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Independent Contractor

An independent contractor, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is a service provider hired to perform a job or service, but not provided with the means or method of accomplishing the task. The following three characteristics are reviewed in evaluating and classifying the independent contractor status:

  1. Behavioral control - Does the service provider determine how and when the service is performed (given university time constraints where/when applicable)?
  2. Financial control - Is the service provider responsible for all business aspects of the job (expenses, tools, insurances, etc.)?
  3. Type of relationship - Does the service provider receive benefits? Is the service provided a key aspect of the university?


  1. If there are questions or concerns, please contact your unit's human resource representative or financial administrator, or the Office of Tax Compliance, (607) 255-9465.
  2. All inquiries from the IRS, or another taxing agency or government office are to be directed to the Office of Tax Compliance, (607) 255-9465.

Misclassification of a service provider can result in substantial penalties, taxes, and other liabilities, for which the unit can be held responsible.

Document List
  • Service Provider Questionnaire* - Provided by the contracting unit (or responsible university entity) to the service provider for completion. The service provider returns the completed questionnaire to the unit for use in completing the checklist outlined below.

Note: Whether independent contractor/consultant status is accepted or rejected, the completed Service Provider Questionnaire and Worksheet documents must be attached to the KFS requisition for submission to Cornell Procurement Services for record-keeping purposes. If independent contractor/consultant status is rejected, the service provider can be appointed as an employee through the Division of Human Resources using a University Personnel Action Form (UPAF).

  • Certificate of Insurance Request Form - The unit must ensure the service provider has adequate insurance coverage. The unit will send the proof of insurance to the Office of Risk Management and Insurance for review and retention.
  • Supplier Information Form* - An application used by Cornell as a substitute for the W-9 form containing all of the service provider's pertinent information. The request form is an online application, the data obtained is retained by the university to fulfill record retention requirements.

*These forms are available on the Cornell Procurement Services website.

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