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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Actors: Independent Contractor or Employee?


I saw a question posted on one of the many acting related websites that asked how actors are classified as workers: are they independent contractors or employees, and what are the implications of both?

Now, before I move forward let me say that I am not a tax or accounting professional- I am simply hoping to shed some light on these two classifications from my perspective as someone who has been on both sides of the table.

· Independent Contractor: Legally, this type of worker is defined as, "A person or business who performs services for another person under an express or implied agreement and who is not subject to the other's control, or right to control, the manner and means of performing the services; not as an employee." (Lectlaw.com). No federal, states or local taxes (income or employment) are taken by the employer- rather, the independent contractor is responsble for filing these taxes, as he is considered the owner of a separate business. The contractor is also responsible for the health and safety of himself- no health insurance, workers comp, or disability offered. For taxes, contractors receive 1099s from their employers.

· Employee: Legally, this type of worker is defined as, "A person who is hired by another person or business for a wage or fixed payment in exchange for personal services and who does not provide the services as part of an independent business; Any individual employed by an employer." (Lectlaw.com). Taxes are taken out, and the employer is liable for basic benefits- partial payment of employment taxes (Social Security, etc) as well as workers comp. For taxes, employees receive W2s from their employers.

· One vs the other? As actors, we normally don't get to choose which we get to be for each job. This is determined by the employer well before the project is cast. For most union jobs, actors are hired as employees through the producer, with contributions made to employment taxes, health and pension. There are some cases where union actors are paid as contractors- working with promotions, print work, and various industrials. At the end of the year, most actors will have a number of both W2s and 1099s to file when it comes to tax time.

As we head into tax season, it is recommended that you see a tax professional to find out the implications of each classification. It is also a good idea to know your legal rights in both cases, so seeing an employment lawyer is also a good idea.

With a background in non profit management as well as acting professionally, I can give you some real-world advice that can really make a difference. Contact me to set up your free consultation.

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