TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / IRS Tax Forms / What is IRS Form W-9?

What is IRS Form W-9?

Updated for Tax Year 2015


Anytime you hire someone, or engage in a business relationship with an independent contractor, you must generate an IRS form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.

If you're an employer, or even just making a payment to a vendor, you've got some responsibilities to Uncle Sam. Anytime you hire someone, or engage in a business relationship with an independent contractor, you must generate an IRS form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.

You need to have your employee or contractor fill it out and sign it so you know their Social Security number or taxpayer identification number of U.S. persons attempting to work in the United States. You don't need to send it in to the IRS. Keep it for your records, so you'll have it when you generate your W-2s and 1099s.

Who is a "U.S. person?"

The term "U.S. persons" doesn't just refer to "people." In legal terms, a U.S. person can, of course, be an individual, as long as he is a U.S. citizen or legal resident. It could also be a corporation, an association or company, or an estate or trust organized under the laws of the United States. Foreign estates are not "U.S. persons."

When do I use a Form W-9?

Use Form W-9 to collect the taxpayer ID number or Social Security number of any U.S. person you plan to engage in a business activity. Use a Form W-8 for foreign entities or individuals, or Form W-7 for individuals who become U.S. residents for tax purposes but who aren't eligible for a Social Security number.

What is included on a Form W-9?

Form W-9 asks for the taxpayers' name, business name and taxpayer ID number, which is either the taxpayer's Social Security number or employer identification number. The signer, or "payee," must sign the form certifying that the information is correct, and that the signer is either a U.S. citizen, resident alien, or the representative of a company, corporation, partnership or other U.S. person.

What happens if a W-9 is not filled out?

If you don't fill out a W-9 duly requested by an employer, partner or other entity duly entitled to your taxpayer ID information, you may be penalized $50 for each instance. You may also be subject to backup withholding, which means the payor will withhold 28 percent of your check and forward the proceeds to the IRS. If you file a false statement that results in no backup withholding, and you are not exempt from the backup withholding requirement, you may be subject to a $500 penalty per incident. If you falsify information, you may be prosecuted for criminal behavior, and even imprisoned.

If you receive a W-9 from a worker or vendor, and you misuse that confidential information or disclose it improperly, you may be subject to criminal and civil penalties.

In other words, if you’re asked to complete a W-9 form by someone you’re doing work for, it’s best to do it promptly and accurately.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • Filing Deadline: IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 18, 2016 (except for residents of Massachusetts or Maine, where the IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 19, 2016).
  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for efiling state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with efile and direct deposit; tax refund timeframes will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except the TurboTax Home & Business/QuickBooks Self-Employed bundle offers.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice service is available via phone for your toughest tax questions; fees may apply. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2014 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.