Tried and True Worker Classification Solutions to End Your Audit Concerns

Tried and True Worker Classification Solutions to End Your Audit Concerns 150 150 PayReel

If you are a consumer of HR newsletters, you are well aware that the government is serious about targeting misclassification of employees as independent contractors. More attention on worker classification means an already risky business is about to get riskier. It behooves any business to pay attention before infractions hurt a business’s reputation or their bottom line.

Why do the IRS and DOL care so much about worker misclassification?

You can bet if they have their collective knickers in a bunch, it probably comes down to one thing: simple economics.

Non-compliance with IRS and DOL regulations governing which workers are classified as W-2 employees versus 1099 contractors means lost tax revenue at the state and federal level. That’s because fewer tax dollars are coming from employers without a corresponding increase in tax revenues from independent contractors.

This, combined with huge federal and state budget deficits, is a recipe for stepped up surveillance and enforcement. Witness The Payroll Fraud Prevention Act, which underscores how much attention this issue is getting in Congress.

Still not convinced this iron is hot? The IRS, DOL, and several state agencies share employer information with specific the goal of tracking down practitioners of worker misclassification. Worse, the government doesn’t care if employers misclassify accidentally. It’s up to you to abide by the law.

If you’re concerned about misclassification and don’t have the internal team to manage increasing demands around it, it might be time to consider engaging a partner that knows the laws and can help keep you compliant. We’re ready to talk about what solutions might make your life easier.

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10 Worker Classification Mistakes That Land Businesses in Hot Water

10 Worker Classification Mistakes That Land Businesses in Hot Water 2560 1920 Alicia East

Employee misclassification is becoming an increasingly big deal for government and an equally bum deal for businesses that don’t take it seriously enough. Back in 2000, Microsoft paid $97 million, plus legal fees, in a benefits dispute with its long-term temps. More recently, FedEx shelled out $228 million. Of course, there’s also Uber, which has been in multiple disputes, including over whether drivers were independent contractors (as Uber maintained) or employees (as the law determined).

In short, this stuff matters.

10 Moves That Increase Your Likelihood of Ending up in Hot, Expensive Water.

1. Letting Contractors Determine Their Own Classification

Businesses have the burden of responsibility here. Do your due diligence with each worker to determine their status and whether they are contractors or employees. Subsequently, this will determine whether they should be paid via W2 or 1099.  If you need support, our worker classification quiz can help you sort out where your workers stand. When in doubt, engage a partner with the expertise to guide you through it. It’s worth investing whatever time, attention, and costs needed to do it right. 

2. Failing to Stay on Top of Regulatory Changes

Similar to the above, if the law says it’s not okay, you will be held accountable—no matter how long you’ve done it without problems. “We’ve always done it this way” simply does not hold up as a viable defense. The best way to manage this is to have someone available to dedicate the resources and time to researching and monitoring all legal changes or to engage a partner who is doing all of that for you. You can determine which is right for you based on how often you have hiring needs and whether it’s worthwhile for you to dedicate internal resources to the task or to outsource it.

3. Failing to Properly Insure Workers

Insurance always represents a bit of a gamble. You may never end up using it, in which case, the cost can seem pointless. On the other hand, when something goes wrong, it can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and the end of your business. You’ll be glad you took the extra effort and had the backup insurance in place. That goes double when there’s a lot of expensive equipment around.

4. Thinking Hiring an Agency Ends All of Your Risk

Engaging a partner company with the right expertise is hugely beneficial and will help ensure that your business is on the up and up. But, co-employment risk still exists. It’s still in both you and their best interest to know and implement the rules around worker classification.

5. Following The Industry Practices

Take a lesson from sibling dynamics here: The kid who gets caught doing the crime does the time—even if the sibling does it all the time undetected. Just because you and your associates haven’t been caught with misclassified workers doesn’t mean you won’t be eventually. Follow the laws, adjust as they change, and you’ll be able to sleep well at night. 

6. Downplaying The Risk

The government has a lot of money at stake here. It’s in the news a lot for a reason and it’s not going away. Don’t ignore the rules because the government isn’t ignoring them either. If you think they’re not coming for you and get lackadaisical, it will eventually catch up with you. 

7. Assuming Day Rates Are Compliant With The Law

Although common in many industries, day rates aren’t always as simple as they seem. It takes a lot of time and a complex system to monitor day rates and other compliance loop holes in every city and state. Someone on your team needs to be paying attention or you need to have a partner that is.  

8. Overlooking Details of Exempt vs. Non-exempt

Workers are often called exempt when they should actually be paid hourly according to federal, state, and (sometimes) local law. Again, it’s hard to keep track of. Either invest in doing worker classification right the first time or be ready to cut a premium check to the IRS. 

9. Thinking This Process is Clear Cut

The government provides guidance, but rules are ever-changing and never 100 percent clear. Asking a few questions and counting the check marks in the 1099 or W2 columns isn’t enough to ensure you classify someone correctly. If you are not an expert, you really need a partner. Engaging someone with specific industry experience who has endured audits is invaluable.

10. Forgetting That Courts Have a History of Siding With The Worker

The system is heavily weighted on behalf of the worker and the burden remains on the employer to do things right.

Yes, it’s important. Yes, it can be a pain. But there’s no need to cut the cord on independent contractors. Keep your worker classification processes at the front of your business priorities or hire a team that can handle your contingent workforce from onboarding through payrolling. 

Interested in learning more about worker classification? You’re in luck, we’ve got a whole series here.


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Check Out What We’re Up To (Spoiler: We’re Improving The Client Experience)

Check Out What We’re Up To (Spoiler: We’re Improving The Client Experience) 2560 1707 Alicia East

We’ve improved our client experience so to simplify worker classification/compliance, onboarding workers, and obtaining more customized reports. PLUS, we have new updates around the corner.

Here’s How We’ve Been Working to Continually Improve Our Processes

Streamlining Compliance

Independent contractor payroll management can be complicated, but a good partner specializes in simplifying it. With California’s AB5 and the subsequent shockwaves it has sent through the industry, worker classification is on people’s minds for good reason. 

While it’s really hard to standardize some aspects of worker classification, we make the process consistent so clients are using the same rules across the board. Our AI-based software takes much of the subjectivity out of classifying workers by using a consistent set of measurable rules and parameters rather than someone’s opinion.

Another way we continue improving is refining our wording and processes every time we see an opportunity–a big focus for our team! As such, we’ve streamlined communications to reduce email traffic and updated our questionnaires for efficiency. In addition to reducing the turnaround time for onboarding workers, these changes give clients a solid leg to stand on if they ever have to justify their decisions in a court of law. We’ve also made it easier, quicker, and more efficient.

PayReel Online (PRO)/Software Development

Software development may not seem very glamorous until you realize how much time, money, and headache it can save! We’re continually improving operational efficiencies with PayReel Online (PRO) and with our Sick Leave Accrual Management application (SLAM). More states continue to add sick leave and FMLA compliance regulations into law and we’ve enhanced our proprietary tool to manage these rapid changes. No need to worry about the many new complexities these paid sick leave laws leave in their wake. That’s good news for clients who can rest assured we are staying up to speed with the laws. 

In addition to the above software development, we’ve also matrix-ed our system so it can “learn” clients’ system’s language with no human translation necessary. We developed an Application Programming Interface (API) that bridges the gap between client software and ours. This is extra special because it allows PayReel software to communicate with clients’ time-tracking (or any other kind of) software without any human intervention. That means clients can fulfill changing needs quickly without having to rewire/recode (i.e. without disruption). It also allows clients to intuitively connect people to critical information, forms, and reports, and skip maddening double data entry/typing. Sexy, right? 

Take a client with a self-developed proprietary system for time tracking, for example. When we plug their Enterprise Relationship Program into our API, it sends everything needed for a project or a job and updates all 32 necessary fields automatically. That allows us to forego manual data entry with absolutely zero human involvement required in the middle.

Increased Team Training

We really like solid software, but it’s still good people who make the world go around. We’ve instituted a weekly training for all of our Client Relationship Managers (CRMs). In addition to covering any legal changes, this training addresses internal practices to make the client experience as standardized and efficient as possible

The Reports Clients Asked For!

It’s true. We saved the best for last. Clients asked for more reports to provide insight into backend payroll information and we listened! CRMs now have the ability to offer many additional customized reports including project cost reports, invoice detail reports, and more–giving supervisors and managers better visibility to see where workers are in the process. 

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Here’s What to do if You Think You’ve Misclassified a Worker

Here’s What to do if You Think You’ve Misclassified a Worker 2560 1707 Alicia East

You already know that W2 employees and independent contractors are entitled to different benefits and typically, independent contractors cost companies a lot less than employees. For this reason, some companies have bent the rules and classified workers incorrectly on purpose. Others have taken advantage of gray areas in the law to save money. And believe it or not, we’ve seen some companies who simply don’t know the rules and misclassify workers unknowingly. No matter the motivation, mistakes are costly.

It’s a New World 

The gig economy, start-up culture, and the rapid growth of the independent workforce have created a trifecta of pain in the form of increased scrutiny by government agencies seeking to ensure workers are appropriately classified. 

In many cases, worker classification laws have resulted in the narrowest definition of an independent contractor to date. It’s now even more crucial for companies to evaluate or reevaluate the way they classify employees and get on the right side of the law before the IRS’s attention reaches their headquarters.

Employee Classification Matters

You can’t ignore worker classification rules. Unless of course, you’re ready to face a potential multimillion-dollar price tag.

You might get away with breaking a traffic law 100 times and lose any fear of the consequences. But that 101st time, you could end up seeing those flashing gum balls in your rear view mirror. Unfortunately, “Oops, I didn’t mean to” holds little weight with police officers. Similarly, the defense doesn’t hold up in court when you’ve misclassified an employee. Whether you knowingly or accidentally misclassify employees as independent contractors, it’s considered wage theft. The government doesn’t take that lightly. 

Committing wage theft has some serious consequences. Businesses that misclassify workers as independent contractors deprive federal and state governments of billions of dollars in tax revenue. Big Brother is watching and Big Brother wants its money.

The cascading effects guarantee continued pain. Misclassifying an employee puts your business at risk of an IRS audit. In addition to monetary fines like back pay, back taxes, severance and healthcare coverage for misclassified workers, you could also be looking at legal fees, reputation damage and even criminal and civil penalties. If you’re found guilty of fraud or intentional misclassification, you may be fined for each misclassified employee with fines multiplying with subsequent violations.  

Conduct Internal Audits

Conduct an internal audit on your company’s policies and documentation process. Run each worker through the ABC test to determine if they really are an IC or not. Look for areas that need improvement. If you’re missing any documentation (like signed contracts), take any necessary steps to get what you need. If you think you’ve misclassified a worker, make sure you carefully document any changes you make. 

If you run your internal audits and still don’t feel confident you have the right status, you can file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. To be safe, you should treat the worker in question as an employee until you’re sure.

Not sure if you’re classifying your employees the right way? Take our five-minute worker classification self-audit to determine just how independent your independent contractors are.

Regularly Review Classifications 

Worker roles can evolve over time, as do the rules around worker classifications, so it’s a good idea to review each worker’s classification annually and make adjustments as needed.

That’s a lot of work, which is why many organizations that contract independent contractors partner with an Employer of Record—a firm specializing in independent contractor compliance and engagement. An Employer of Record helps your company meet compliance standards, reduce misclassification risk, and successfully manage independent workers. That’s exactly what we do at PayReel.

Outsource Employee Classification to The Experts

PayReel will help you manage your workers so your business can focus on doing what it does best. As your Employer of Record, PayReel will help ensure that all your independent contractors are properly classified and your business stays ahead of the compliance curve. There’s no need to gamble with something so important. Contact us today! 

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Gig Worker ≠ Independent Contractor ≠ Employee

Gig Worker ≠ Independent Contractor ≠ Employee 2560 1707 Alicia East

Employee classifications identify how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)  apply to workers and what benefits they are legally entitled to or not. Because of this, the language we use around it matters! The terms we use to define workers can get thrown around interchangeably even though they’re actually different. Let’s define the language around independent contractorgig worker, and employee.   

Gig worker

Merriam Webster defines the gig economy as “economic activity that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector.”

The service sector piece is one of the main cues that indicates someone is a gig worker. Ride-sharing drivers and grocery delivery people are good examples. Their “gigs” are on-demand. It usually goes something like this: a customer coordinates a one-time service (such as a grocery cart full of food delivered to their doorstep) through a company like Uber or Instacart. They facilitate the transaction through an app and a worker accepts the task. 

The gig worker, then, is the person who does the driving or shopping/delivering. They might also be an independent contractor, but it’s not the same thing. 

Independent Contractor

Independent contractors are business owners who engage in a contract (either with another business or with an individual) to provide a service. They receive payment specifically for the work they perform and according to agreed-upon terms. Unlike a regular employee, they can pick and choose clients and regularly move from client to client.

Here are some of the key hints that someone is an independent contractor:

  • They have a specific skill set and a legally-established business entity
  • They report business income to the IRS and pay self-employment taxes 
  • They perform work that is not central to their client’s main line of business
  • Their work is project-oriented and is typically completed in a specified amount of time


Okay, so employees are a whole different thing. In short, they’re employed by a company and are entitled to the benefits and regulations that go along with that. There are multiple designations that can apply to employees–part time, full time, exempt, non-exempt. We’ll go into more of that next week.

Still have questions? 

Let us help you. It’s our business to keep clients compliant.

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Here’s Why The Time to Fix Employee Misclassification Problems is Now

Here’s Why The Time to Fix Employee Misclassification Problems is Now 550 459 Heidi McLean

If you’ve come anywhere near a Human Resources newsletter in the last six months, you know the government is serious about targeting misclassification of employees as independent contractors. More attention on worker classification means an already risky business is about to get riskier.

Businesses like to work with contractors because it helps them avoid paying for health insurance, 401Ks, and other benefits. Independent contractors are affordable and available for à la carte services. While some worker advocates make it seem like employees always have the preferential role, many workers prefer the autonomy of contracting. They enjoy the flexibility and the ability to work with a variety of companies and pick their projects. In some cases, it’s truly a win/win. 

On the other hand, when it’s done improperly, it can truly be a lose/lose.

Why do the IRS and DOL care so much about worker misclassification?

Employee misclassification is high on the IRS’s list of least favorite things. You can bet if they have their collective knickers in a bunch, there’s one issue at the core: money. Non-compliance with IRS and DOL regulations governing which workers are classified as W-2 employees versus 1099 contractors means lost tax revenue at the state and federal level. That’s because fewer tax dollars are coming from employers without a corresponding increase in tax revenues from independent contractors.

Businesses are equipped to make sure employees stay in line with labor laws, benefits, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, and of course, tax withholding. Independent contractors, on the other hand, can operate in the wild, wild west of legal lands. They may or may not pay taxes properly, they may overstate their deductions, and they are just harder to keep tabs on. Incidentally, each of these woes also make the list the IRS’s least favorite things.  

This, combined with huge federal and state budget deficits, is a recipe for stepped up surveillance and enforcement. The IRS, DOL, and several state agencies share employer information with specific the goal of tracking down practitioners of worker misclassification. Worse, the government doesn’t care if employers misclassify accidentally. It’s up to you to abide by the law.

What Are the Risks of Misclassifying Independent Contractors?

There are legitimate independent contractors and businesses who employ them properly, but misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor can be incredibly damaging, costly, and time consuming.

With the government’s increased attention on the subject, news bringing misclassification to workers’ minds, and companies coming under scrutiny, one thing is sure: If you haven’t paid attention to worker classification yet, it’s time.

Relax. We Got It

If you’re concerned about misclassification, we’re here for you. It’s our job to know the laws and keep clients compliant. At PayReel, we make sure our clients are able to hire who they want, when they want and that everyone is classified correctly and paid properly. Contact us anytime at 303-526-4900 or by emailing us here.




The Art of Delegating: How to Multiply Your Bandwidth

The Art of Delegating: How to Multiply Your Bandwidth 150 150 Alicia East

The adage goes “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” If you are the person that always gets asked, it might be time to think about how to multiply your time using the art of delegating. Engaging a partner for events, worker management, and payroll is one of the quickest ways to increase bandwidth to actually do what they do. Put some of your responsibilities on someone else’s plate and then get yourself a mug to commemorate your status as World’s Best Boss.

Whether it’s a massive event or a one-camera film shoot, when a partner who specializes in event management manages your projects, it works out well for clients and workers alike.

Make Events Easy 

Whether you’re payrolling thousands of workers, sending a crew to an NBA game, or something in between, it’s nice to know all the details are handled. 

At PayReel, we know things don’t operate on a nine-to-five schedule and neither do we. We have an after-hours phone so we can be sure to provide speedy answers. Our online system allows you to take care of just about anything…at any hour…with a few taps or clicks. PayReel handles all the paperwork and the bonus is that we do it without any actual paper. Not having to sift through piles of identical paperwork cluttering up your desk and your headspace makes the process quicker and easier for you and for your workers.

Make Workers Happy With Speedy Payment And Paper-Free Paperwork

By managing all the payment details, including the mountains of W-4s, payroll becomes a non-event for our clients. Workers submit timecards on Mondays and we pay them on Fridays. When they’re paid quickly, they don’t need to call your office, which frees you up to do your job better. Of course, it also keeps workers happy so they are free to focus on your project and happy to come back for your next event. 

The last thing you need once you’ve hired people is to lose their loyalty on the back-end details. Whether they’re working for one day or for a month, we make sure workers get paid quickly and accurately so if you want to hire them again, they’ll be ready to pick up the call.

We’re devoted to making every single client and worker interaction a good one, which makes working with you mighty attractive for workers. As Michael, one of the freelancers PayReel pays, said, “[My Customer Experience Manager] has been superb in addressing whatever problems I have had.”

The bottom line

Clients work with us because we make your life easier and multiply your bandwidth for the things you do best. Not only does our team manage event payroll and payroll taxes; as the employer of record, we even take on all risk associated with a variable workforce. Think you might benefit from hiring a payroll service? Here’s a handy guide to find out more or contact us at 303-526-4900.

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What Can Misclassifying Employees Cost You?

What Can Misclassifying Employees Cost You? 2560 1707 Alicia East

The legal battle over which workers can be classified as independent contractors versus employees is nowhere near close to over. Wherever the battles land, one important fact remains: The IRS takes the practice of hiring independent contractors very seriously. That means companies should, too.

Misclassification Costs Businesses Money

While hiring an independent contractor is attractive for the potential money savings that come with outsourcing work that is not central to their main line of business, mistakes can quickly override any savings.

The IRS has very strict guidelines that define true business-to-business relationships. These guidelines are meant to prevent firms from misclassifying would-be employees, thereby avoiding a bounty of state and federal taxes. Making a misstep can be costly—whether it was intentional or not.

There is big-time tax money at stake. According to the court’s ruling on the landmark worker classification Dynamex decision, “the misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees is a very serious problem, depriving federal and state governments of billions of dollars in tax revenue.” That’s billions with a B.

Small businesses can avoid certain taxes with fewer employees and independent contractors can write off business expenses and may also underreport their income. Hence the resulting “deprivation.” The IRS is motivated to recoup those lost dollars.

Misclassification Wastes Time

Audits and court costs alone are expensive and time-consuming even for businesses that do everything by the book. If you’re found in error, back pay adds up quickly. How much are you willing to pay in time and hassle alone?

Save the Hassle

If you have any questions about independent contractor status, trust PayReel to help you make the determination. We screen each employment situation carefully to assess the entire e relationship to make sure you are in complete compliance. 

Call us at 303.526.4900 or email

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Misclassification: Your $358,675 Problem

Misclassification: Your $358,675 Problem 2560 1707 Alicia East

Accurate worker classification is important for any company but those with a contingent workforce are especially vulnerable to making missteps. It’s a topic the Biden administration is paying attention to as well. The administration’s recent decision to rescind the “Worker Classification Rule” makes it easier for workers to argue for minimum wage and overtime protections/compensation.

Big company missteps=Big headlines

You’ve probably seen employee misclassification news about the big companies like Uber and Lyft. With the big headlines, you’ll find big fines: often in the multimillions. But while it may be tempting to think of this as a big company problem, it’s not true.

Think misclassification woes only happen to the big kids? Think again.

You might see headlines about worker classification missteps from brands you recognize, but between increasingly-savvy workers and a Democratic-led administration, the smaller companies are at risk too. Small companies are vulnerable to big problems, too. For example, this at-home healthcare services provider was recently found responsible for over $358K in back wages.

The Bottom Line

It just isn’t worth it to try to avoid the rules or get away without knowing them. You can be held responsible whether you’re a big company or a small one. Between savvy workers and a worker-friendly administration highly focused on worker classification, paying close attention to accuracy pays dividends.

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How the New Administration May Affect Your Business

How the New Administration May Affect Your Business 2560 1707 Alicia East

The New Administration, Worker Classification, And Protecting Your Business

We’re 3 weeks into a new administration. While Biden and co get busy on their top priorities, history tells us a little of what to expect during the next four years. The bottom line is that Democratic-led governments tend to tighten up on businesses and are very union/employee friendly. They also tend to increase regulations while Republicans tend to loosen them.
True to trend, Trump’s team-based worker classification on an economic reality test, which would make it easier to define workers as independent contractors while Biden’s plan makes misclassification a top priority and  proposes having more investigators available to address the issue. He also plans to make the test for identifying independent contractors more uniform.

So what does it mean for you?

It’s important for businesses to be compliant under any administration but with strict worker classification being named a top priority for this administration, it’s all the more important.

The bottom line

Someone on your team or on your payroll partner’s team needs to keep up with the changes to protect your business, stay compliant, and reduce the risk for fines and attention from the IRS. If you don’t have the in-house team to do it yourself, it’s worth considering working with a partner.
In our world, accurate worker classification and top-notch risk management are always the priority. We are always the first to be aware when change is in the air as well as when something becomes official. We track rules in every state as well as on a federal level and offer services to help clients stay compliant.