Why 1099 Salon & Spa Workers are NOT Employees

December 26, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 14 Comments

My apologies to all employee-based salons/spas with W2 employees for having to write this post…you are salon/spa owners that properly follow IRS tax laws by withholding payroll taxes from your employees’ paychecks.

This blog post was written for all the salons/spas in our industry that classify workers as 1099. This includes stylists, estheticians, nail techs, massage therapists, support staff, etc.

I use the term “worker” because a 1099 worker IS NOT an employee.

There are two reasons why salon/spa owners classify workers as 1099:

  1. Owners don’t want to be bothered with collecting, depositing employee withholding tax and paying the employer’s required payroll taxes. It’s so much easier pushing the tax burden on their “employees.” If it were that easy for a business to avoid payroll taxes – no company would have employees. FACT: It’s not that easy.
  2. Didn’t know. Didn’t care. Followed bad advice. These excuses are not a viable defense if IRS determines that you misclassified W2 employees as 1099 Independent Contractors. If you have any degree of control over workers with respect to supervision, schedules, performance standards, training, products used to do the work, dress code, etc. … the workers are W2 employees. 

As the business owner, you will be liable for your back payroll withholding and employer taxes … plus interest and penalties.

TEN questions to determine if a worker is a W2 Employee or a 1099 Independent Contractor:

  1. How often does this person work for you? How regularly someone works for you is more important than how many hours he/she works for you. If the person works for you full or part-time on a regular basis, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  2. Do you set the person’s schedule? An indicator of employment status is how much control you exercise over a worker’s scheduleIf the person works a regular schedule, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  3. Do you instruct or supervise the worker? While you’re probably providing all workers with some guidance, how much control you have over their approach helps determine their status. If you supervise and/or oversee the person’s work, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  4. If additional workers are needed for a job, who hires them? The amount of control you have over a worker’s decision-making power is an important factor. If it is your responsibility to hire additional workers to meet the volume of work, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  5. Who pays the costs related to the work? How much the worker pays for tools and supplies to perform the job compared to how much you pay is another factor. If you pay for supplies, materials, support staff, etc., he/she is most likely a W2 employee. (Product and/or service charges collected to offset your costs do not classify the worker as a 1099.)
  6. How is the worker paid? The timing and method of payment is an indicator of the worker’s status. Employees are often on payroll, whereas contractors invoice youIf the person is paid hourly, salary, commission or piece work, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  7. Is the worker economically dependent on your business? An important factor in deciding whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee is whether he/she is dependent on you or, if he/she is in business for him/herself. If the person’s primary income comes from your business, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  8. Does this worker make decisions that impact their own profits and losses? How much the worker’s managerial skills affect his/her opportunities for profit or loss helps determine his/her worker status. When risk is shared, and the worker gets paid only when you get paid, therefore risking loss of his/her own investments, he/she is more likely an independent contractor. If the person only needs to work more hours or be more productive to increase his/her income, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  9. Is this person hired to work indefinitely, or for a specific project or time period? How long someone works for you is one of the key considerations in determining employee status. If the person is hired and continues to work for the business with no specific end date, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.
  10. Are the person’s activities a core part of your day-to-day business? The role a person plays in your broader business is a critical factor. If the worker’s performance increases your profits, the person is more likely an employee. If the person is required to perform a service or do work that is integral to your business, he/she is most likely a W2 employee.

If you are classifying workers as 1099 and your answers to any of the above questions lean toward W2 employee … you are misclassifying workers.

You will be the one responsible for back payroll withholding taxes, interest and penalties.

Statutory Employer Payroll Tax Deductions

Payroll taxes must be withheld from an employee’s paycheck. This is required by law. Employers must hand these withholdings over to various tax agencies. Payroll tax deductions include the following:

  • Federal income tax withholding (based on withholding tables in Publication 15)
  • Social Security tax withholding (6.2% up to the annual maximum)
  • Medicare tax withholding (1.45%)
  • Additional Medicare tax withholding (0.9%) for employees earning over $200,000
  • State income tax withholding
  • Various local tax withholdings (such as city, county, or school district taxes, state disability or unemployment insurance).

Employer Payroll Tax Responsibilities

The responsibility for payroll taxes continues even after paychecks have been issued to employees. The company is responsible for:

  1. Paying the employer’s share of payroll taxes.
  2. For depositing tax dollars withheld from the employees’ paychecks.
  3. Preparing various reconciliation reports.
  4. Accounting for the payroll expense through their financial reporting.
  5. And filing payroll tax returns.

Here’s my challenge to you:

If you are a salon/spa with W2 employees: Please share this post with as many owners as possible. Salons/spas that classify workers as 1099 … and treat them as employees … are a serious problem in our industry. The practice hurts all salons/spas that are tax compliant.

  • Share it on your social networks
  • Share it with the product companies and distributors you support.
  • Share with industry groups or associations you belong to.

If you are a salon/spa with workers on 1099 … it’s time to comply with Federal IRS tax laws. Converting from 1099 to employee-based is a process that Strategies can coach you through. It may not sound like fun … but the alternative of having IRS determine that you misclassified employees will be a financial nightmare.

Categories: Financial Literacy

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  1. I have been an employee at a salon for approx 8 yrs. 1 1/2 years ago my boss approached me and asked if I would mind becoming a 1099 employee to help save her money on payroll taxes. I didnt know much about it. I looked into it a little and decided since im a good saver, that that would be fine with me, to help her out. I have recently discovered that it illegal. I also recently discovered that last yrs and this yrs 1099 end of year statement doesn’t chive with what I actually made and never picked up on it until now. I am required to go to all meetings, classes, to be on time and if I am not, I get penalized – no new clients etc. She takes 50% of my earnings, I am charged more fees on top of that for hair color, and she only gives me 10% of my retail. I don’t get workers comp, Im not covered under her liability policy and if im sick I cannot collect any money while Im out. Somehow I feel like I got the raw end of the stick. Please let me know what you think.

    1. You pretty much summed it up. 1099 is “independent contractor” yet you are held accountable like an employee. What your employer did was push the withholding tax responsibilities on you. You are also paying “Self Employment Tax.” It is illegal.

      1. Well done. The shame of the industry is only the owner wins in 1099. Stylists are sold a scam unless you are in a private little room and buy everything. These commission scams must be busted. Contact the IRS fast. Report any commission 1099 con.

  2. do you have any advice for a stylist in this position? I am 1099. Salon takes 50%. I don’t have access to my schedule, or my clients info, or my reports. have to hit certain goals to even get commission on retail. Signed a contract and a code of conduct and am on their payroll. Please help

    1. Like my blog post said … if you’re a 1099 — you’re NOT an employee. You’re an independent contractor. Employees receive a W-2 at the end of the year showing wages paid and withholding tax. 1099’s are responsible for their own taxes. Plus, you’re paying the “Self-Employment Tax” that the salon would be paying if you were W-2. That’s why your statement, “I’m on their payroll,” is not true. Lastly, a business cannot treat 1099’s like employees with non-compete contracts, standards of performance, work schedules, etc. My recommendation is for you to read the following link to understand what you got yourself into as a 1099 being treated like a W-2 Employee. Then I would meet with the salon owner and request that he/she, or you, file IRS Form SS-8 to have IRS officially determine your worker status.

    2. All 1099 salons are a con. You will pay higher taxes,buy your own products,pay double Social Security and always must be ready for an audit. They will fine you heavy eventually. You will be caught. Just a scam to not pay taxes and retire poor.

  3. I’m in a position where I received a 1099 I get 50 percent of my earnings she covers supplies I do not have a dress code and make my own schedule sh collects all money and pays me at then end of the week,,, again I’m 1099 and pay my.own taxes is this legal,,,pls help

  4. My salon ownner pays for all supplies and classifies her workers as 1099. Her accountant says she’s a “vendor”. Loophole alert!!

  5. I work at a nail salon as a receptionist my hours are set and so are the days I work. My boss told me he will be filling me as a 1099. I live in California and get paid under minimum wage( there are only around 12 employees), I don’t get proper breaks, and I’ve never filled a 1099 only a w2 with tax season coming up what do I do?? if this is illegal how do fix this mess. help pls.

  6. My salon owner pays commission and classifies the workers as 1099. However, she supplies all materials and products. Her accountant says she is considered a “vendor”. Therefore this increases my taxable income, since i can’t deduct anything on my tax return. Is this legal?

    1. David, It is illegal to for a salon owner to treat workers as employees (set schedules and have any control whatsoever of the worker), pay commission, supply all materials products — and classify such workers as 1099. The salon owner IS NOT a “vendor.” The salon owner is an “employer.”
      • You are an employee.
      • You should have income taxes withheld from your paycheck … including withholding tax on tip income you receive.
      • The salon should be contributing to Social Security and Unemployment on your behalf.
      • You should be covered by Worker’s Compensation Insurance if you are injured at work.
      • You should receive a W-2 at the end of the year.

      Owners that classify employees as 1099 are violating IRS Tax Law and subject to back taxes and penalties.

      The only reason this owner classifies you as 1099 is to avoid taxes by pushing the tax burden on you. You are also paying self-employment taxes that you wouldn’t be paying if W-2.

      AND during this COVID-19 crisis … had you been properly classified as an employee, you would have instantly been covered by state and federal unemployment benefits.

      The entire point of the article I wrote is to reveal the illegal business practice of classifying employees as 1099s. As you can see from other comments posted here … the salon industry needs to clean up its act.


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