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How do we know if we must pay interns?

by on
in Small Business Tax Deduction Strategies

Q. Our company would like to hire interns to work in our office this fall, but we’re not sure if we have to pay them. What are some guidelines as to whether or not we need to put them on the payroll?

A. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, there are few circumstances in which a for-profit private sector employer can hire interns without paying them.

The DOL recently issued guidelines for unpaid internships.

In general, the internship must be structured more as an educational experience for the individual, rather than work to benefit the employer’s business. The DOL created a six-factor test that would permit an employer not to pay its interns:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

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