October 24, 2012

Employee or Independent Contractor

Question:

A 501(c)(3) organization recently accepted the services of a married couple. This married couple does not receive compensation from the organization, but does receive donations from individuals who designate their donations to the organization on behalf of the couple. The organization controls the hours and projects of the couple. Should this couple be considered as employees or as independent contractors?

Answer:

There is strong motivation for nonprofit and for-profit organizations to treat their employees as non-employees. Typically non-employees are excluded from benefits available to employees (therefore, reducing organizations' costs). An April 21, 2009, blog post explained the IRS position on the classification of church workers. These same principles apply to all 501(c)(3) organizations:

"In most cases, non-ministerial church workers (individuals who are not performing the functions of a minister) should be classified as employees and subject to FICA withholding (and matching by the church) and income tax withholding. A common situation when independent contractor status is appropriate relates to a church employing a janitorial or other service firm to render services. On the other hand, the typical church janitor, office employee, etc. should not be treated as an independent contractor." (This quote is from one of many blog posts that readers will find by typing "Independent Contractor" in the above Search Window.)

In the question reproduced above, the married couple will most likely be considered employees per the IRS classification of an employee: "Under common-law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed." (IRS website article entitled, "Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?").
 
Once the church determines the employee vs. independent contractor classification of the couple, it must address a second issue: whether the workers are performing ministerial or non-ministerial services. These classifications have implications which are also covered thoroughly in previous (other) blog posts.

* 501(c)(3) organizations are tax-exempt not-for-profits described in the Internal Revenue Code Section 501, subparagraph c, subsection 3, hence the name "501(c)(3) organization."

2 comments:

  1. Can you clarify employment status on the above situation if the 501(c)(3) organization did not control the hours/projects of the couple? Additionally, the husband is an ordained minister of the Gospel, who performs ministerial duties such as evangelism, discipleship, preaching and so forth.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good follow-up question, Chris. Controlling the hours/projects of the couple is just one factor to consider. This blog post (http://bit.ly/1oERDdE) highlights topics from IRS Form SS-8 that may be of interest to you. We suggest you seek professional assistance because facts and circumstances of your case would need to be fully determined.

    ReplyDelete