The W-9 form: Information about this common IRS tax form.
Discover what a W-9 is and why both small and large businesses doing business with contractors need to collect them. Learn how to simplify the process with e-signatures.
The purpose of Form W-9.
IRS Form W-9, also known as a W9, is one of the many tax documents required by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to help accurately estimate the taxes owed by contract workers in a given tax year. It’s a request for information about the contractors you pay as well as an agreement with those contractors that you won’t be withholding income tax from their pay — contractors must pay their own taxes on this income.
A W-9 form includes two parts. Part I is identification data about the payee. Part II is the certification, or signature, confirming that the ID info is correct. It can be called a “request for taxpayer identification number and certification” but “W-9” is more typically used.
The contract worker can sign W-9s with an electronic signature and can send it back to the employer digitally, helping to save time for contract workers and companies alike.
- Name of the payee or their business name. For a business, this name must match the name entered on the legal entity formation documents, unless it is an individual/sole proprietorship or single-member LLC (also known as a “disregarded entity” by the IRS.)
- The payee’s federal tax classification or how they plan on filing their taxes for this income. The payee will check the appropriate box for one of the following: individual/sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, C corporation, S corporation, partnership, trust/estate, limited liability company (LLC), or other.
- The payee’s current full mailing address.
- The payee’s taxpayer identification number (TIN). For US citizens operating as an individual or sole proprietor, this is generally their SSN (social security number). For other entities and businesses, the TIN will be the employer identification number that is associated with their business name. And for resident aliens, a special individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) which must be applied for.
- Less commonly used fields include exempt payee code, which is used to notify the requester that the payee is exempt from having taxes withheld.
What happens to requesters who don’t obtain W-9 forms from their payees?
If you have a contractor who won’t provide their TIN, the IRS requires that you start withholding tax money until you receive the completed W-9. There are penalties for failing to submit backup withholding to the IRS. Avoid withholding altogether by requiring completed W-9s from freelance workers.
A W-2 is similar to the 1099-MISC, except it is related to your W-4 employees. Like the 1099, it’s part of the “information return” your company must provide to the government. The W-2 names how much was paid to those employees that year and how much was withheld for their taxes, Medicare, and Social Security. It should be given to the employee and the Social Security Administration (who then passes it to the IRS).
Download a free W-9 form.
Send a blank W-9 form to your contractors digitally to make it easier for them to fill it out and send back to you. The Adobe Acrobat Library contains free downloadable templates for Form W-9 and some other important tax documents you might need to send, like the Form W-4 and the IRS I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification.
How do I fill out a W-9 as an LLC?
As an LLC, you'll provide the same type of information on a W-9 as individual contractors, but with two differences:
- In the form’s tax classification box, if you’re taxed as a disregarded entity (see the definition above), check the "individual/sole proprietor" box, not the limited liability company box. If you’re an LLC with more than one owner, you’re automatically taxed as a partnership and should select the LLC box, using the letter P for partnership.
- Instead of entering a personal TIN, enter your EIN. This taxpayer identification number operates like a Social Security Number (SSN) for businesses and is required if the business has employees, is taxed, or operates as a corporation. You can get a EIN from the IRS online, over the phone, or through the mail.
Adobe Acrobat makes collecting W-9 forms easy.
For business owners, time-saving digital processes for W-9s and employment contracts are a must. Merck KGaA wanted to alleviate administrative headaches so employees could spend more time on issues than paperwork. By implementing an electronic signature process with Adobe Acrobat, they saw a 1,400% increase in faster time to signature.
When it comes to collecting and more securely storing important documents like W-9 forms, Adobe Acrobat removes the steps of printing out and filing physical paperwork, resulting in faster turnarounds. Plus, you can store completed tax forms in Adobe Document Cloud for easier access to this critical information.