Employee vs. Independent Contractor: What’s the Difference?

employee at desk

Understanding the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor is crucial for both employers and workers. The classification of workers impacts various aspects such as taxes, benefits, legal obligations, and job security. Keep reading as we share the key differences between employees and independent contractors to help you make informed business decisions.

Employment Relationship

The primary distinction between an employee and an independent contractor lies in the nature of their relationship with the employer. An employee typically has a structured, ongoing relationship with their employer. They work under the company’s direction, follow a set schedule, and often have a manager overseeing their work.

However, an independent contractor is considered a separate business entity. They are hired for a specific project or duration, and they maintain more control over how they complete their tasks. Independent contractors usually have their own tools, equipment, and may work for multiple clients simultaneously.


Taxation is a critical aspect that differs significantly between employees and independent contractors. For employees, their employers withhold income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from their paychecks. Additionally, employers often contribute their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Independent contractors, on the other hand, are responsible for handling their own taxes. They are considered self-employed, which means they need to report their income and pay both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes. This can sometimes lead to higher overall tax liability for independent contractors.

Benefits and Protections

Employees typically receive a range of benefits from their employers, which may include health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and more. Additionally, employees are protected by various labor laws, such as minimum wage, overtime, and workplace safety regulations.

Independent contractors are not entitled to these benefits or protections. They are responsible for their own health insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits. They are also not covered by many labor laws that protect employees.

Flexibility and Control

One of the advantages of being an independent contractor is the flexibility it offers. Contractors have the freedom to choose when, where, and how they work on a project. They have more control over their work process and can often negotiate the terms of their contracts.

Employees, on the other hand, typically have less flexibility and control over their work. They are expected to adhere to a set schedule and follow the company’s policies and procedures.

Liability and Risk

When it comes to liability, employees are generally protected by their employer’s insurance and are not personally liable for the company’s debts or legal issues. Employers are responsible for covering workers’ compensation and other insurance for their employees.

Independent contractors, however, are considered separate entities, which means they are personally responsible for their own liability and insurance. They may need to obtain their own professional liability insurance to protect themselves from potential legal issues related to their work.

Understanding the differences between employees and independent contractors is crucial for both employers and workers. Whether you’re considering hiring someone or entering into a work arrangement, being clear about the classification is essential to ensure compliance with legal and financial obligations. Consulting legal and financial professionals can provide further guidance in navigating these distinctions. To get help managing your independent contractors, contact Amerit today!