The Employee/Contractor Determiner

Cheryl Wagner and Gary Morris, Internal Revenue Service Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

A side-effect of the national debate about health care reform has been to focus attention on the cost of hiring and retaining employees. This has lead to renewed interest in the issue of when a worker is an employee vs. an independent contractor. The IRS must make determinations regarding worker status. This determination process which has evolved through judicial precedent, is subjective and has generated substantial controversy. It is based upon Treasury regulations which include 20 common law factors used to evaluate the amount of direction and control a firm may exercise over a worker. The IRS AI Lab developed a PC-based expert system to help individuals make determinations on this issue. It is based upon the 20 common law factors and the combined expertise of a number of employment tax authorities. After being field tested in 1993, the SS-8 Determiner has been deployed in five of the IRS’s seven regions. Based on this experience, annual salary savings over $1 million, or increased revenues over $22 million, will result from nation-wide implementation. An IRS district office which specializes in employment taxes and which has C++ programming expertise, is assuming responsibility for code maintenance.

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