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Employee versus Independent Contractor and Taxation of Payments (HRIS vs FIS)


Implications of Employment Relationship

Employee or Not?

What method (HRIS or FIS) should be used to pay an individual?


The University is required to apply the appropriate tax treatment, under the Income Tax Act, to payments made to persons providing services to the University.

All payments must be processed through HRIS, except for specific exceptions listed below in the section “What method (HRIS or FIS) should be used to pay an individual?“.

Individuals who receive payment for services from the University may, in some cases, be required to collect Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in respect to those payments (see Payroll and the HST). Integral to determining the appropriate tax treatment is the determination of an individual’s relationship with the University in respect to a particular service, i.e. employee or contractor.

The document “Income Tax Guide – Employee or Independent Contractor “, maintained by the Payroll Department, Office of the Assistant Vice-President, should be referred to for detailed guidance surrounding this important decision. The document includes the following sections:

  • Questions you should ask when determining whether a service provider is an employee or an independent contractor
  • Requirement to keep clear and understandable notes about each particular situation
  • Parameters for assessing service provider relationships
  • Types of service provider relationships
  • Types of legal entities
  • Types of services that are provided to the University of Toronto, and a matrix which assists in determining the relationship, communication required and processing method
  • Adjudication processes and example court cases
  • Communication of final assessment to the service provider to let them know the basis for the decision
  • Sample agreement between University of Toronto and the independent contractor.
  • Contact the Manager, Payroll Department at 416-978-2814 for additional assistance

The following sub-sections highlight the issues and guidelines in this area, and should be read in conjunction with the Income Tax Guide – Employee or Independent Contractor:

Implications of Employment Relationship

Where an employment relationship exists with respect to a specific service rendered, there are both benefits and costs to the individual, and related obligations and costs for the University.

Benefits to the Individual:

  • Earnings are classified as insurable earnings for purposes of employment insurance should the individual be in position to require benefits.
  • Earnings are classified as pensionable earnings for purposes of future benefits from the Canada Pension Plan.
  • On behalf of the individual, the University deducts and remits to Canada Revenue Agency amounts in respect of income taxes, employment insurance contributions (EI) and Canada Pension Plan contributions (CPP).

Costs to the individual

  • Cost of contributions to the Employment Insurance and Canada Pension plans.
  • Potential greater income tax cost because of the limited deductions against employment income versus other types of income in arriving at taxable income.

Obligations of the University

  • Withholding and remittance of income taxes, EI and CPP.
  • Cost of University contributions to EI and CPP borne by the hiring department through the standard benefit rate.

Employee or Not?

The Income Tax Act does not define an employee. However, jurisprudence, i.e. court rulings, have applied four tests to help determine if an employment relationship exists:

  • control
  • specified results
  • risk of profit or loss
  • integration

This test looks at the control the University has over the person performing the service. Generally, an employment relationship is indicated if the University determines how, what, where and when work will be done.

Specified Results
Does the individual have to supply the service personally for a fixed or indeterminate period?

If so, the individual is an employee in respect to the service.

If not, i.e., if the University accepts that the individual may subcontract the work, generally an independent contractor relationship exists.

Risk of Profit or Loss
Is there a chance for profit or loss to the individual providing the service? Is there a significant investment in facilities?

For example, does the individual incur expenses related to the service such that he or she will realize a profit or loss if the payment from the University exceeds or falls short of those expenses?

The absence of the potential for profit or loss may indicate an employment relationship.

Is the work an integral part of the normal activities (teaching or research) of the University?

Each situation has to be considered carefully in order to determine the status.

It is not necessary for all criteria to apply in order for an employee relationship to exist.

In summary, an employee or an independent contractor would likely exist if most/all of the following factors were present:


  • specific tasks, recurring
  • not responsible for costs
  • provided with office or work station
  • job description
  • reporting relationship
  • performance appraisals
  • remunerated regularly
  • employment agreement

Non-employee (independent contractor)

  • controls what, where and when
  • provides own supplies, services, offices
  • pays own expenses
  • remuneration at risk
  • services provided on behalf of company
  • contract for services

The document Income Tax Guide – Employee or Independent Contractor should be consulted, as this document categorizes common types of services provided to the University and the appropriate treatment to follow in each circumstance.

If the individual’s relationship with the University in respect to the service being provided is still unclear, contact the Manager, Payroll Department at 978-2814 for assistance.

What method (HRIS or FIS) should be used to pay an individual?

All payments for services provided by individuals must be paid through HRIS, except for the following:

(*) a sole proprietor is a self-employed individual where

  • The business is not incorporated;
  • The individual has sole responsibility for decision making;
  • The individual receives all profits and is responsible for all losses; and
  • The individual reports their business income on a T1 individual tax return

For assistance in determining the payment method for specific types of services provided to the University, refer to Chapter 6 of the Income Tax Guide – Employee or Independent Contractor, which is a matrix to determine the method of payment by type of service.


Last revision June 2010