Contract labor remains a gray area

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article, "Nomadic," by Cathy Hester Seckman (March 1997). As an owner of an employment agency that specializes in dental personnel, it is very gratifying that temporary dental hygienists are being recognized as an acceptable and common alternative in dental offices throughout the country.

Dear RDH:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article, "Nomadic," by Cathy Hester Seckman (March 1997). As an owner of an employment agency that specializes in dental personnel, it is very gratifying that temporary dental hygienists are being recognized as an acceptable and common alternative in dental offices throughout the country.

However, the statement made about dental hygienists being considered contract labor is misleading in some areas of the country. In Texas, for example, the Texas Employment Commission does not recognize contract labor for any employees in the dental office. They are considered to be under the direct supervision of the dentist whether they are a permanent employee or a temporary for just one day.

The IRS guidelines are very "gray" and have been tested in court to go against dentists who pay contract labor to their temporary employees. Hygienists who are paid contract labor could be in danger of an IRS audit if they are not filing quarterly returns and matching their Social Security contributions as a regular employer must do.

If the temporary hygienist works with an agency that pays them directly, not only do they earn an extra 7.65 percent (the matching Social Security contribution), but they do not have to deal with all the extra IRS hassles. The agency sends one W-2 instead of receiving a dozen or so 1099s from the offices where they were paid contract labor.

Dentistry and dental hygiene have undergone many changes in the 18-plus years that I have been working in the Dallas area as an employment specialist. One of the best changes has been the ability of the hygienists to have choices in their careers. Thank you for an enlightening article.

Nitia Morris

Dental Auxiliary Service, Inc.

Dallas, Texas

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