How to fill out a W-9 online

If you work as an independent contractor or freelancer, you need to fill out a W-9 form for each of your clients for tax filing purposes. Printing and scanning each form can get a little cumbersome, but filling out the form online can save you time.

Similarly, if you have a business and you subcontract to or work with other freelancers, giving them a way to fill out a W-9 form online can save both of you time, streamlining the process and getting everyone up and running faster.

When businesses need to collect W-9 forms

The W-9 form, also called the Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form, is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form that gives a business the information it needs to later generate a 1099-MISC, the required tax form used for freelancers and independent contractors.

This W-9 form applies to self-employed workers who operate as one of the following

  • Individual/sole proprietor or single-member LLC
  • C corporation
  • S corporation
  • Partnership
  • Trust
  • Limited liability company (LLC)

How to fill out a W-9 online

The IRS website makes a PDF version of the W-9 available, but filling it out is more complicated than you might think. To edit the PDF, you’ll need Adobe Acrobat. And there are often issues with saving the edited version of the W-9.

Printing and scanning is another option, but it’s not convenient, and it can make collecting and maintaining electronic records complicated. To save time, fill out a W-9 online.

JotForm offers a convenient and easy option that makes this possible. To start, upload the W-9 form using Smart PDF Forms. This is free and easy — just drag and drop your file into the uploader.

Once your file is uploaded, it will be converted into a fillable HTML web form. You can use this form to edit the W-9. Once you’re finished, you can save a copy of the completed form in its original formatting, then send that to your client.

If your business works with freelancers, you can embed this form in your website or send the link to freelancers, giving them direct access to the form. They can complete all of the information and use an electronic signature, so there’s no dealing with printed or scanned forms.

Once a freelancer has completed and submitted the form, JotForm will generate a completed PDF document with the original layout. You’ll receive an email notification with the PDF attached. You can download the PDF and keep it for your records. You can also use autoresponder emails to send your freelancers the completed forms and set your PDFs to automatically sync to services like Dropbox and Google Drive.

If you want to bypass the process of uploading a W-9 form entirely, JotForm has a W-9 form template ready to go.

9 Form Template

You can replicate this process with your other onboarding forms and contracts, streamlining and automating the workflow.

What’s on the W-9

The W-9 form collects the essential information that a client will need for income tax preparation purposes. A completed form will include

  • The worker’s name
  • Their business name or disregarded entity name, if applicable
  • A check in the box next to their appropriate business entity type
  • A code reflecting whether they’re exempt from backup withholding
  • Their mailing address
  • Their taxpayer identification number, social security number, or employer identification number
  • Their signature and the date

If you, as a freelancer, are unsure about how to complete parts of this form, check with your accountant. Once you’ve completed the form a few times, it will become second nature.

When you’re collecting W-9s for freelancers that you’ve hired, don’t send the form to the IRS. Instead, retain it as a part of your records — you’ll use it during tax preparation season.

What to do with your collected W-9 forms

Keep completed W-9 forms secure and protected. Remember, these forms include sensitive information — like a freelancer’s social security number and mailing address.

Your tax preparer will use the W-9 forms to generate a form 1099-MISC for all workers who earned $600 or more from your business during the tax year. Having these tax documents completed and ready for your preparer can ensure you’re able to get these 1099 forms out to freelancers in a timely fashion. With your W-9 forms all available in a single digital file, you can easily send them to your tax preparer and save time during those busy tax preparation months.

Be sure to collect W-9 forms from all of your freelancers each new tax year. If a freelancer’s information (such as their address) changes, you’ll need to have the freelancer complete an updated form. Luckily, when your forms are online, the process is easy for both you and them.

AUTHOR
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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