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements), with the appropriate tax authorities.

    Engaging Independent Contractors:

    1. No Payroll Taxes: When you engage independent contractors, you are generally not responsible for withholding or remitting payroll taxes on their behalf. Contractors are responsible for paying their own self-employment taxes, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes.
    2. Form 1099 Reporting: If you pay an independent contractor $600 or more in a calendar year, you are generally required to issue them a Form 1099-NEC (Nonemployee Compensation). This form reports the total amount you paid to the contractor during the year and is submitted to both the contractor and the tax authorities.
    3. Limited Deductions: While you can deduct the expenses paid to independent contractors as a business expense, you generally have fewer deductions available compared to those related to employee wages and benefits. However, it’s important to ensure that the classification of workers as independent contractors is accurate and compliant with tax laws to avoid misclassification penalties.

    Final Thoughts

    Home-based businesses face several key tax challenges, making it crucial for entrepreneurs to understand and comply with their tax obligations. By doing so, they can navigate tax liabilities effectively and ensure compliance with tax laws. Some common challenges include the proper classification of workers as employees or independent contractors, calculating and reporting sales and use tax, and understanding payroll tax obligations. To overcome these challenges, home-based business owners should familiarize themselves with tax regulations, maintain accurate records, consider using tax automation software, and seek professional guidance when needed. By implementing these strategies, entrepreneurs can mitigate risks, maintain compliance, and focus on the growth and success of their home-based businesses.


    1. What are the tax implications of running a business from home?
      • Home-based businesses may have various tax implications, including deductions for a home office, potential changes in property taxes, and considerations for business expenses and self-employment taxes.
    2. How do I determine if someone working for me is an employee or an independent contractor?
      • The classification of workers as employees or independent contractors depends on factors such as the level of control over their work, the nature of the working relationship, and other criteria set by tax authorities. It is important to correctly classify workers to meet tax obligations and avoid misclassification penalties.
    3. Do I need to collect sales tax for products or services sold from my home-based business?
      • The requirement to collect sales tax depends on the specific rules and regulations of your jurisdiction. In many cases, if you sell taxable products or services and have a significant presence in a state, you may be required to collect and remit sales tax. It is important to understand the sales tax obligations in your area.
    4. What are the deductions I can claim for my home-based business?
      • Home-based businesses may be eligible for deductions such as a home office deduction, business expenses (e.g., supplies, equipment), mileage for business-related travel, and health insurance premiums if you are self-employed. However, eligibility for deductions depends on meeting specific criteria outlined by tax authorities.
    5. How do I handle payroll taxes for employees of my home-based business?
      • As an employer, you are responsible for withholding and remitting payroll taxes for your employees. This includes federal income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and potentially state and local income taxes. It is important to understand the payroll tax requirements and stay compliant with reporting and remittance obligations.