American Translators Association (ATA): Business Smarts-Freelancers and Confidentiality

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American Translators Association (ATA): Business Smarts-Freelancers and Confidentiality

Freelancers and Confidentiality

At its meeting in July 2005, the ATA Board of Directors approved the creation of a new Business Practices Education Committee to help disseminate information to ATA members about sound business practices. As part of that effort, the Committee will answer questions submitted by members in a monthly Chronicle column. Our very first letter expresses a concern about Social Security numbers.

Dear Business Smarts:

I've become increasingly aware of requests by agencies to submit my Social Security number for minimal assignments or even before any assignment is offered. Yet no assurance is given to me that such confidential personal information is safeguarded from misuse or even identity theft. What can I do to minimize this risk, which appears to be increasing in today's environment of mergers and acquisitions, even in our industry?
— Worried Freelancer

Dear Worried Freelancer:

One way to get around reporting a personal Social Security number on a Form W9 is to apply for a so-called 'Employer Identification Number' (EIN). The IRS will issue such a number, within one day, to anyone who is self-employed. You do not have to employ others to get such a number. Since I try to keep my personal and business finances strictly separate, I use only this EIN number for W-9 reporting to agencies. I feel that the use of this second number reduces my risk and does not allow people to check into my financial situation. I also report my earnings on IRS and other tax forms under the EIN.
— Dorothee Racette

Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: January 2006, p 53