A statutory employee is a worker who straddles the divide between being self-employed and being considered a regular employee. People who work in several different occupations may be considered statutory employees for tax purposes and their taxes must be handled in a special way. Tax authorities usually provide specific information about which kinds of employees will be considered statutory so that taxpayers and employers can confirm that taxes are handled appropriately.
A statutory employee is a person who is in business for her or himself, but who works primarily or wholly for a specific company. Traveling salespeople are an example. Agent or commission drivers can be another form of statutory employee. People who do piecework in their homes are also classified as statutory employees for tax purposes.
When someone is considered a statutory employee, the employer treats the person like a regular employee, paying taxes on that employee's wages and withholding for tax agencies. However, when the person fills out his or her own taxes, the statutory employee is allowed to file deductions as though he or she is self employed, even though the taxpayer does not file self employment tax. This recognizes that statutory employees incur expenses of a special nature in the course of their work. The employee may also have income from other sources which is handled differently on taxes.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if someone should be considered a statutory employee or an independent contractor. From the point of view of the employer, an independent contractor can be easier to deal with. Independent contractors are simply paid for their work and they handle all of their taxes themselves; the employer does not pay taxes on the employee, withhold taxes, and so forth. However, tax authorities can crack down on employers who incorrectly classify people as independent contractors when they are in fact statutory employees.
Lawyers with experience in the field of tax law can provide advice and consultation for people who are unsure about how they should be classified, as well as providing assistance to employers who want to confirm that the people who work for them are handled appropriately. Representatives of tax agencies are also able to provide assistance for employers and individual taxpayers who want to make sure that classifications are correct and taxes are handled properly. People will not be penalized for making an honest mistake but intentional misclassification of employees can make an employer subject to legal penalties.