What is the purpose of an IRS W-9 form?

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Woman working at desk

Form W-9—Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification—is a commonly used IRS form. If you have your own business or work as an independent contractor, a client may request that you fill out and send a W-9 so they can accurately prepare your 1099-MISC form and report the payments they make to you at the end of the year.

Completing Form W-9

You can download the W-9 form from the IRS website. To complete Form W-9, you’ll need to:

  • Enter your full name as shown on your federal income tax return on the first line.

  • If you are operating a business under a separate name, you should enter that on the second line.

  • In the next section, you select your tax classification. Most employed and self-employed taxpayers will select “Individual/Sole Proprietor.” Professionals who operate partnerships, corporations or estates should select the appropriate classification for their situation.

  • Enter your mailing address.

Taxpayer identification number

After you complete the mailing address section, you’ll need to enter your taxpayer identification number, or TIN. Generally, this is your Social Security number.

  • Nonresident aliens who do not have Social Security numbers should enter their assigned TIN in this field.

  • If you’re running your own business and you have an employer identification number, you should enter that number next to the EIN field.

  • Sign and date the form at the bottom.

Backup withholding

The IRS sometimes requires the person or entity requesting the W-9 to withhold a percentage of your earnings and send them to the IRS to pay your federal income taxes.

  • This is known as "backup withholding."

  • You will be notified by the IRS if you are subject to backup withholding.

  • If so, you need to inform the company that you are providing the W-9 to that they need to withhold taxes from the money that they pay you.

Submitting Form W-9

Simply return the completed W-9 form to the person or company requesting it. They will typically keep the completed form in their files for reference during their end-of-year accounting so that they can issue an accurate Form 1099-MISC.

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