Comparing Employment Models: The Advantages and Disadvantages of W-2 vs. 1099 Employees

August 2, 2023
5 minutes to read
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When it comes to hiring workers, businesses have the option to engage individuals as either 1099 contractors or W-2 employees. Each classification carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages and depends on the company’s circumstances. However, there is a case for why W-2 employees are ultimately better. For W-2 vs. 1099 employees, we outline their pros and cons and how the benefits of W-2 arrangements often outweigh 1099 arrangements.

What Is a 1099 Contractor?

A 1099 contractor is also called an independent contractor or freelancer. They are individuals or business entities hired by another party to perform specific services or tasks on a contract basis. The term “1099” refers to the IRS form (Form 1099-MISC) used to report income earned by independent contractors. Unlike traditional employees, 1099 contractors are not considered employees of the hiring entity but rather work as separate entities or businesses.

1099 contractors are typically responsible for managing their own taxes, paying self-employment taxes, and providing their own equipment and supplies needed to perform the contracted work. They have more control over their work hours and methods. This often means they work on a project-by-project basis and have the flexibility for multiple clients simultaneously.

It’s important to note that the 1099 contractor classification is not solely based on the preferences of the employer or the worker. The distinction is determined by the nature of the working relationship. The degree of control exercised by the employer, the level of independence of the worker, and the presence of an employer-employee relationship according to legal and tax regulations are all considered. Misclassifying workers can lead to legal and financial consequences for employers.

Pros of 1099 Employees

1099 employees are also referred to as independent contractors. Their advantages include:

  • Cost savings – Employers are not responsible for paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, or unemployment taxes. They also do not have to provide benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off.
  • Flexibility – Independent contractors typically have greater control over their working hours and conditions. This allows for more flexibility in managing projects and tasks.
  • Access to specialized skills – Businesses can tap into a diverse pool of talent by hiring independent contractors with specific expertise or skills for short-term projects.

Cons of 1099 Employees

However, there are also notable drawbacks to hiring 1099 employees. Those include:

  • Lack of control – Employers have limited control over how independent contractors perform their work, as they operate as separate businesses. This can create challenges when it comes to consistency, quality, and adherence to company policies.
  • Legal risks – Misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they should be classified as employees can lead to legal repercussions, including tax penalties and liability for labor law violations.
  • Limited commitment – Independent contractors are not bound to a single employer and may work for multiple clients simultaneously. This lack of exclusivity can result in reduced loyalty and dedication to a specific company.

What Is a W-2 Employee?

A W-2 employee is also known as a traditional employee or an employee on payroll. They are individuals hired by a company or organization to work in a position of employment. The term “W-2” refers to the IRS form (Form W-2) that is used to report wages, tips, and other compensation paid to employees by their employers.

W-2 employees have a direct employer-employee relationship with the company they work for. They are typically subject to the control and direction of their employer, receive regular paychecks on a scheduled basis, and have taxes withheld from their wages by their employer. The employer is responsible for providing benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, paid time off, and other employment benefits as required by law or offered as part of the employment agreement.

W-2 employees generally work set hours and follow company policies and procedures. They are often entitled to certain employment protections and benefits, including workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and the opportunity for career growth within the organization.

W-2 employees are classified by the nature of the working relationship. Consider factors like the level of control exercised by the employer, the permanency of the employment, and the degree of independence of the worker. Regarding the classification of workers, employers must comply with legal and tax regulations regarding the classification of workers. This ensures proper treatment and adherence to employment laws.

Pros of W-2 Employees

W-2 employees are traditional full-time or part-time employees. They offer several compelling benefits including:

  • Greater control and consistency – Employers have more control over the work performed by W-2 employees, enabling better management of quality, standards, and productivity. Companies can establish and enforce policies and procedures more effectively.
  • Long-term commitment – W-2 employees typically have a stronger sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization since they enjoy the stability and benefits provided by full-time employment.
  • Enhanced collaboration – Regular employees are more integrated into the company culture and work environment, fostering teamwork, cooperation, and better communication among employees.

Cons of W-2 Employees

However, W-2 employment also has its downsides. Those include:

  • Higher costs – Employers are responsible for covering payroll taxes, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and providing benefits. These all significantly increase labor costs.
  • Limited flexibility – Traditional employees often have set schedules and may require more supervision. This reduces the flexibility that 1099 employees can offer.
  • Difficulty finding specialized skills – The right talent pool is often limited to those seeking long-term employment. This can make hiring W-2 employees for specific short-term projects or specialized skills challenging.

W-2 vs. 1099: Why W-2 Employees Are Ultimately Better for Businesses

Considering the pros and cons discussed, W-2 employees tend to provide businesses with a more favorable employment arrangement. Here’s why:

  • Stability and commitment – W-2 employees offer stability, loyalty, and long-term commitment, contributing to a stronger workforce and organizational cohesion.
  • Increased control and consistency – With W-2 employees, employers have greater control over quality, performance, and adherence to company policies, resulting in improved outcomes and customer satisfaction.
  • Mitigation of legal risks – By properly classifying workers as W-2 employees, businesses can avoid legal pitfalls associated with misclassification. This reduces the risk of penalties and labor law violations.

w2 1099


While there are circumstances where engaging 1099 workers may be beneficial, the advantages of W-2 employees typically outweigh those of independent contractors. The increased control, commitment, and legal compliance associated with W-2 arrangements make them the preferred choice for many businesses. However, it’s important for employers to assess their specific needs. To make the most informed decision regarding W-2 vs. 1099 employment, they should consider project duration, skill requirements, and budgetary constraints. There is likely a type of employment that best suits their organization.