How to fill out a W9

  • Download the Movavi form filler
  • Open a W9 form and fill out all applicable information in the form
  • Save your finished W9 form
  • Print your W-9 form or send it via email

Edited by Pat Bitton

May 26, 2021

What is a W9?

Before we dive too deep into how to fill out a W9, let’s first discuss what an IRS form W9 is and who is required to fill out a W9? A form W9 is also known as a Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification. Freelancers, contractors, and vendors fill out W9s for employers, and those employers use them to identify non-W2 workers when filing their taxes with the IRS.

Basically, as a freelancer, by giving your personal information and tax identification (TIN) number in the W9, you agree that the employer is not responsible for withholding taxes from the income they provide you. For full-time W2 employees, an employer will withhold a portion of your paycheck to cover your federal and state taxes, including Medicare and Social Security. However, if you are a contractor, you are responsible for paying your own taxes. Thus, by filling out and signing a W9 form, you state that you take responsibility for withholding your own taxes.

After you fill out a W9, at the end of the tax year, the employer you contracted with will use your W9 information to complete a 1099-MISC form for you – which shows all payments the employer has made to you throughout the year. So, if you did work for a company and filled out a W9 in 2019, they would send you a 1099-MISC that you will use when filing your taxes in 2020. If you’ve filled out a W9 for any employer or client, be sure that you get a 1099 form from them the next year, as this is one of the requirements when you submit your taxes to the IRS.

Many people get confused about W9 vs. 1099 forms. Basically, a W9 goes to your employer and gives them the information they need to send you a 1099, which is the form you submit to the IRS when you file your taxes. The forms may seem similar, but just remember that your employer receives the W9 from you before work begins because the meaning of a W9 is to help employers give the correct information about their contract workers to the IRS. Likewise, you receive a 1099 from them at the beginning of the next year, which has information about how much income you earned in the previous tax year.

When you begin work for a company, they will usually send you a blank W9 form to fill out and send back to them. However, if you do work for a small company or individual that doesn’t have a lot of experience working with contractors or freelancers, they may not know to send you the form. In this case, you can download a free, printable W-9 online. If you have a scanner, you can print your W9 form, fill it out by hand, and then scan and email it to your employer. However, there’s an easier way that doesn’t require all the extra steps of printing and scanning your W-9. Instead, you can download a tool like PDFChef by Movavi, which is used for entering all your information in your W9 in a PDF on your computer. You can then save and email a digital copy of your W9 to one or more employers.

Ready to get started filling out your W9 form? Click below to download a blank W9 form. Then you can click to download PDFChef so you can open a fillable version of the form and easily complete it on your computer.

Easy W-9 instructions: fill out your W9 in 7 steps

Need to fill out a W-9 form for one or more employers? Follow these simple step-by-step instructions:

  1. In the space marked Name, print your full name or the name of your business – whichever matches the name shown on your tax return.

    Disclaimer: The templates here are provided for reference only and you should always talk to a professional for all legal matters.

  2. If you will not be filing your tax return as an LLC, partnership, or corporation, check the box marked Individual/Sole Proprietor.

  3. If you are 100% positive that you are exempt from withholding taxes from your income, check the Exempt payee box. You can find qualifications for exempt payees lower down on the W9 form under Specific Instructions, Exempt Payee.

  4. Enter your current business or home address – whichever matches the address you will use to file your taxes.

    Disclaimer: The templates here are provided for reference only and you should always talk to a professional for all legal matters.

  5. Enter your taxpayer identification number (TIN). For most contractors, this will be your Social Security number (SSN), unless you will be using a TIN associated with your business.

  6. Sign and date the form on the line provided.

  7. Print the form and give it to your employer, or send it to them digitally via email.

You will never send a W9 form to the IRS. The businesses you contract with will use your W9 information for the purpose of submitting their taxes to the IRS, and you will submit the 1099s you receive from them when you prepare your taxes.

Your W-9 form: common mistakes and tips when filing

Everyone makes mistakes, but when it comes to filling out your W-9 form, a mistake could turn into a major hassle. Even something as small as a typo might lead to a lot of wasted time and potential financial penalties down the road. So, before you get started filling out your W-9, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some of the most common mistakes when filing. Be aware of these, and you’ll be more likely to avoid them.

  1. Typos in your name or Doing Business As (DBA) name

    Make sure you type out your name or the name of your business (your “doing business as” or DBA) correctly in every W-9 form you fill out. A small typo or misspelling could trigger an audit – especially if that typo makes it look like you failed to report one or more of your 1099-MISC forms when you filed your taxes. As with any information going to the IRS or any government body, you want to ensure that you have all of the details exactly right. It can save you big headaches down the road.

  2. Entering the wrong SSN or TIN

    Double- and triple-check your Social Security number or taxpayer identification number in your W9 form. Your employer can’t check this information for you, so if they submit their taxes with a different ID number than you provide in your taxes, it could appear that you have unreported income. And, just like a typo in your name, this could result in an audit from the IRS. Avoid audits, fines, and other penalties and hassles with a little extra time and attention to detail.

  3. Entering the wrong mailing address

    Inputting the wrong mailing address can cause delays when your employers send your 1099-MISC forms for your taxes. Whether you have to wait for mail forwarding or you have to chase down another copy of your 1099-MISC form from an employer, this kind of delay can cause a lot of stress for you and/or your tax preparer during tax season. Always make sure that all your information is accurate; a wrong address might not trigger an audit, but it can stand between you and your tax return.

Now, let’s talk about a few tips to help you ensure that your tax info is both accurate and secure. Follow these as you fill out your W-9 form and send it to employers. Most of these tips have more to do with how you submit your W9 form to your employers, but there’s useful information here for every part of the process.

Stay safe – Be aware of tax form fraud

Along with making sure that you don’t input any incorrect info, always be aware of the security of your information. Tax form fraud is everywhere, and fraudsters often use W-9 information to steal people’s identities. When you complete your W-9, it may include your Social Security number, and it will definitely include your full name and address. Don’t leave a completed form lying around anywhere that people you don’t know could see it. They could easily copy that information and steal your identity, commit tax fraud, or do any number of other things that can come back to hurt you. If you’re sending your form W9 to an employer, be sure to use a trusted courier service, encrypted email, or deliver it yourself by hand. Never trust sensitive documents to just anyone, especially if they include your full name, address, and Social Security number or tax ID number.

Have a trusted contact person with your employer

Never send a W-9 form to an employer you don’t know or whom you haven’t yet set up a contract or relationship with. Fraudsters will often pose as employers and reach out to contractors, asking for W-9 forms. These scam artists aren’t actual employers; they just want to steal your information – which can result in major problems for you. So, before you send a W-9 to any new employer, always be sure that you have a trusted contact you can send it to.

You should also be aware that the IRS will never reach out to you directly to request a W-9 form. If you receive an email or call requesting a W9 be sent to the IRS, be aware that this is a scam and don’t give them any of your information. Furthermore, an employer may only request a W-9 if you are contracting with them and are not a W-2 employee. In most cases, legitimate employers will either hand you a paper copy of a blank W9 form, or they will give you a means to download a blank form and send it to them directly. If you are working with an individual or a company that is not accustomed to giving contractors W-9s, you can download one at the link above and use PDFChef to fill it out and download it.

It’s also helpful to know that your employers can only legally request a W-9 form from you if they’re going to file an info return on you with the IRS. If you’re concerned that a request for a W9 isn’t legitimate, you’re allowed to refuse until you verify that the request is legal.

Ensure your info is accurate

As we discussed above, incorrect info on your W-9 form can be costly. When you fill in your W-9 form, whether you do it via a PDF on your computer or on paper, be as accurate as you can and fill out the information as completely as possible. Double-check all information for accuracy and spelling, and be sure that you use your legal name or the legal name of your business. Ensure that your TIN or SSN is correct, too, and make sure you correct any mistakes before you submit it to your employer. Taking a little extra time to address the details can save you a lot of time, money, and stress later on.

Update your W-9 annually, or when changes occur

Your employers can keep the same W-9 form on hand for you, year-over year, but you should make sure that you give them an updated copy whenever any of your information changes. Whether you go from using your Social Security number to a TIN, your address changes, or you change your DBA, you should always ensure that your employers have the most up-to-date information for you to avoid delays or financial penalties from the IRS. Remember, your employers and/or clients can’t keep track of changes that occur for your business or in your personal life (e.g., change of address). It’s your responsibility to deliver an updated W9 whenever any relevant information changes. Stay on top of this, and you’ll have a much easier time come tax season.

* The free version of PDFChef by Movavi has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output PDF. Learn more