Why did I get a W-9 at my (academic) job interview?
February 3, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Why did I get a W-9 at my (academic) job interview?

I interviewed on Monday for a postdoctoral position in mathematics. (Yes, I'm the one that asked questions here and here.) The interview involved spending much of the day talking to various people in the department one-on-one, going to lunch and dinner with some of those people, and giving a talk on my research.

While there, I was given two official-looking forms. One is a form on which I am asked to report my expenses, so that I may be reimbursed. I know why I got this. I also got a W-9 form.

Why does the IRS need to know that I made this trip? The only thing I can think of is that I'm getting paid for the talk, but nobody mentioned that.
posted by madcaptenor to Work & Money (10 answers total)
The only thing I can think of is that I'm getting paid for the talk, but nobody mentioned that.

If it was an official department colloquium, you may be getting an honorarium. If so, it may be standard enough from the relevant administrator's perspective that they didn't think to mention it to you, or just forgot (this stuff varies by field but in some fields there is always one). Or it may be that you aren't getting an honorarium because it is a job talk, but they usually give one to colloquium speakers and gave a W9 to you without thinking about it or by accident. Why not ask the administrator who processed your travel or whatever?
posted by advil at 12:13 PM on February 3, 2010

What did they say when you asked?
posted by Perplexity at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2010

According to this person's experience, it's because they are going to issue a payment for your travel expenses and either plan to issue a 1099, or because they want to make sure they have your SSN just in case.
posted by cabingirl at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2010

Yeah, what advil said. It may be that they just gave you the standard "speaker" packet without realizing that you were applying for a job. Or that you're getting an honorarium and they forgot to mention it. Either way you should talk to the department secretary or whomever you're suppose to submit the forms to, who can clear it up for you. So again, what advil said.
posted by muddgirl at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2010

I don't know why, but our Business Office at the university I work in said we had to start giving this form to non-university employees (such as job candidates) for reimbursements.

A job candidate we had this week will have to complete it to be reimbursed for her cab expenses to and from the airport, etc.
posted by zizzle at 12:17 PM on February 3, 2010

When I asked, I got a vague answer: that the university was required to give this form to all "vendors". Is someone who gives a talk a "vendor"? In any case, knowing this doesn't affect how I fill out the forms, so I will just fill them out and be surprised at the amount of money I get.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:17 PM on February 3, 2010

Seems reasonable that it is just an abundance of caution. In the "must have documents for every dollar disbursed" sort of way.

Although it seems odd that they assume you want a taxpayer identification number, when you might already have one, or like most normal potential employee types, a SSN...?
posted by gjc at 5:38 PM on February 3, 2010

gjc is on the money based on my experience. Anyone that our college finance office pays out money to has to be registered as either an employee or a vendor.

It's mostly for record keeping in the financial systems, but also consider that if you do become a full employee, that money may need to be accounted for when W2 time rolls around next year.
posted by Remy at 6:38 PM on February 3, 2010

Oh this is one of my fucking pet peeves. We just went through this at my institution. Even if it's just for reimbursed expenses and not taxable income, the accountants insist on getting a W-9 from EVERYONE to avoid the possibility that 1) someone along the way makes a poor judgment call and doesn't collect a W-9 when they should have, AND 2) once the mistake is realized, the person who should have filled out a W-9 then refuses to do so, AND 3) that happens to be one of the random transactions the IRS looks at *if* they ever audit us... because then we MIGHT have to pay a FIFTY DOLLAR FINE OH NOES. Nevermind that it probably costs more than $50 in labor and fringe to collect, route, process, file, and keep track of each W-9.

So the answer is that tax accountants apparently missed the day risk and expected values were covered in class.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2010

(I got sucked into a long, 20+ email, multi-week debate about this issue... in the end, the pathologically risk averse accountants won. Apparently their reasoning is that it's better to piss everyone off and incur thousands of dollars of additional *certain* expenses than run the risk that we *might* incur one or two $50 fines.)
posted by Jacqueline at 4:04 PM on February 4, 2010

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