W9 tax forms: What to know about how this IRS form works.

Discover what a W-9 is and why both small and large businesses need to collect them. Learn how to simplify the process with e-signatures.

Two people reviewing a W9 form on a laptop together

The purpose of Form W-9.

IRS Form W-9, known as a W-9 form, 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.


W-9s can be e-signed and sent back to you digitally, saving time for contract workers and companies alike.


Discover more about e-signatures

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When to request a W-9 form.

Form W-9 is essential for doing business with independent contractors and freelance workers. If your company pays people or small businesses more than $600 each for completed work, and those people aren’t employed by you, you need to collect a W-9.


Your company is not required to pay the Social Security or Medicare taxes or withhold income taxes on payments to independent contractors. Because of this, the IRS needs to know who you’re paying so they know who to collect from. Keep your W-9s stored securely and use them at year’s end to report how much you paid each contractor.

Information required on a W-9 form.


Before you file this information, check that your contractor has filled out all the required items.



  • Name of the payee or their business name (if the person you are paying is operating as a business entity).
  • 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 full current mailing address.


  • The payee’s taxpayer identification number (TIN). For US citizens operating as an individual or sole proprietor, this is generally their social security number. For other entities and businesses, the TIN will be their employer identification number. And for resident aliens, a special individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) 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. 
A black pen on top of a W9 form

Accuracy of W-9 forms.


It’s important to collect valid and complete forms from your contractors, just as it’s necessary to supply correct W-9s when you or your company is paid for work. If you have any doubts about what’s required for your business, visit the IRS website for more detailed instructions.

What happens to payees who don’t supply a correct W-9 form?

If your company is the payee, it can be fined if it refuses to provide a W-9. You may also face penalties of perjury as the result of a failure to provide correct information on a W-9, such as the correct taxpayer identification number.

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 (28% of your payments to that contractor) 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 person's hand filling out a W9 form with a pen and holding a stack of papers in the other hand

Other common IRS tax forms.


There are a few other types of tax forms you may need to use to report who you are paying each year, how much, and how much you are withholding from their pay.



Form 1099-MISC


Businesses must use Form 1099-MISC at the end of the year to report the total amount of non-employee compensation paid to a contractor. The MISC refers to miscellaneous income earned by freelance or self-employed workers. There are many types of 1099 forms used to report income to the IRS, such as income earned through interest on a bank account, cancellation of debt, proceeds from real estate transactions or mortgage interest, and more.



Form W-4


This form serves the same purpose as a W-9 but for your regularly employed workers for whom your company pays social security and income taxes. Have all new employees sign this form to verify their personal tax situation (exemptions, status, etc.), so you know the correct amount to withhold from their paycheck.



Form W-2


A W-2 is similar to the 1099-MISC, except in regard 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), and it helps ensure your employees receive any income tax return owed to them.



Download a free W-9 form.


Send a blank W-9 form to your contractors digitally to make it easy for them to fill it out and send back. The Adobe Acrobat Sign Library contains free downloadable templates for Form W-9 and other important tax documents you might need to send, like the Form W-4 and the IRS I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification.


Download a free W-9 form now



Adobe Acrobat Sign 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 Sign, they saw a 1,400% increase in faster time to signature.


When it comes to collecting and securely storing important documents like W-9 forms, Adobe Acrobat Sign removes the steps of printing out and filing physical paperwork, resulting in faster turnarounds. Plus, you can store completed forms securely in Adobe Document Cloud for easier access to critical information.


Simplify forms with Adobe Acrobat Sign

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