A guide to filling out your HR paperwork, from W4 and 401K options to health and life insurance
A job leads to self-discovery and making an impact in your world. It sparks curiosity. It challenges your professional capacity. An opportunity to cultivate new relationships. As a new employee, you should be able to move quickly from slightly overwhelmed to excited. And, to be able to roll your sleeves up and get to work, you'll first need to get some clerical "housekeeping" work done.
Onboarding documentation includes all the fun stuff of starting a new job: direct deposit, proof of legal status, financial benefits, insurance, retirement, and estate plans. Although these terms may look overwhelming, below are tips to fill out new hire forms.
Legal Eligibility Status
As a new employee, you'll need to prove your legal status to work in the United States. This calls for the usual personal information: full name, date of birth, Social Security Number (SSN), email address, and phone number. There are five categories of status — a citizen, a noncitizen national of the US, a lawful permanent resident, and an alien authorized to work in the U.S. Your employer will want to see proof and has to document it on their end.
The best part of a new job? The perks! Your employee contract should cover your job title, compensation, benefits plan, paid time off, and termination terms. It may also include a non-compete and/or confidentiality clauses to protect the company's privacy and limit information shared (leaked!) by former employees.
First up? The W-4 form sets the amount of federal taxes you withhold from your paycheck and your potential refund come tax time. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires this Employee Withholding Certificate. In a full-time role, your employer withholds Federal and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes from your paycheck.
The first step is to fill in your personal information. Your name, address, Social Security Number, and tax filing status.
State your marital status.
If you have any children, count them as dependents.
Also, consider credits, deductions, and additional income.
Not so fast, speed racer! Be aware of your state law. In a state like New York, if you leave before 12 months, the employer does not need to pay your accrued vacation time. In Massachusetts, however, that's not the case. One more thing: you might be subject to withholding local income tax. For example, in California, you'll need a DE-4 Withhold Certificate.
Independent Contractor Form
The W-9 form is for contractors who earn more than $600 in a year without landing a full-time employer. Otherwise known as gig workers, these freelancers, contractors, and vendors declare that they are accountable for withholding tax themselves. Also, you will present information like Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.
Use the same full name on your tax return.
If you have a business or trademark name, fill in a business name. You can leave it blank if it does not apply to you.
The Federal tax classification is on the third line. Declare if you are filing as an individual, sole proprietor, or single-membered limited liability company (LLC).
Use your SSN or employer identification in the section Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). If you don’t have an SSN, you should use your IRS individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Health Insurance Plans
Consider how much health care you use right now, before setting up your plan. Are you a "I go to the doc every time I sneeze" kind of person or a "I'll go to the doc when my arm is hanging by a thread—and no sooner!"? Think about if you require ongoing health specialists or are on medications, too.
It is easy to focus on the monthly premiums but keep other costs in mind, like your deductible, co-pay or your out of pocket max. A lot of times, low monthly premiums can mean a higher deductible. So, if you don't go to the doc often, you're probably better off with lower monthly premiums.
We're living longer, hooray! But, that's totally screwing up our retirement projections! Given our extended life expectancy, it's harder to determine just how much to save for the future. Companies are leaning away from defined benefits pensions with guaranteed pay. And not to mention contribution plans like a 401K or a 403b, which are subject to market ups and downs. (Psst, we highly recommend you leave your retirement funds alone until you actually retire!)
Life Insurance Policies
Consider life insurance policies if your employer offers them. These can be subsidized by your employer, which means they may cost you less than if you found insurance directly. And it is typically a faster process to qualify through your work. Often a life insurance benefit is considered part of your overall employee compensation package.
You may have access to group accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage through your employer which pays the employee's beneficiary if death or dismemberment occurs due to an accident.
With that, you should be locked and loaded and done with all the new-job housekeeping. Now, back to the fun of starting your new J-O-B! And while you’re at it, hop into your To-Do List and get crackin' on your financial plan. Remember: financial wellness is only 3 minutes a week away!