Do you ever do that bit where you google your name, and see what wacko stuff comes up that’s supposedly associated with you?
Yeah, admit it, we all do…
Over the weekend, for giggles and grins, I googled not my married name, but my maiden name (which happens to still be my legal name, for various and sundry reasons having to do with when I was working way back before I became married).
To my shock, I discovered that I have a business!
Really? Wow, that’s news to me…
With 2 employees no less! And I’m supposedly getting a chunk of change from annual sales, as well!
It’s posted on the Internet, on sites that have obtained information from (supposedly) Dun and Bradstreet, so it must be true, right?
Before I go any further, let’s clear the record: I don’t have a business. Nope. Never have. It’s not even remotely possible for me to even fathom, given my level of disability. Sheesh.
Me having a business is as likely as me being the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.
Geez, Louise, where do these sites get this nonsense?
It took a bit of detective work on my part, but I think I’ve figured it out. It’s a crazy tale indeed–and one tied to the insanity of what happens when someone like me becomes disabled.
First thing to know: when you are disabled, stuff like health insurance doesn’t pay for someone to take over all things you used to do to keep a household going. Nope. It pays for “medically necessary” caregiving, which boils down to stuff like getting a catheter changed if you require one and don’t have anyone in your family that can be trained how to do that.
That means that if you need trifles done like laundry and picking up prescriptions (get the picture?), you hire someone to do that, usually as a household worker, or you hire an agency to do that for you.
If you hire a household worker, and you’re scrupulously honest (like most average Americans, not like the silly wealthy people you read about that hire a nanny and pay cash under the table and then, duh, are shocked when they rightfully get their butt kicked by the IRS for it), you have to do all kinds of things that an ‘employer’ does, even though you aren’t running a business–and even though you’re paying out money, not taking money in.
For example, in Wisconsin at least, you must have worker’s compensation insurance for that person, and pay quarterly unemployment taxes. If they’re going to use a car to run errands (like when getting that prescription), then you need to make sure you have car insurance that covers them during the hours they’re working for you. On the federal level, you have to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes for them. You have to file a W-2. You must also file a “Schedule H” with your yearly personal income taxes every year that you have a household employee (the Schedule H is the IRS’s ” Household Employment Taxes” form — designed just for these types of situations). Everyone must do this, incidentally, who hires an individual (not an independent contractor or business) to mow the lawn, or baby-sit kids, if they pay that person (2010 threshold) more than $1700 a year.
Trust me on this, it’s a total pain in the butt, especially if you’re like me and want to make sure you always do everything honestly. You can pay out as much in insurance and taxes to the government to have a person run your washing machine as you pay a person to actually do the task. And you can’t claim any of it as a medical expense–it’s another one of those hidden costs of being disabled. However, when you become fully disabled, it’s really the only choice you have, unless you hire an agency. Those, however, are way more expensive, and you have much less control over the quality of the people that are going to come breezing into your life to help with the tasks that you can no longer do yourself.
Still with me? Good.
Now, here’s the next complication. You can’t get the state-mandated worker’s comp insurance for that 10-hour-a-week laundress, or file required state unemployment comp taxes (or many other things involved in having a household worker), unless you have something called a FEIN: a Federal Employer Identification Number. The federal Schedule H also asks for a FEIN, although apparently a social security number can be used on that form instead. However, in Wisconsin at least, the State gets confused trying to match its records, which it bases on the FEIN, to the IRS’s Schedule H if you fill out the Schedule H using your SSN. And then lots of people get their knickers in a knot trying to straighten it out. So, it’s dumb to use the SSN on the Schedule H and end up making everyone testy.
But… how does all this fit with web sites claiming I have a business? Ah, Grasshopper, read that acronym again: FEIN. Federal Employer Identification Number.
aHA!! Ding! Now we’re closer to solving the mystery of “my” phantom business!
If I have a FEIN, I must be an employer, right? Which means I have a business, right?
From what I can figure out, companies harvest FEIN information and then sell it. No distinction gets made as to whether a FEIN is a “real” business or is, as in my case, simply an individual who is disabled and had to jump through about a bazillion hoops to have someone pick up my prescriptions.
Apparently, companies and sites harvesting this information aren’t doing any checking to see if the information they’re publishing is even remotely accurate in other ways, either. For example, my phantom business lists me as having almost six-figures of yearly sales. Wow! Who knew? I wonder what I’ve supposedly been selling? Phantom Fairy Dust? The inaccuracy becomes excruciatingly even more ridiculous as I haven’t even had a household employee for years, not since a family member became my full-time caregiver.
The icing on the cake? There is no way to remove this ridiculously incorrect information from these websites. There is no way to stop the FEIN information from getting misused, misconstrued and propagated throughout the web in this fashion.