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Form W-9

Requesting your Tax ID Number

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Form W-9 is the IRS form used by a company to request your taxpayer identification number. You may get a blank Form W-9 to fill out if you or your business are hired to provide services to another company. Most often, Form W-9 is sent to independent contractors, consultants, and other self-employed workers. Form W-9 is also used by banks and other financial institutions to request tax information from customers.

Filling out a W-9 is pretty straightforward. Just provide your name and Social Security Number, or the name and Employer Identification Number of your business.

By submitting a W-9, you are certifying that the tax id number you are providing is correct and accurate. You also need to certify whether or not you are subject to backup withholding. Most taxpayers are exempt from backup withholding. The IRS might require backup withholding, however, if your name and tax identification number that you provide on the W-9 don't match with the IRS records or if you owe outstanding federal taxes and the IRS has notified you that you are subject to mandatory backup withholding.

You can obtain a blank Form W-9 (PDF) to give to independent contractors you hire or to type and print out if you need to give one to your client or vendor.

Warnings Signs to Be Aware of when Receiving a Form W-9

Form W-9 is a standard tax document often utilized in business and financial transactions. So by itself a W-9 form doesn't pose many problems. Still there are some simple issues to be aware of.

Do you know the person or business asking you to fill out the W-9? Because the Form W-9 is asking for your name, address, and Social Security or Employer Identification number, you should exercise caution in giving out that information. Be sure that you know who is asking you to fill out the form, and why, and how your tax information will be used.

Be sure to send the W-9 securely. The W-9 contains sensitive information which should be kept private and secure. Don't send your completed W-9 as an unsecured or unencrypted email attachment. Instead use secure methods of delivery, such as hand delivery, mail, or encrypted file attachments to an email.

Ask what types of tax documents the requester intends to provide you with. Several readers have voiced concerns about receiving a Form W-9 from persons or businesses they didn't think would need that information for tax purposes. If you are unsure of why you got a W-9 to fill out, ask what types of tax documents you'll expect to receive.

Receiving a W-9 when you expected a W-4 instead. If you are starting a new job and your new employer hands you a W-9 to fill out, ask if your new job is as a self-employed contractor or as a employee. Employees fill out the Form W-4 to set their tax withholding level. Self-employed persons, by contrast, don't have taxes withheld.

Tips for filing out the Form W-9 if You are Operating as a Limited Liability Company

If the LLC is its own separate tax entity (such as a partnership, C-corporation, or S-corporation) then report the name of the LLC and the Federal Employer Identification Number on the Form W-9 and check the appropriate tax classification box (partnership, C-corporation or S-corporation). Do not check the Limited Liability Company box. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it's what the IRS says in their instructions.

If the LLC is owned by another LLC, then check the Limited Liability Company box. Also indicate the tax classification of the parent LLC.

If the LLC is owned by a single member, indicate the tax classification of the owner.

If the LLC is owned by a single member who is a person, the IRS is instructing us to indicate the name of the owner on the Name line, and the name of the LLC on the Business Name line. The IRS prefers that you report the owner's Social Security Number instead of the LLC's Federal Employer Identification Number.

Tips for filing out the Form W-9 if You are Subject to Mandatory Backup Withholding

If the IRS has notified you that you are subject to backup withholding, then you will need to strike out the language in bullet point two in the certification area, where it reads:
"2. I am not subject to backup withholding because: (a) I am exempt from backup withholding, or (b) I have not been notified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that I am subject to backup withholding as a result of a failure to report all interest or dividends, or (c) the IRS has notified me that I am no longer subject to backup withholding."
This entire language must be crossed out before you submit the signed Form W-9, if you are subject to backup withholding.
Related Video
How to Fill Out a W-4 Form
How to Fill In a W-9 Form
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