Exactly what does and does not constitute an independent contractor relationship can oftentimes be a little tricky to determine. In general, an independent contractor should work with minimal direction, at their own time, and in their own way. The more you direct or lay constraints and restrictions on an individual, the less likely that individual is to be judged a consultant rather than an employee. Research Foundation IRS Twenty Factors of the Common Law Test, is used to help you to determine if what you are proposing is a consultancy. If you have to answer "no" to more than one or two of these questions, then the individual you plan to hire most likely belongs on the Research Foundation payroll and should not be hired as an independent contractor.
Bear in mind that classifying a worker as an independent contractor rather than as an employee may appear to result in financial savings and less paperwork. However, if the employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, these perceived advantages are offset by the potential penalties that could be assessed by the Internal Revenue Service. Therefore, to claim an individual or firm as a consultant, thus avoiding the withholding process, is a very questionable practice which we must prevent.
If it is determined that a person or sole proprietor will be providing incidental lecturers (as defined by the IRS), then the Principal Investigator can hire the individual, filling out the correct paperwork, which would include the Independent Contractor form, a completed Working Relationship form, and a completed W-9 (if not already on file at the Research Foundation). An invoice from the lecturer detailing the services that were rendered and the dates they were performed is also necessary. Payments are through the vendor payment process.
Payments to academic and professional employees of SUNY for services performed as an independent contractor are NOT permitted.
Definitions of the most frequently used categories of independent contractors follow. However, the overall definition of an independent contractor is "a worker subject to the control and direction of the organization for which services are performed only as to the RESULT of the work and not as to the MEANS."
Selection of consultants and determination of appropriate fees are the responsibility of the Principal Investigator who must consider the policies of the Sponsor, the Internal Revenue Service, the Research Foundation, and the College. All of the following requirements must be met.
Research Foundation Request for Advance Approval of an Independent Contractor e-form is used to document and request approval for hiring an Independent Contractor. A resume of the contractor should also be provided. The Research Foundation Operations Manager (or designee) will review the request and, if appropriate, generate a purchase order for the services. Since an independent contractor or lecturer arrangement does not involve an employee/employer relationship, a Working Relationship form which clarifies the individual's non-employee status will be generated. The contractor must sign the Working Relationship Form before payment for the contracted services will be authorized. Note that if the contractor is to receive $10,000.00 or more for the services they are to provide, a formal written agreement will be required.
A contract is required for independent contractor charges of $15,000.00 or more. The contract should be fully executed PRIOR to the services actually being rendered.
To generate this contract, the project director should submit the Independent Contractor Agreement Instructions form to the Purchasing office. SPO will process the contract and mail along with the purchase order to the contractor for signature. When the fully executed contract is received from the consultant, the purchasing department will sign and forward a copy to the project director and back to the contractor.
In some instances, sponsor approval is also required. When this is the case, documentation of sponsor approval should be provided before the contract is fully executed.
It usually takes about two to three weeks for the SPO Purchasing Department to approve the consultancy, generate the purchase order, and fully execute the contract. Therefore, we recommend that requests for procurement of consultant services be submitted at least 15 working days prior to the date that the services are needed.
Research Foundation procurement policy requires that when the amount of the goods and services to be provided by the independent contractor are between $15,000.00 and $25,000.00 that three verbal or written price quotes be obtained. For payments to independent contractors in excess of $25,000.00 three written bids are required.
Payments to independent contractors are made through the vendor payment process. Requests for payments must be supported by an appropriate invoice for services performed. The Principal Investigator must approve the payment and certify that the services were satisfactorily rendered. Signing and returning the gold copy of the purchase order provides this certification. Partial payments to Independent Contractor may be made with an invoice approved by the Principal Investigator.
For services under $15,000.00, submit a completed Purchase Order Change Notice to increase, decrease, or cancel the purchase order with the consultant. For payments in excess of $15,000.00 when a formal agreement is in place, changes to the original agreement can only be processed after an amendment to the contract has been executed.
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