W-2 & 1099 Forms and Classification Regulations
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W-2 & 1099 Forms and Classification Regulations

August 10, 2023 | Jessica Wisniewski

W-2 & 1099 Forms and Classification Regulations


W-2 and 1099 forms of the US government likely have the distinction of being the most frequently discussed and used tax forms around the world 🙂 Every year, year round and even more so at the end of the US tax year, there is a lot of activity involving them so we thought it’ll be a good idea to post a blog discussing the differences between them, their purposes, structures, and the regulations surrounding their classification. While both forms serve a crucial role in tax reporting, they cater to different types of workers and payment arrangements. Read on to understand more!

W-2 Form

The W-2, or Wage and Tax Statement, is a crucial document used to report an employee’s annual earnings and tax withholdings. It is primarily employed by employers to provide a comprehensive record of an employee’s wages and tax deductions throughout the tax year. Additionally, it serves as a critical document for employees when filing their individual income tax returns.

Sections of W-2

The W-2 form consists of several sections, each providing essential information. These sections include:

  • Employee Information: Includes the employee’s name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Employer Information: Contains the employer’s name, address, and Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Earnings: Breaks down the employee’s income, including wages, tips, bonuses, and other compensation
  • Withholdings: Shows the total amount withheld from the employee’s earnings for federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, and any state income tax (if applicable)
  • Social Security and Medicare Taxes: Details the total amounts of Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the employee’s pay. f. Additional Information: May include any other relevant data, such as retirement plan contributions or dependent care benefits


W-2 forms are used by employers to report their employees’ earnings and tax withholdings to both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the employee. Employers are required to provide their employees with a copy of their W-2 form by January 31st each year. Simultaneously, they must submit W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the IRS to ensure accurate tax reporting and monitoring.

For more information on W-2s, you can refer to the IRS website itself here.

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1099 Form

Unlike the W-2, which caters to employees, the 1099 form serves to report various types of income earned by independent contractors, freelancers, and other self-employed individuals. This form encompasses a wide range of income sources, including contract work, interest, dividends, and rental income.

Versions of 1099

1099 form has several versions, each corresponding to a specific type of income:

  • 1099-MISC: Used to report miscellaneous income, such as non-employee compensation and royalties
  • 1099-INT: Reports interest income earned on bank accounts and other financial accounts
  • 1099-DIV: Reports dividends and distributions from investments
  • 1099-R: Reports distributions from retirement accounts
  • 1099-K: Reports income received through payment settlement entities like PayPal, credit card companies, and third-party networks


Businesses and individuals who make payments to independent contractors or other entities must issue 1099 forms to report those payments to the IRS. Recipients of these forms must include the reported income on their individual tax returns. Additionally, entities processing payment transactions must issue 1099-K forms to certain payees when specific thresholds are met. For example, if a payee receives over $20,000 in gross payments and has more than 200 transactions in a tax year, a 1099-K is required

If you are looking for further information on 1099s, you can go through the details on the IRS website here.

Contractor vs Employee Classification Regulations

Classification of workers as employees or contractors is a crucial part of employment compliance in most countries around the world, and the US is no exception. Based on our discussion above, US employers must issue W-2 forms to employees and 1099 forms independent contractors, which determines how taxes are withheld and paid. Misclassification can lead to legal consequences and potential tax issues for both employers and workers. The classification is determined based on several factors, including:

  • Control: If an employer has the right to control how, when, and where a worker performs their tasks, the worker is likely an employee. In contrast, independent contractors usually have more autonomy over their work.
  • Integration: Employees are typically more integrated into the company’s operations, while independent contractors operate as separate entities.
  • Financial Arrangements: Employees often have set salaries and may receive benefits, while contractors are usually paid on a project basis and do not receive benefits.
  • Equipment and Materials: Employees are often provided with the necessary tools and equipment, while contractors generally use their own.
  • Duration: Employees usually have an ongoing relationship with the employer, while contractors are often hired for specific projects or a defined period.


In summary, the differences between W-2 and 1099 forms lie in their purposes, structures, and the type of workers they cater to. The W-2 form is used to report employees’ earnings and tax withholdings, while the 1099 form covers various types of income for independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Proper classification of workers is crucial to avoid legal issues and ensure compliance with tax regulations. Whether you are an employer or a worker, understanding these forms and their distinctions can help streamline tax reporting and ensure accurate compliance with tax laws. Always consult a tax professional to ensure you are adhering to the appropriate regulations and making informed financial decisions.

If you are dealing with W2s, 1099s and other aspects of US employment regulations, and need help on US payroll, you can get it here.

If you need to set up a company in the US (or any other country!) to hire people, you can get help here.

And if you need a simple solution for doing any business in the US (or again, any other country!), whether it is to set up a company, hire people, increase sales and/ or issue local invoices, you can get help here.

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