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Obtaining services from individuals to accomplish a particular task requires persons soliciting their service to determine whether an Employer/Employee Relationship exists or if one is to be identified as an Independent Contractor. This subjective decision is based primarily on what the IRS refers to as the "Common Law Test." The critical factor is the "right to control."

Employees are persons performing a service whereby the employer (Cornell University) determines not only what needs to be done (results) but also controls how it is to be done (means). The person is normally directed by the Employer, provided the tools and facilities to function, works solely for one entity and is not bound by profits or losses.

Independent Contractors are commonly referred to as:

  • Consultants, Vendors, Contractors, etc.: They are masters of their own time and normally are subject to control only as to the "results." Usually a contractual relationship exists where the Independent Contractor is responsible for his or her business, determines the means and methods, supplies the tools and materials, avails themselves to the public, directs the order and sequence of the work, determines the hours worked and bears the risk of profit and loss.
  • Guest Lecturers/Seminar Speakers (not affiliated with Cornell University) are also technically considered to be Independent Contractors.

The primary responsibility for determination of Independent Contractor vs. Employee status lies with the units. For more information, please visit the University's Payment & Tax Services Page addressing new suppliers. If it is determined that the individual hired is considered to be an Independent Contractor, the method of payment varies significantly. Independent Contractors are not "appointed" to the Payroll. To access an Independent Contractor's Approval Form, please visit Cornell's Policy.

For additional information and criteria used in making the determination regarding status, please visit

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