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Old September 9th, 2008, 01:08 PM   #1
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Jumping through payment hoops, what are my rights?

Last February I did a 3 camera shoot and edit to DVD for the students of a law school in Washington DC. I hired two camera operators, rented the cameras, ran the shoot and edited the show to DVD. I also paid for the duplication of the copies to give to the cast of the show. Once the job was completed, I sent them an itemized invoice outlining all of the costs. That was three months ago. Since then, it has been one thing after another getting them to send me a check. They asked me to fill out a questionnaire with 20 questions to determine whether I was an independent contractor or whether I worked for the school. Obviously, I don't work for the school. There were two questions on the questionnaire I didn't think applied to me as an independent contractor so I filled them out N/A. After another month-long delay, I received word today that I must answer those questions in order to receive payment. They are as follows:

#6 - What type of investment has the worker made in his/her business and how does
that investment relate to the job in question.

#11 - To what other organizations does this worker provide essentially these same
services. (if you don't know, they usually ask for a resume)

Besides being annoying to me (because the time spent dealing with this is time not spent working on other projects) I'm also wondering what rights I have not to answer. Of course, I can outline my expenses of equipment rental, camera operators, etc. and I can even provide a list of other organizations for whom I've done work, but what right do they have to demand that I answer those questions before they will pay me?

If it seems I am being petty, understand that this is merely the proverbial straw. It has been one thing after another and I'm fed up. Also, because they didn't state up front, when they were contracting me for this job, that processing my payment would be contingent upon me jumping through all of these hoops, and because so much time has gone by since I submitted my invoice, do I have a right to send a new invoice, with a late payment fee added?

Have any of you more seasoned pros run into these sorts of stipulations? Am I just being unreasonable?
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Old September 9th, 2008, 01:19 PM   #2
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Welcome to the world of working with government entities, institutions, etc. You will drown in paperwork for even the simplest jobs.

Fill out the answers to the best of your ability and jump through the hoops. Remember you're dealing with bean counters who get off on this sort of idiocy. If after you've met all their requirements and still don't get paid then hire a lawyer. Good luck.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 01:42 PM   #3
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Did you have a contract?

I would make an appointment with one of the bean counters and deal with them face to face, have them assist you in filling out the form. sometimes putting a face to a name helps.

but honestly it sounds like these are questions that should have been asked before they entered into a contract to have the work performed.

I'm dealing with something similar on the other side. I work in state government and purchasing from vendors has been taken to an entirely new orbit, it's unbelievable. If anyone wants to know why the government pays $500 for a toilet seat or a hammer this is why.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 02:17 PM   #4
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Thanks Rick and Bill. I'm calming down now and just sending them the requested information. It seems to me that this kind of red tape is a disincentive to doing creative work. But to get paid, I guess I'll answer their inquisition.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 10:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mark Willey View Post
Thanks Rick and Bill. I'm calming down now and just sending them the requested information. It seems to me that this kind of red tape is a disincentive to doing creative work. But to get paid, I guess I'll answer their inquisition.
Don't forget to invoice them for the time it took to fill out the form.

$250 form filling out fee.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 02:08 PM   #6
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I would make an appointment with one of the bean counters and deal with them face to face, have them assist you in filling out the form. sometimes putting a face to a name helps.
That has the added effect of motivating them to get through the process quickly, since now it's your time AND their time that is wasted.

Quote:
but honestly it sounds like these are questions that should have been asked before they entered into a contract to have the work performed.
Right. It's not uncommon that potential suppliers are looked at under the microscope before a first job is given to them or a purchase is made from them. Not just in the government world, large corporations can be just as painful to work with. I've never seen it being done after the fact, though, so that makes your case somewhat special. I guess if you have a signed contract with them and it doesn't mention that you have to provide all the information, you could just insist on the payment, with the help of a lawyer if you have to. On the other hand, if you are looking for future work from them, then the 800 lbs gorilla rule applies...

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Old September 10th, 2008, 05:36 PM   #7
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From the substance of those two questions it sounds like they're trying to determine if you're a 1099 independent contractor or a W2 employee subject to tax withholding - they're straight out of the IRS guidelines for determining if someone is an employee or not. Why it's a concern now and why they're just getting around to thinking about it instead of just paying your invoice is another matter, one that would make me go through the roof with the individual that actually hired you.
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Old September 11th, 2008, 11:14 AM   #8
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From the substance of those two questions it sounds like they're trying to determine if you're a 1099 independent contractor or a W2 employee subject to tax withholding - they're straight out of the IRS guidelines for determining if someone is an employee or not. Why it's a concern now and why they're just getting around to thinking about it instead of just paying your invoice is another matter, one that would make me go through the roof with the individual that actually hired you.


Steve,

You're surprised??? Look again at the original client. It's a LAW SCHOOL. Essentially a building full of people who are going to make their living hunched over law codes trying to parse the rules and regulations of relationships between messy human endeavors.

That they would get hung up on the technicalities of something like a work for hire agreement is as natural as a mountain climbing instructor totally focused on the appearance and proper construction of knots!

One of the most critical (and least addressed) choices any video practitioner makes is this: What kind of clients do you WANT to work with(for).

If the OP isn't now comfortable - or can't become comfortable - with a legal oriented clients natural fixation on the legal aspects of the agreement, perhaps that's not a good practitioner/client fit.
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Old September 11th, 2008, 12:03 PM   #9
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Steve,

You're surprised??? Look again at the original client. It's a LAW SCHOOL. Essentially a building full of people who are going to make their living hunched over law codes trying to parse the rules and regulations of relationships between messy human endeavors.

That they would get hung up on the technicalities of something like a work for hire agreement is as natural as a mountain climbing instructor totally focused on the appearance and proper construction of knots!

One of the most critical (and least addressed) choices any video practitioner makes is this: What kind of clients do you WANT to work with(for).

If the OP isn't now comfortable - or can't become comfortable - with a legal oriented clients natural fixation on the legal aspects of the agreement, perhaps that's not a good practitioner/client fit.
True true - just surporised it took them so long to get a round to it.
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Old September 11th, 2008, 12:08 PM   #10
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i think they are playing with you ...

you state that YOU hired operators ( = you paid them) , you rented the camera's (you paid for them ) , you edited etc ... bottom line is you supplied all services and a finished product.. i assume you have a Fed employer ID .... you are the contractor and those you hired under you are YOUR employees ... send them a copy of your employer ID ( sometimes they want to see your workmans comp insurance #- let them ask for that ) ..

IMO you should send them a notice demanding payment and if not paid by X date then interest will accure at Z% ....
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Old September 13th, 2008, 12:47 PM   #11
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Worshipping at the shrine of bureaucracy

Although not as bad as the experience listed above, the hoops through which anyone freelancing for the BBC in the UK has to jump are quite frustrating at first. You have to register with BBC Admin and give them your bank details: they will only transfer money, not send a cheque. Then you fill out a questionnaire and are listed as a bona fide supplier. Then you (with luck) get a call from a production to go and do some work. Afterwards, or even before the job, you are awarded a purchase order number - or rather two purchase order numbers: one for your fees, the other for your expenses, such as mileage, parking etc. Although you will have negotiated your rate with the production, they will not know any overtime or extras, so you need to tell them that, and they then update the purchase order, which was made out for the basic rate only. This of course is done by other people in another part of the country. Then you make out your invoices (yes two for each job: fees and expenses) but only in the BBC approved template and if sent on line they must be in .pdf format.

However....all these things having been done (there's an ablative absolute for you), you will be paid in 10 days!!! Yes, the Gods are generous when sacrificed to in the approved way. But there's still more.

Each job for each production generates an individual contract which appears through the snail mail a few days later. You sign one and return it to paper clip central and keep its copy. Then you sign another piece of paper saying that you have no personal interest in what you have been shooting and snail mail that off too.

You know it makes sense.

Last edited by Nick Flowers; September 13th, 2008 at 12:50 PM. Reason: Nothing better to do
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Old September 13th, 2008, 02:06 PM   #12
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I guess that in many cases, you just have to put up with these systems if you wish to work for these people. However, all this is usually part of the contract they sign. In many cases, we ask a client to agree to our terms - with these kind of organisations, we have to sign theirs. I found it interesting that the IRS in the USA and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs here in the UK both seem intent on making sure self-employed people are bona-fide - by a very similar system. Those questions posted are asking very similar questions to those asked over here.

I have one regular client who automatically deducts 20% tax from all my invoices, which I have to reclaim at the end of every financial year. It seems HMRC warned them that any tax unpaid/undeducted from contractors who are not legit businesses would be reclaimed form the company - leading to a blanket 'tax everyone' just in case, policy.
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