United States: Senate Finance Committee Considering Measure To Largely Repeal IRC Section 530 Safe Harbor For Most Businesses Using Independent Contractors

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D.Ohio) reintroduced the "Fair Playing Field Act," S.1706, in November 2013. The bill, which first appeared in 2010 under then-Senator John Kerry's sponsorship, purports to close an ostensible loophole in the application of the common law test generally used by the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor. The purported loophole referred to by Sen. Brown and his predecessor sponsors is Section 530 of the Internal Revenue Code, which the bill would repeal for workers who do not provide professional services. The bill defines "professional services" as services performed in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, consulting, or financial services and insurance.

Section 530 of the Internal Revenue Code

Far from a mere "loophole" that permits big companies to cheat, Section 530 provides important protections for businesses, many of which are small, whose business model was and remains built around legitimate use of independent contractors, including independent sales representatives and mystery shoppers. Many of these businesses maintain that they have relied on Section 530 in growing their businesses, and that its repeal would have devastating consequences for them because, e.g., they cannot afford to employ a national network of workers who may work just a few hours at a time, two or three times per year, distributing surveys or undertaking some similar task. Moreover, because in many cases entire industries treat workers in a specific position as independent contractors using Section 530, one central thesis of the legislation – that some companies gain an unfair competitive advantage by misclassifying a position – in fact fails to justify repeal of Section 530.

Section 530 was added by Congress to the Internal Revenue Code by the Revenue Act of 1978. Under the Section 530 safe harbor, a qualifying employer is not responsible for payment of past employment taxes for workers who the IRS determines have been misclassified. Further, that employer is not required to reclassify such workers. The safe harbor permits an employer to continue to treat workers the IRS finds to have been misclassified as independent contractors for purposes of federal employment taxes so long as the employer satisfies the requirements of the safe harbor:

  • The employer consistently must have filed Forms 1099 for all those whom it classified as independent contractors.
  • The employer must treat each group of workers that holds similar positions consistently. That is, it must treat all workers holding substantially similar positions as independent contractors.
  • The taxpayer must have a "reasonable basis" for treating the workers in those positions as independent contractors. "Reasonable basis" includes reliance on court cases, published IRS rulings, an IRS ruling received by the employer, a past IRS audit that made no assessment on the class of workers at issue, by showing that a significant segment of the taxpayer's industry treats similar workers as independent contractors, or some other reasonable basis.

Fair Playing Field Act

In addition to the repeal of Section 530's safe harbor with respect to most positions, the Fair Playing Field Act would

  • Repeal the existing moratorium on IRS guidance addressing worker classification;
  • Permit the IRS to prospectively reclassify workers as employees;
  • Limit the IRS's discretion to reduce penalties for misclassifying employees where a "reasonable basis" (defined above) does not exist. Presumably, this would affect the IRS's authority to continue its Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, which we discussed here.

The bill, which has been stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, will be taken up in the form of an amendment by Sen. Brown to a bill entitled Preserving American's Transit and Highway Act (PATH). PATH was introduced to provide revenue and authorize expenditures for the Highway Trust Fund, which purportedly will run out of money this year. Sen. Brown has linked the Fair Playing Field Act to PATH by making the increased misclassification penalties to be collected – estimated at $5.8 billion over ten years – a source of funding for the highway trust.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a July 10 mark up session for PATH, including making decisions on which of the plethora of amendments to include. If the committee adopts the Fair Playing Field amendments and PATH is favorably reported out, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed with the Fair Playing Field amendments included, it still must gain House approval, which appears unlikely. Nonetheless, it is important to know that the Democrats' effort on this legislation continues, and that monitoring of the campaign to narrow the lawful use of independent contractors continues to be a good idea.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Foulston Siefkin LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Foulston Siefkin LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions