Employee vs. Independent Contractor
It's not simply up to your employer to decide whether you're an actual employee or that the money you're paid should be considered nonemployee compensation. While the business might get the first crack at making this determination, there are a number of legal guidelines that it is supposed to consider in the process.
Generally, the question comes down to whether the business controls how and when the worker gets the job done. Even workers who are given some autonomy on a daily basis will be considered employees if the business exercises certain forms of overall control [source: IRS].
Among other factors, a court or the IRS will probably take a look at how much direction the business gives the worker. If the employer simply assigns a task with a deadline and lets the worker go off and get it done, this is likely to weigh in favor of independent contractor status. If the employer insists that the worker report to the office at a certain time each day, that's veering into employee territory. Finances also come into play: A business that reimburses a worker for expenses and provides the worker with tools and supplies is generally more likely to be considered in an employer-employee relationship than one that shifts these costs to the worker [source: IRS].
Often the key to determining employment status is the contract between the worker and the business. Is the relationship for a set time or indefinitely? Does it provide for benefits like a pension, insurance or vacation? If so, the worker is likely considered an employee. The agreement may also provide some detail as to how the work is to be performed. Needless to say, there are a number of grey areas here that may require professional legal advice [source: IRS].
Perhaps the 9 to 5 drudgery of being a full-blown employee isn't so bad after all. If you think the company or organization that you work for has wrongly categorized you as a nonemployee, there's a form for that. A worker can ask the IRS to determine his or her status by filing Form SS-8 [source: IRS].