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GUEST OPINION: A new hurdle for independent contractors?

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It is well known that Iowa’s economy encompasses a diverse group of employees and employers. However, many people are unaware that a number of Iowa’s workers are classified as independent contractors. This valuable group, however, could face new hurdles in the future.

As part of President Barack Obama’s current budget plan, the Internal Revenue Service would attempt to establish broad-scale changes aimed at reclassifying independent contractors as rank-and-file company employees.

From software engineers to emergency room physicians, Iowans choose to be independent contractors because of the flexibility and opportunities it offers, while businesses choose to hire them because they can pay for performance. Though the roles independent contractors play are diverse, they all share the commitment to earning a living by working for themselves, and they often employ other members of the local community.

Ten million American workers are employed as independent contractors. This makes up approximately 7 percent of our work force. Independent contracting has also become a common steppingstone for entrepreneurs, often serving as the jumping-off point to small business ownership. In addition, 82 percent of independent contractors prefer contracting to traditional employment.

I personally understand the benefits of working as an independent contractor, as I formerly worked as an independently contracted dental associate. Through that experience, I was able to utilize the benefit of working as an independent contractor to further pursue my career in the dental field while continuing my education.

After graduating from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and completing my dental residency, my work as an independent contractor provided flexibility, as well as the ability to have my own Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan. This gave me the advantage of being able to set aside money for retirement while working for myself.

Since forming Iowa Dental Group P.C. in 2001, I have employed other independent contractors, thanks to a model that allows me the ability to hire people with certain areas of expertise at a significantly lower cost.

Despite our crucial roles in the economy, federal and state policymakers are making it difficult for independent contractors to grow and prosper.

It does not make sense to add another layer of government bureaucracy that would make it more difficult for independent contractors to run their businesses. Doing so would effectively smother prosperity and handicap local economies.

Independent contractors deserve the right to choose a job and a lifestyle that works for them. The president and Congress should not risk driving away innovation, job creation, entrepreneurship and the opportunity for greater work-life balance.

-Dr. Robert Margeas is the owner of Iowa Dental Group P.C. as well as a guest lecturer. 

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