I have been contacted by several shoppers who have received emails from mystery shopping companies suggesting that they register as Independent Contractors (ICs) with IC Pro. They wanted to know whether this is a scam (it’s not) and if it is something they should do.
Mystery shoppers typically operate as ICs, which provides several benefits to both the mystery shopping companies and to us as mystery shoppers. Recently, both Federal and state governments have been challenging IC status in many industries. Although these actions are not directed specifically at the mystery shopping industry, they will have an impact on all of us.
Although some mystery shoppers like the idea of being employees rather than ICs, they may not like that status as much when their pay is decreased (to cover the mystery shopping providers’ increased costs of carrying them as employees), when they are restricted from working for multiple companies, or when they are unable to deduct their business expenses, such as Internet access, mileage, etc.
One thing we can do to prove we are ICs is to operate as independent businesses and to affirmatively state that we are doing so. There is a new service from Surf Merchants (the folks who brought us SASSIE) to make that easy.
IC Pro is a simple way to inform participating companies that you are an IC. There are lots of advantages to both you and the mystery shopping providers, so let’s take a look…
How much does IC Pro cost?
There is no cost to mystery shoppers to register with IC Pro. You will need a free Jobslinger account.
Which companies are part of the IC Pro coalition?
IC Pro is currently available to the more than 50 companies that use the SASSIE system. Not all of them are using IC Pro at this time, but many are and more are expected to start.
Why should I register with IC Pro?
Many participating companies give preference to IC Pro shoppers when making assignments. They are better protected from challenges to a shopper’s status when using IC Pro shoppers, and the fact that a shopper has registered with IC Pro indicates that the shopper is treating their mystery shopping as a business. Mystery shopping companies like to deal with shoppers who consider themselves professionals, rather than the ones who think the business is all about getting paid to go to the mall.
So, if you are registered with IC Pro you may get more mystery shopper jobs from participating companies.
Is there any reason not to register with IC Pro?
Um…I can’t think of one. I did it.
What do I have to do to register with IC Pro?
Go to http://Jobslinger.com and log in to your account (or create a new account, if you do not already have one). Jobslinger accounts and IC Pro are both free. From your dashboard, click on IC Pro and fill in the requested information. The more complete your profile, the higher your IC Pro score. It took me just a couple of minutes to complete the process and get my 100% IC Pro score.
Is it safe to give them my Social Security Number, or should I get an EIN?
It is safe to enter your SSN on the site. Because these are the folks who run SASSIE, you have probably already trusted them with it many times in the past when you signed up with SASSIE companies.
Getting an EIN can be a good idea if you are concerned about giving your SSN to mystery shopping companies. IC Pro recommends that you get an EIN, but it is not a requirement. If you would like to get an EIN, there is a link from the IC Pro application to the EIN application on the IRS website. It takes only a few extra minutes to get an EIN.
How will I file my taxes if some companies have my SSN and others my EIN? Will I have to file two tax returns?
When you file your income tax return you will list both your SSN and your EIN on the Schedule C you file for your mystery shopping income. The only thing that will change is that you will enter an additional nine digits (your EIN) on the Schedule C, but you do not have to file additional forms or separate returns.
My conclusion was that there are some good reasons for signing up with IC Pro (first and foremost, the possibility of more mystery shops) and not really any downside. So what do you think? Are you going to register with IC Pro?