Can an independent contractor use a company car?

Q. If we use independent contractors as drivers/couriers, can they use our company cars? — Nancy, Florida

A. Yes, you could authorize or require the use of a company vehicle by a driver/courier who is working as an independent contractor (and having compensation reported on a Form 1099). As with any independent contractor relationship, however, you must be careful not to undermine the individual’s status as an independent contractor by treating this individual as an employee.

One of the hallmarks of an independent contractor is that typically he provides his own tools. And an essential tool for a driver position is, of course, a vehicle. That means you must carefully structure the relationship to suit your needs. For example, you want to ensure that the driver still operates independently. So you might charge the driver a fee for the use of the vehicle. All other expenses should be borne by the driver, including proof of sufficient insurance.

Note: Car ownership is only a small part of the analysis of how to ensure your independent contractor is properly classified. Consult with a local lawyer or tax advisor to ensure you’ve structured the relationship correctly. Look at the entire relationship, including whether the driver is free to accept or decline work for you, sets his or her available hours or takes work for other entities.