As you organize your payroll records for year-end processing, it's a good time to make sure you're complying with backup withholding rules. These rules come into play when you make payments such as rents, commissions, or fees to businesses or individuals who have not supplied you with a valid taxpayer identification number (TIN).

What's backup withholding? It's a 28% tax that you're required to withhold from payments your business makes to certain vendors. Backup withholding applies when a vendor fails to give you a TIN or when the IRS informs you a vendor's TIN is incorrect.

How does backup withholding work? Say you hire an independent contractor to design a website for your business. The contractor operates as a sole proprietor.

You know you have to file "Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income," when you pay more than $600 for certain services to a noncorporate payee (some corporate payees also) in the course of your business during the year. You ask for a TIN by sending the contractor a blank "Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification."

The contractor ignores your request.

Under the backup withholding rules, you begin withholding 28% of the payments you make. You continue to withhold until the contractor supplies you with a valid TIN.

Until you receive the valid TIN, you remit the backup withholding to the IRS in the same way you make other payroll tax deposits.

In January, you file "Form 945, Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax." You also report the backup withholding on the Form 1099 that you issue to the vendor.

Please call if you are missing TINs from vendors or others with whom you have a business relationship. We can guide you through the steps you'll need to take to avoid penalties.

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