What is a 'W-9 Form'

A W-9 form is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form, also known as a Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form, which is used to confirm a person’s taxpayer identification number (TIN). This confirmation can be requested for either an individual defined as a U.S. citizen or a person defined as a resident alien.

BREAKING DOWN 'W-9 Form'

A W-9 form is a formal written request for information only, and is used solely for the purpose of confirming a person’s TIN. An entity that is required to file an informational document with the IRS, such as a 1099, must obtain your correct TIN to report any earnings or losses that may affect your federal tax return or your taxable income.

The W-9 differs from a W-4, which is more commonly supplied by employees to direct employers, in that the W-9 does not inherently arrange for the withholding of any taxes due. Any required taxes based on gains related to the provided W-9 are the responsibility of the TIN holder listed on the document, unless the taxpayer is subject to backup withholding. If backup withholding is required, this will need to be noted on the W-9, to properly inform the entity receiving the information of the need to withhold accordingly.

Use of W-9 Information

The information obtained on a W-9 form is most often used to create a version of the Form 1099. A Form 1099 contains information about any income that may have been received by the TIN holder that would not normally be listed on a W-2. This includes, but is not limited to, income paid to a person as part of a contract; certain real estate transactions; mortgage interest paid by an individual; dividends paid against an investment; and various other financial transactions.

A Form 1099 is only required to be issued once the minimum threshold is reached, which is set at $600 as of 2016. Amounts under that threshold must be reported as income by the TIN holder, but does not require a 1099 form.

Those Not Eligible for a W-9

The IRS requires those who are not defined as U.S. citizens or resident aliens to use the appropriate W-8 form in place of a W-9 form.

Security of Personal Information

Even though employees are legally required to supply certain personal information to their employers, an employee's privacy is protected by law. An employer who discloses an employee's personal information in any unauthorized way may be subjected to civil and criminal prosecution.

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