Written by Bridin Clements

For new technicians, moving to the city can sometimes be overwhelming. So many sights, so much constant motion. The good thing is that it also means a lot of work is to be had!  Shows, elaborate parties, corporate meetings, galas.  At Tinc, we work across all of these event types. Translation? We hire a lot of technicians. Lots of hiring means a lot of onboarding. The techs we hire don’t always have the same level of knowledge about basic, required business operations. And that’s totally fine! It’s the company’s job to make sure new hires understand the process and help them through it. But crew members may often find themselves employed by upwards of 10 different companies in a given month. That’s a lot of employee paperwork! By having an understanding of what is required for employment and how to correctly complete the paperwork, you can make the process easier for yourself and for your employer. And, even better, you help ensure that you get paid in a timely manner and stay on the happy side of the labor department and the IRS. Freelancers for the win!

Let’s take a look at some commonly made errors that we’ve seen and some ways to address them.

1. EMPLOYEES ASSUME AN EMPLOYER KNOWS WHAT FORMS THEY SHOULD FILL OUT. 

It is a truth that not all employers will provide you with everything they should. It is your right to ask them about it. Know what paperwork you should expect to fill out and ask questions if you don’t see it.

HERE ARE SOME MAJOR FORMS THAT ARE REQUIRED BY LAW:

Federal¹ (Note:  Social Security Number is required)

  • I-9:  Determines eligibility to work in the USA
  • W-4: Determines how much income tax to withhold from employees’ wages

New York (Other States may differ)

  • IT-2104: This is for detailing out withholding for the State and City of NY. This is especially important for nonresident NY employees as it provides a place to certify that you are not a resident of New York State, New York City, or Yonkers.  It is used to estimate the percentage of the employee’s wages and other compensation subject to federal income tax withholding attributable to services you perform in New York State.²
  • New York Wage Theft Notice: Employers are required at time of hire to notify employees and receive written acknowledgement from every worker about their rate of pay, allowances, pay day, etc.³

This is some additional paperwork that you might expect to see.   

  • Direct Deposit Form
  • Employee Handbook
  • Emergency Contact Form

Depending on your employer’s size or industry there may be additional paperwork required.

2. EMPLOYEES AREN’T SURE HOW TO FILL OUT THE FORMS. 

We see employees leave required fields blank or blindly guess when filling out forms.  Both of these are problematic and can result in delayed payment or an incorrect amount of money withheld in taxes. Learn how to make sure you get the money you deserve.  It is totally in your best interest.

Here are some of the major mistakes we see.  

I-9

The I-9 is the Federal Document required by the USCIS for collecting and verifying employment eligibility. As an employee, the main thing to keep in mind with this form is what type of IDs to provide. It is required you provide proof of your identity and authorization to work. The USCIS has a helpful breakdown of what’s required. The most common mistake we see is that people submit one ID from the List B category without a second from List C. A Driver’s License by itself is not proper documentation. If you are submitting your Driver’s License, you also need something from List C, such as a SS Card or Birth Certificate. If you want to only submit one ID, it needs to be from List A (Passport or Permanent Resident Card). If you do not or cannot provide proper identification, you may not be eligible to work in the US.  

This can mean a major delay in getting paid or even getting work.  Tinc requires that you can prove your eligibility to work in the US before you are allowed to work on-site.  Bringing proper IDs can actually mean you get to work that day.  We have sent people home before because they didn’t have the appropriate IDs.  Also, copies won’t cut it.  Bring the real deal.  

Common Mistakes Made By Freelancers Filling Out the I-9

W-4

You complete the Form W-4 so that your employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay.

The biggest challenges we see employees have with this one are:

1) How many “Allowances” to provide on line 5 of the form and,
2) How to determine if you are Exempt on line 7.

Common Mistakes Made By Freelancers Filling Out the W-4

First off, what does the word Allowance mean?  

Allowances mean how much money you allow your employer to withhold from each paycheck to send to the government for taxes.

Each “allowance” reduces the amount that’s withheld from your paychecks.  So, providing “0” allowances withholds the maximum amount, and providing “3” allowances withholds less. There is no right or wrong answer on how many allowances you should claim, however, inaccurately filling this out means that you could owe taxes at the end of the year (and maybe a fine), or you get a refund.  Now, refunds feel awesome at the end of the year, but wouldn’t you rather just keep that money in your bank to do with as you please?

Generally we see people withhold 0, 1, 2 or 3, but some may require higher allowances based on their family and income situation. A gauge to help you figure out how many allowances to claim:

  • Claiming Zero Allowances
    • The maximum amount of taxes is withheld. Meaning, when it comes time to file your tax return you are likely to receive a refund.
    • If you are claimed as a dependent to someone else’s tax return, you might claim zero allowances.
  • Claiming One Allowance
    • If you are single and have one job, by claiming one allowance you will most likely receive a refund when you file your taxes.
  • Claiming Two Allowances
    • If you are single, claiming two allowances will get you close to your tax liability but may result in tax due when filing your taxes.
    • If you are single and work more than one job, you can claim one allowance at each job or two allowances at one job and zero at another.
  • Claiming Three Allowances
    • If you are married and have one child, you might claim three allowances.

If you don’t fit into any of these categories, fill out the worksheet! Proper Allowances are really about balance. Your goal should be to pay just the right amount (not more, not less).

Exemption is something we rarely see.  Most employees will not be exempt from income tax.  Box 7 is where is to notate if you do fall into this category.  You may be exempt if you had no tax liability last year and received a full refund of all taxes withheld AND expect the same this year.  That last part is the key: you expect the same this year. If you were on your parents’ taxes last year but are filing for yourself this year, you are more than likely required to pay taxes!

Definitely talk to a tax professional (and YOU WILL WANT TO GET ONE with all of those different employers) if you have any questions about any specifics based on your unique situation.  

3. EMPLOYEES WRITE TOO FAST AND DON’T DOUBLE CHECK.

This is about your money, so it’s kind of important!  Write slowly and clearly.  Please!

Bad handwriting is grounds for delayed payment.  Pretend you are writing a letter to your grandmother, who has really bad eyesight.  Make sure your Zeros and Nines look different.  Make sure your Ones and Sevens are distinct.

If you are filling out Direct Deposit forms make sure your Account Number and Routing Number are very very clear. You’d hate to give some other random stranger your paycheck, and so would your employer! If there is an error in the banking information provided, there can be a bit of turnaround time to then get you paid. It can take a few days for the pay to go from the payroll service to the bank and then bounce back. Your employer may not find out your direct deposit failed until it’s been returned to them which could take a week or two.

Once you are finished filling out your paperwork, stop and double check it.  Did you sign it?  Did you date it?  Did you provide the correct IDs?  Do your social security numbers match on all forms?  Did you put in the correct address?  


These tiny actions can make a huge difference in getting you paid on time.
 Know what paperwork you are responsible for, know what you need and how to fill it out, write clearly, then double check it.  It seems simple, because it is! 

 

¹ https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Hiring-Employees
² https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/withholding/nys50.pdf (page 28)
³ 
https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/employer/wage-theft-prevention-act.shtm


Confused about whether you should be hired as an employee or a contractor?  Check out this Blog by Lance Darcy, LD On The DL: The 1099 Shuffle.