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FAQ

Is it true that self employed people pay more taxes?
US tax perspective. It is true that self employed people pay self employment tax and W2 wage workers have FICA/Medicare tax withheld from their paycheck. However that simple analysis can be very misleading if you are considering self employment vs a job as an employee.First SE tax is 15.3% of net profits from self employment. This might be working as a sole proprietor or working as a general partner in a partnership. Compare that to FICA/Med tax which is 7.65% of gross wages. You might notice that 15.3 is 7.65 times two. That is because when you work as an employee your employer also pay 7.65% of your gross wages in FICA/Med tax, so you and your employer are paying 15.3%. When you are self employed you are both employee and employer.Two important words in the previous paragraph are “gross” and “net”. If you are an employee you get paid gross wages and that is what is taxable earnings to you. When you are self employed you get to deduct necessary and ordinary business expenses to come up to net earnings and net earnings is the number a self employed person calculates tax on. As an employee if you employer does not reimburse you for business expense you can deduct those subject to limitations as an itemized deduction, but it will not reduce what your FICA/Med tax is based on and truth is you are unlikely to get much tax benefit from employee business expenses due to the limitations on how you calculate the deductible portion in your itemized deduction.So while a self employed person might pay a higher tax rate due to the SE tax, it is still possible that a self employed person pays less total tax than a W2 worker on comparable pay. Comparable pay is another important consideration, because employers factor payroll taxes and payroll compliance costs when they set pay rates. It is fairly common when you breakdown worker pay on an hourly basis, you will see a premium paid to the independent contractor over the wage worker, because the employer does not have to deal with all the hassles of payroll compliance.UPDATE: As of 2018 W2 workers can no longer deduct un-reimbursed employee business expenses when calculating taxable income. Self employed individuals still do deduct business expenses and may qualify for an additional 20% QBI deduction.
Can a company threaten and sue you for a bad review on their product?
It depends. Was the review your opinion ( what you think, based on your experience), or a false allegation?One is an opinion, which is not illegal. The other is libel, which is illegal. You can be sued for libel.For example, you order a vase through company A. You receive the vase and decide that you don’t like the color, so you ship it back to the company for a refund. The company clearly states that you need to pay return shipping, and you do. You receive your refund in a timely fashion.In that case, your review should give your opinion (I didn’t like the color), but also the facts (company A gave me a refund within their stated time frame). It isn’t the company’s fault that you didn’t like the color, and they handled your return correctly.If however, your review was dishonest, and you made things up or verbally attacked the company because you didn’t get your way and thought that a bad review would get them to do what you want, that is libel.For example, you received the vase in perfect condition, but decide that you don’t like the color. So you decide to return it, but you don’t want to pay for the return shipping (which is clearly posted on the company’s website), so you call Company A and lie, telling them that the vase arrived broken. Company A asks you to ship the broken vase back or send them a picture of the broken vase in the box with their shipping label shown in the picture. This is all clearly posted on their website in their refund policy. You have no proof of the broken vase, but the company has you on a recorded call. Instead of following their clearly posted policy, you post a negative review about the company something along the lines of “ Company A sent me a broken vase (no, they didn’t) and refused to give me a refund (a lie, they didn’t refuse to give a refund, they asked for proof that the vase was broken before they refunded you). They refused to work with me (another lie), and their customer service rep was rude and incompetent.In that case you posted a review filled with lies and inaccuracies, with no proof on your end, and plenty of proof on theirs.Bad reviews can have a very negative impact, they can cost a company money in the form of lost business, and employees can lose their jobs. If your review is libelous, then the company can sue you for lost business and wages, and win.In order to avoid being sued, first of all, try to resolve any problems through customer service as companies will work with you. Make sure you read and understand their description and policies thoroughly before you order. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.Second, make sure your review is factual and honest, if it is your opinion, clearly state that it is your opinion by saying words like “I didn’t like” or “In my opinion”. If it is factual, make sure you can back it up with evidence such as pictures or recorded conversation.Third, don’t try to bully someone into giving you what you want by threatening to write a bad review.
What recourse does a 1099 employee have if the employee is fired, with no notice or cause given (I'm in California)?
There is no such thing as a 1099 employee.Independent contractors receive a 1099-MISC form for payments for services rendered. Independent contractors are self-employed.A business can decide to end its relationship with an independent contractor for any reason, as long as a contract does not say otherwise.
What is the business and work of staffing companies like TekSystems, Robert Half Technology, and similar ones? Does anyone really benefit from that?
Simply put, staffing companies recruit and and place candidate employees into their client employers' open job positions. The staffing firm performs preliminary qualification and filtering of candidates by doing basic matching of the candidate's skills and background with the client's needs, before sending the candidate to the client for interview and approval.Staffing firms like this generally place candidates on a W2 contract or W2 contract-to-hire basis, so they are technically the candidate's employer (rather than the client). This means that the staffing firm also takes on the burden of payroll and benefits administration for the candidate, while the client can account for the candidate as an expense rather than as headcount.In exchange the staffing firm takes a flat fee and/or a cut of the employee's hourly rate.Both hiring companies and job-seekers can benefit from this arrangement. The staffing firm does recruiting work that the client may not be willing or able to do in-house, while connecting job-seekers with open positions that they otherwise might not be aware of. This is especially valuable to candidates looking for work in difficult markets (weak economy, new geographic region) where personal networking is not producing enough credible leads.However, both candidates and employers should be aware of the staffing firm's true incentives in this situation. The staffing firm benefits by placing the first available qualified person into the first available appropriate role. That's it. Notice how things like the employee's career growth and job satisfaction do not appear here. The staffer wants the employee not to hate the placement (otherwise they leave and the staffer loses their income stream) but that's about as far as that goes. Likewise, from the client company's standpoint the staffer has no incentive to consider things like longterm cultural fit beyond a certain minimal point.
95K Salary as a W2 full-time employee vs. 100K Salary as a 1099 independent contractor. Which is worth more in the long run?
Firstly, I'm not an accountant, so all of this should be verified with a CPA. Also, it may be moot if the startup is requiring you to work in their offices - technically, this would immediately qualify you as a full time employee.Saying this there are advantages and disadvantages to being a 1099 employee, here are a few (by no means a comprehensive list):DisadvantagesTaxes: You have to pay both self employment tax (i.e. the employer's half of social security (FICO)) and medicare. This adds an additional 7.65% in tax contributions immediatelyBenefits: Your health insurance payments will be 100% your responsibility Termination: Unless you write it into your freelancer contract, they will not have to give you any notice before termination. I.e. They can tell you today that you are no longer employed and that's itAdvantagesWorking as a 1099 contractor can become even better if you form an LLC or S Corp for yourself so that you can perform "corporation-to-corporation" contracting. As I understand it, this can also help get around the issue of working on another company's premises as well. IMO It's usually not worth going through the trouble to form an LLC or S Corp if you're making less than $70K USD or so, but for $100K it should be. The below list is written from the assumption that you created an LLC for yourself.Write Offs: As a contractor, every single expense that is even slightly related to work becomes a write off. This includes conferences, magazines, meals, seminars, bus tickets, train tickets, computer hardware, office equipment, chairs, legal fees, accounting fees, rent, etc. , etc., etc. This means that you subtract these expenses in part (lunch) or in total before you calculate any taxes. Depending on your line of business, this can reduce taxable earnings dramatically.SEP IRA: After you have subtracted all of your expenses, the IRS will allow you to contribute up to 25% of your taxable earnings (up to $53K in 2015 @SEP Plan FAQs - Contributions). This is usually far more than the 401K cap. Of course this is a retirement savings plan, so once you've contributed you really can't touch the money until you're 69.5 (with a few exceptions) Flexibility: There is no reason your LLC can't bill multiple clients, unless you've entered into a contract that precludes you from doing thisSaying this, let's say that you have $30K in expenses (including health insurance) and then you decide to contribute $17,500 to a SEP-IRA. This immediately takes your taxable income from $100K per year to $52,500K per year. Needless to say, even having to pay an additional $4,016 in self employment taxes pales in comparison to the federal and state income tax savings (assuming you don't live in a tax free state) from reducing your tax bracket from $100K per year to $52,500 per year.One last thing to remember, contracting/1099 employment is not for the faint of heart. It offers less certainty than W2 full time employment, saying that, if you are confident in your ability to win new clients (err jobs) and don't mind committing a little time to your tax strategy, it can be a good way to maximize the amount of cash you actually get to keep and spend.
What did a new employee that you've just hired do wrong that instantly made you regret that decision? Did you fire them?
The ink on the hiring forms was still ‘wet’. This was a work study position. During the interview I stated that his availability is why I wanted to interview him. His classes were all after 3pm. He was available M-F in the mornings and we needed someone to open at 7:00am. I tell him shifts are usually 4-6 hours. I asked him directly, if coming in early would be a problem. He says ‘Sure, I prefer to open.’His start date isn’t for another week, so I had time to get the paperwork done. The next day I get an email from him saying that he wouldn’t be available Thursday evenings. Okay, no problem. I need him in the mornings anyhow. I reply telling him so. Two days later, I get another email. He says he won’t be available Tuesday’s because of some extracurricular activities. Huh? I asked him about any extracurricular activities during the interview. He said he had none! Hmm, well Tuesdays aren’t busy and we already had another work study on the schedule by 10am. A day later, a third email! He tells me he’s auditing a class and wouldn’t be available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings between 8am-10am! What? That’s exactly when I needed him!Keep in mind, each of his emails kept asking me to provide him a detailed schedule. I wasn’t 100% sure what his schedule would be. It might be 7am-10am or 9am-12pm. My supervisor and I usually look and see how the new work study fits with any existing part-time staff already on the schedule and look to fill the gaps. Schedules can change if someone is out sick or a full-time staff member is on leave.I felt like he was trying to get me to commit to a definitive schedule so he could counter with more nonsense. I consulted my supervisor, telling her about the string of emails and she tells me ‘He’s playing games. I think he doesn’t want to work mornings and is trying to get you to commit to a schedule HE wants. Cut him loose.’I agreed! I replied to his latest email: During the interview, you stated that your mornings were open Monday through Friday and your class schedule reflected that. Your current availability doesn’t meet our department’s needs. As a result, I will be terminating the hiring process to pursue other applicants.The next morning I get this panicked sounding email from him telling me he doesn’t really need to audit the class and he can do it another semester. Again he requests I tell him his exact schedule. I reply explaining that the position is filled. (It was. The young lady I hired in his place was a delight. She will be missed!)I thought it was over… When I return to the office after the weekend, I see an email from the guy again. It was sent Saturday around midnight. He explains how he MUST get a job, and by not hiring him, I was making things hard for him. I’m done with him and do not reply.What did he think was going to happen? I didn’t give all the details of the crazy schedules he proposed. When I calculated how much time he would have been on the clock, he wouldn’t even have been able to work the full 19 hours allotted to a work study.Oh, and one last thing that made this exchange awkward…he’s a dead ringer for the actor that played Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock. He even talked like him. Kinda glad I didn’t hire Moriarty.
What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?
Summer 2018,Redmond, WA.I was scheduled to interview a lady for a Senior PM role on my team. She had a really well written resume that checked all the right boxes; she had industry experience, had worked on interesting projects and had quantified most things with metrics and data; something you love to see on a PM resume. I was excited to interview her; it’s just so much fun interviewing good candidates.As I walked into the room, I asked her if she was comfortable and if she needed a break to get a drink or use the restroom or just catch her breath; she looked nervous and I could only assume the previous interview might have shaken her up a bit; I wanted to make sure she was calm and composed during the interview.As soon as we got talking, the alarm bells started going off in my head; the person in front of me didn’t seem at all like the person from the resume. She kept talking on and on and on about one specific project she had worked on a decade ago and kept repeating the same data points in different ways; she kept repeating how difficult things were back then and tech was not as easy as it is for “us kids” today. I tried a couple of times to steer the conversation away but she kept coming back to it and asked me to let her finish the story. She was making repeated superficial statements about what her team had done and I kept asking her to specify her role in it all and what she had worked on but she kept avoiding the question. Eventually I had to put a hard stop to it since we were almost 20 minutes in and I needed time for design problems.I started off with a very easy problem; something I usually ask university candidates coming in for an entry level role. I had a feeling she would struggle and boy oh boy did she. She was all over the place and had absolutely no clue what she was saying; she would try and use every opportunity to try and tie something back to that one project she worked on almost a decade ago. By this time I was almost certain that this was not going to work out. I tried to switch to a more technical line of questioning since her resume made her sound like an expert on a specific field in security; she clearly was not. She struggled with even the most elementary questions and scenarios that you would expect someone who has been in the field for even a few months to know; I’m literally talking 101 here.At that point I had all but given up. I told her how parts of the PM role on my team can get quite confrontational; most people have a love-hate relationship with security teams since we tend to come in the way of their rapid prototyping and impact time to market due to security and compliance restrictions they probably didn’t plan for. We need to learn how to navigate these adversarial waters and I wanted to know her take on such situations and give me some concrete examples. Before I knew it, she took the opportunity to start ranting about how her current boss is really terrible, how he has no clue what he’s doing and how she doesn’t get along with him at all.I thanked her for her time and walked out of that room knowing with almost certainty what was going to happen. I was right; the other interviewers all had the exact same unanimous feedback. It turns out that she basically talked to each of us at length about that same one project from years ago and pretty much bombed everything else.What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?A fantastic resume that you’ve probably gotten written/reviewed by someone who knows the business well will only get you a foot in the door. If you can’t hold your weight beyond that point, you’re not going to get far. DO NOT fake a resume.Telling me about all the cool things your team has done but not being articulate even the tiniest bit about what your role was in all of that is a big red flag. If the only example you can give me for something meaningful you’ve done is from many years ago, it’s a big red flag. DO NOT pass off other’s work as your own.When I ask you about a goat, and you tie that goat to a tree, and then tell me about the tree; it doesn’t matter how much you talk about the tree, I know that you don’t know about the goat.DO NOT scheme your interviewer. He’s probably been doing this a long time. It’s ok to say you don’t know something and be willing to learn it.We have all had bad bosses or co-workers at times and it’s ok to share an anecdote or a learning from the experience; however if all you do is rant and vent about a person with no indication of a root cause or a lessor from it all; it sets the alarm bells off. DO NOT bad mouth your boss or colleagues in an interview.There is a good chance that in the tech industry, your boss and colleagues are going to be significantly younger than you. The fact that they are where they are at their age should probably tell you a little bit about how hard they have worked to get there. It’s probably not the smartest thing to do to antagonize them and snub them about their relative inexperience; clearly they have been doing something right. I’ve had interviewees and employees react this way at times; they just cannot bear to take instructions or leadership from someone who has been alive for fewer years than they have been in the industry.DO NOT antagonize your interviewer.Every interviewer wants the candidate to soar; their success is always intertwined.In case we haven’t met before, I’m Rohan Kamath.Thank you for reading. I hope I could help you ponder today. :)
How is your experience as a contractor versus a direct employee?
During my nine years as a software consultant, I noticed very few difference between me and W2 employees.We all got the same tasks, we worked in the same office, we kept the same hours, we used the same hardware and software, we socialized together. The only difference I remember are:I grossed more money than they did, because I covered my own benefits. I didn't talk salary and they didn't ask.I wasn’t in line for promotions or a management position.I didn't get annual performance reviews (yay!) and I had to negotiate my own raises.I got a lot more tax deductions for hardware, software, commuting, etc.I knew I could be let go with no notice or process.In my experience, being a consultant is neither better not worse than being an employee. Just choose the one that suits your personality best.
All of my prior work history has been W2, and I just got my first 1099 job. What are some things I should be aware of? Am I going to end up owing the IRS a ton of money? What should I be on the lookout for?
You are responsible for your own taxes. File your quarterly estimates.You can take deductions for work-related stuff. So keep receipts. If you are working on your PC from your home office, you can take a depreciation deduction on your home office (basically, value of your house times the percentage of your house that’s your office and then divide by the # of years you can depreciate, which I believe is 27.5). If you buy paper for work, or you use your cellphone for work, you can deduct part of that cost. If you drive to client sites, you may be able to deduct 55 cents per mile for the trip. I don’t know what line of work you are in, but there’s probably something that is deductible. This will help reduce your tax burden. If you are working out of your home, and your office is 5% of the house, you can deduct 5% of a lot of other expenses, like 5% of electricity, 5% of heating oil, 5% of landscaping. It adds up. Just keep bills, receipts, etc.Set up a SEP IRA. Particularly if you are making a lot. This is like a 401K — it’s a way to invest money on a tax deferred basis. You invest money in the SEP IRA and you can deduct that from your tax. And while a 401K has a maximum contribution of $18,000 per year, you can put $54,000 into a SEP IRA tax free each year (or 20% of your income, whichever is smaller).Not sure if you have one client or several clients, but seriously, make sure you get paid. Send invoices on time, ask if they’re late in paying you.
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