In recent weeks, identical bills were proposed in the House (H.R. 4123) and Senate (S. 2145) to eliminate the so-called “safe harbor” in the federal tax code that protects businesses that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and, thus, have avoided paying payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation premiums and other costs. These bills mark the second time in 18 months that such legislation has been put forward. Though unlikely to pass, especially in this gridlocked Congress, the bills are just the latest in a number of recent endeavors by state and federal lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to curb independent contractor misclassification.
While the bills recognize that many workers are properly classified as independent contractors, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that as many as 30% of employers are misclassifying employees as independent contractors. According to the IRS, approximately $54 billion in tax revenues are lost annually because of independent contractor misclassification. These agencies are now taking action to police misclassification and curb abuse.
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