Must I file a W-11?
November 14, 2010 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Am I REQUIRED to fill out the W-11 form that my employer has included in my new hire paperwork? Long story short, I (grossly) abbreviated the length of my recent unemployment in my job interview.

It's a large-ish company I'm signing on for, so I'm fairly sure that the HR people are likely to have little contact with the folks that interviewed me. That being said, I've been on unemployment for the last few months and DID NOT mention that at any point in the hiring process. I'm still on good terms with my old managers, they just didn't have any room for me as business slowed, and they came through for me with good references. I'm not sure if the "length of employment" question came up on their end, and it's a bit late to ask as I am reporting to work tomorrow morning.

What do I do? This W-11 thingee seems to be a tax break for my new employers, and it's essentially just an affidavit swearing that I haven't worked in 60 days. These forms are handed to all new hires along with a mountain of other paperwork. From what I understand, it's illegal (?) for my new bosses to uncover my unemployment benefits in my background check. But are they going to uncover my lack of income through looking at my finances? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Should I sign it and keep my fingers crossed, or ignore it and act as if the 60 day unemployment doesn't pertain to me? I'm really afraid to come across as a liar in either instance.
posted by macrowave to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Are you REQUIRED to fill it out? I don't think so.

On the other hand, if your new employer has budgeted to hire you under the HIRE act, and cannot afford you otherwise (or just doesn't like that you're refusing to fill out paperwork), they're not required to bring you onboard, I would think.
posted by frwagon at 7:45 PM on November 14, 2010

You're probably making a big deal out of nothing. IANAL, so I can't say if you must fill out the W-11. Assuming it's mandatory, just do it and tell the truth in the form. This is in writing, in an "official" form, so lying here is a whole new ball game compared to a little embellishment of your employment situation at the time of your interview.

I don't think you'll ever be confronted about this, but if you are, you can always (1) come clean and deal with it (2) come up with an excuse that makes the whole thing look like a misunderstanding. Whether you'll pursue (1) or (2) depends on what kind of confrontation you're facing. Good luck!
posted by falameufilho at 7:46 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The W-11 is an IRS form in which you make a statement and aver its truth. Filling it out dishonestly strikes me as a Very Bad Idea. So, if you fill it out, you really should tell the truth.

As to whether you need to fill it out, I don't know if it's legally mandatory. But if you're an at-will employee, your employer could probably fire you for refusing to do so, and if it creates a tax incentive for your employer, they're going to want you to do so. At minimum refusal to do so would raise a red flag.

I would just fill it out. I doubt whoever sees that form is going to talk to whoever interviewed you and made the decision to hire you. If somehow you get busted, follow falameufilho's advice and come clean or come up with an excuse.

Did you even lie about your period of unemployment? Nothing required you to volunteer that information; the question isn't clear on whether it came up. If it just never came up, just fill out the bloody form. If it did come up and you misrepresented when your last employment ended, I still doubt that's a big deal... I can't see a situation in which filling out the form is anything but your best option here.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:59 PM on November 14, 2010

as a manager who spent some time with hiring and handing over huge stacks of papers - an employee not filling out a routine form is far more red flagging than a discrepancy on one of those forms.
posted by nadawi at 8:00 PM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

My hunch is that refusing to fill out a form like that would be much more "suspicious" than simply doing it, even if it doesn't square with what impression you gave during interviews. If it were me, I'd just do it.

Also, from your story, it doesn't seem like you've really done anything wrong here. If they didn't ask you about how long you've been unemployed, you don't have any obligation to bring it up. You didn't lie (from what I understand from your summary), and I wouldn't even call it a lie of omission. If they didn't ask you, then clearly this isn't something that they care all that much about. And lets face it, there's the biggest recession since the 30's going on, I doubt that your new employers would be stunned by the fact that you've been unemployed for a while.

My advice is to simply fill it out truthfully. If someone comes and asks you about it, tell the truth and (like falamefilho suggests) play it like it was a misunderstanding. I doubt that you'd lose your job over it. If they didn't think you'd be a good fit, they wouldn't have hired you in the first place.

Good luck!
posted by gkhan at 8:03 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding that lying on an IRS form is a VERY bad idea.

Also employers who hire someone who is unemployed can qualify for some tax credits. (quick google results pasted below). You may keep them from some deserved credits for hiring you if you lie.

And I don't see any reason TO lie.,,id=220326,00.html
posted by mazienh at 8:35 PM on November 14, 2010

If for some reason the guys who hired you happen across your tax forms and notice you signed the W-11, they might say something like "Huh, I didn't know __ was unemployed." But since they didn't ask and you didn't mention it, they can't say something like "But he LIED to us!" You didn't lie to them, or to the IRS. I would say sign the form.
posted by amethysts at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: THANKS dudes.
posted by macrowave at 10:06 PM on November 14, 2010

I don't understand the conflict- aren't most people who are looking for work unemployed? How does being unemployed (through no fault of your own) count against you?
posted by gjc at 5:31 AM on November 15, 2010

gjc: Yes. Employers STILL think there was some reason for laying you were the worst employee etc. AND, the longer you are unemployed the WORSE you look.
posted by CodeMonkey at 10:44 AM on November 18, 2010

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