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Independent Contractor: Definition, How Taxes Work, and Example


An independent contractor is a self-employed individual who provides goods or services to a business under terms specified in a contract. Unlike a regular employee, they handle their own tax payments, including self-employment tax, and don’t have taxes withheld from their pay by the hiring company. Examples include freelancers, consultants, or any professionals hired for specific projects or services.


The phonetics of the keywords are:- Independent: /ˌɪndɪˈpɛndənt/ – Contractor: /kənˈtræktɚ/- Definition: /ˌdɛfɪˈnɪʃən/- How: /haʊ/- Taxes: /ˈtæksɪz/- Work: /wɜrk/- And: /ænd/- Example: /ɪgˈzæmpəl/

Key Takeaways

  • Definition of Independent Contractor: An Independent Contractor is a self-employed person who offers services to clients. Unlike employees, independent contractors do not work regularly for an employer but work as required. They often work through a limited company or a franchise, which they themselves own, or may incorporate.
  • How Taxes Work for Independent Contractors: Usually, independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes including self-employment tax. They receive complete payments without tax withheld, unlike traditional employees. These contractors are required to remit quarterly estimated taxes to the IRS. Furthermore, they can claim business expenses on their tax returns that can significantly lower their taxable income.
  • Example of an Independent Contractor: A common example of independent contractors could be professionals working in the gig economy such as freelance writers, graphic designers, or Uber drivers. These individuals offer their skills and services per project basis, and often juggle multiple clients at one time.


The term “Independent Contractor” is crucial in the business/finance field as it defines a type of employment relationship where the contractor provides services based on a mutual agreement but maintains their independency, dictating how they accomplish their work. This type of employment relationship significantly impacts the way taxes are handled; unlike regular employees who share their tax burden with employers through a payroll deduction system, independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes, including self-employment and income taxes. Understanding this term is crucial for both businesses and individuals, as it not only reflects on financial management, fiscal obligations and potential tax deductions, but also affects legalities, such as liability and workers’ rights. Furthermore, understanding the concept can help individuals recognize employment opportunities and businesses to efficiently manage workforce and taxation.


An independent contractor functions as a standalone entity that provides services to clients or businesses on a contractual basis. Unlike regular employees, they run their own business operation, implying that they have the freedom and control over their work, including deciding on working conditions, setting their work hours, and determining the way their tasks are executed. From a business perspective, using independent contractors can be beneficial, as it allows flexibility in scaling up or down workforce based on project demand, and reduces overhead costs such as employee benefits, insurance, and tax liabilities.

The taxation structure for independent contractors contrasts that of standard employees. As they operate as their own business entity, they are responsible for handling their own taxes, including income tax and self-employment taxes, which cover Social Security and Medicare. They receive payment from the businesses they work with in full, with no withholdings for taxes. Thus, it’s incumbent upon them to set aside some part of their earnings for tax obligations. An example of an independent contractor might be a freelance graphic designer who offers services to multiple companies and is paid on a per-project basis. They work as per their own schedule, use their own equipment, and handle their own taxes, exemplifying the autonomy and obligations that come with being an independent contractor.


1. Uber Driver: Uber drivers are one of the most common examples of independent contractors. They are not employees of Uber but use the platform to provide taxi service to customers. Uber drivers are responsible for their own taxes, insurance and other expenses. They’ll have to file a specific tax form, such as 1099, to report their earnings to the IRS.

2. Freelance Writer: A freelance writer is typically an independent contractor. They may produce content for various clients including newspapers, magazines, websites, agencies, etc. These writers are usually paid per piece of work, and they handle their own taxes. This means they both receive payments without tax withholdings and also pay their own estimated taxes directly to the government.

3. Construction or Handyman Services: An individual running their own construction or handyman business would also be considered an independent contractor. This person would likely bid on jobs, supply their own tools and materials, control their working hours, and are responsible for paying their own taxes, including self-employment tax. In all these examples, as independent contractors, individuals need to bear in mind that taxes aren’t automatically deducted from their earnings as they would be in an employee situation. As a result, many independent contractors become obliged to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid penalties at the end of the tax year.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Independent Contractor?

An Independent Contractor is an individual who provides services under a contract on a freelance basis, rather than as an employee. They maintain control over how they complete their tasks and are not under direct supervision of the client but have a professional obligation to deliver the work as promised.

How do taxes work for Independent Contractors?

Independent Contractors are considered self-employed, so they are subject to different tax regulations compared to regular employees. Typically, they are required to pay Self-Employment Tax, which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes. They need to report all their income and expenses to the IRS using Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ with their Form 1040.

Do Independent Contractors receive W-2 or 1099 forms?

Unlike regular employees who receive a W-2 form, Independent Contractors typically receive a 1099-NEC form if they received more than $600 from a client in a calendar year.

What is an example of an Independent Contractor?

Examples of Independent Contractors can range widely across industries. Common examples include freelancers such as graphic designers, writers, photographers, web developers, consultants, and many more. Basically, anyone hired on a project basis where they control their work schedule and method is likely to be considered an Independent Contractor.

Do Independent Contractors have benefits?

Independent Contractors do not usually receive traditional employment benefits from their clients, such as health insurance or retirement contributions. However, they have the benefit of flexibility in their working hours and conditions, control over the jobs they take, and the potential for higher earnings.

Can you switch from being an employee to an Independent Contractor?

Yes, one can switch from being an employee to an Independent Contractor if their work circumstances change, and they meet the IRS criteria for being classified as an Independent Contractor.

What expenses can Independent Contractors deduct?

Independent Contractors can deduct any business-related expenses, such as office supplies, equipment, business travel, professional development, and a portion of home office expenses. They record these on Schedule C of their tax return.

What is the difference between an Independent Contractor and an Employee?

The major difference lies in their working arrangements and tax implications. An employee usually works on a schedule set by the employer, while an Independent Contractor controls their own hours and methods. Payment and tax treatments also differ, with contractors being responsible for their own taxes and employees having theirs deducted automatically from their paycheck by the employer.

Related Finance Terms

  • Definition of Independent Contractor: An independent contractor is generally an individual who contracts with an entity to provide a specified service or product and maintains control over the manner and means to deliver it, as opposed to being an employee under the direct control of the employer.
  • How Taxes Work for Independent Contractors: Independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes, including their federal, state, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. They usually pay these taxes through quarterly estimated payments.
  • Self-Employment Tax: Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It’s similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners.
  • 1099-MISC Form: This is the tax form independent contractors receive from clients they’ve earned more than $600 from in a year. Contractors are required to report income from 1099-MISC forms on their tax returns.
  • Example of Independent Contractor: A graphic designer who is hired by a company on a project basis, not as an employee, is an example of an independent contractor. These professionals create and design visual presentations, like logos, website layouts, or brochures, usually on a per-project basis. They pay their own income and self-employment taxes, and they provide their own equipment and set their own schedules.

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