Global companies hire independent contractors in India to tap into the country’s skilled workforce. But when it’s time to pay them, what steps do you need to take to comply with all of India's complex labor and tax laws?
Before you receive your first invoice, read on to learn what you need to know to correctly classify contractors, onboard them, and pay them according to India's labor laws.
Step by step: How to run payroll for contractors in India
Step #1: Classify your workers in India
Classifying Indian workers correctly is crucial. Misclassifying employees as contractors can result in steep fines, back pay on entitlements, and maybe even jail time from Indian courts.
To help employers determine whether a hire meets the criteria for an employee or independent contractor, the courts created a series of "tests." The courts and other regulatory authorities look at all aspects of a working arrangement and employee relationship to determine classification. A single misclassification test usually isn't enough to decide one way or the other.
High level of worker control.
Contractors are generally given more autonomy to determine how to complete the work and when to do it.
More direction from the employer. Employees are generally subject to more control and direction from their employer, who will provide guidance on how to perform the work and may set specific hours of work.
Equipment and tools owned by the worker.
Equipment and tools typically provided by the company.
Less integrated. Contractors tend to be independent, they’re more likely to work remotely, and they use their own tools and equipment.
Highly integrated. Employees are typically more integrated into the employer's organization, for example, they may work at the employer's premises.
No entitlement to benefits. Contractors are not entitled to the same benefits and protections as employees, and they are responsible for paying their own taxes.
Entitled to benefits. Employees are entitled to certain employment benefits and protections, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, and vacation pay. They may also be entitled to benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid sick leave.
Time-bound engagement. Contractors are typically engaged for a specific project or period of time.
Indefinite engagement. Employees are generally hired for an indefinite period of time.
Risk of loss. Contractors may assume more risk and liability for the work they perform.
No risk of loss. Employees are generally protected from liability for work-related issues.
Classify your workers now using Rippling’s Worker Classification Analyzer.
Step #2: Determine the best way to pay your contractors in India
The first thing to do before you can pay contractors in India is to determine how you'll pay them. With the rise of global workforces and remote work, employers now have more choices than ever for sending paychecks to Indian contractors. Here are some options:
- Bank wires. You can open an Indian bank account and use it to deposit funds into Indian contractors' accounts or use your bank to send a global wire transfer to pay an Indian contractor.
- International money orders. This long-standing payment method can be slow—especially because the employer needs to physically purchase the money order, and the contractor needs to physically deposit it upon receipt. Money orders can also come with fees and bad exchange rates.
- Digital wallets or payment platforms. Note that not all digital payment platforms are available in India (for example, Venmo only works within the US) though some employers use platforms like Wise to transfer money across borders. Remember that exchange rates can change from day to day, making it difficult to predict your outgoings.
- Global payroll services. Typically, contractors aren't included in payroll, since they aren't subject to the same withholdings as employees—instead, they invoice for their services, which goes through accounts payable for many companies. But with Rippling, you can pay Indian employees and Indian contractors, wherever they are, in a single pay run.
Step #3: Use global payroll software to process payments for India contractors
As you saw in Step #2, there are multiple ways to pay contractors in India. But the fastest and simplest way is paying contractors through global payroll software.
With Rippling, you can pay employees and contractors, across the world, in a single pay run. Here’s a preview of how Rippling’s global payroll system works:
Step #4: Ensure your contractor has the right tax information
Employers aren't usually required to withhold and pay income taxes for contractors in India, who are responsible for filing their own tax returns if they earn more than INR 250,000. If a freelancer’s tax liability is more than INR 10,000, they have to file taxes quarterly instead of annually. And if contractors make more than INR 2,000,000, they also need to pay a Goods and Services Tax (GST).
US companies hiring contractors in India need to submit an IRS Form W-8BEN as a part of their annual tax return. Sometimes employers will also need to include a Form 1096.
To file taxes, contractors typically need a:
- Personal Account Number (PAN)
- Aadhaar Card Number
- Income Tax Return (ITR)
Head spinning? One of the benefits of processing payments through a global payroll system like Rippling is offloading the paperwork—and letting us do the calculations and filing for you.
Frequently asked questions about running payroll for contractors in India
Do you need to withhold taxes when paying contractors in India?
No, foreign companies don't have to withhold payroll taxes when paying contractors in India. Contractors are required to pay all of their own taxes.
Does Indian minimum wage apply to independent contractors in India?
No, minimum wage laws don't apply to independent contractors in India.
Do Indian contractors get benefits?
No, independent contractors in India are not entitled to benefits in the same way as employees. Offering employee benefits to independent contractors can even increase the risk that the courts will consider the contractors to have been misclassified.
Can you pay contractors in India in your home currency?
You should generally aim to pay all international contractors in their local currency. Workers in India should be paid in Indian Rupees (INR).
Can you manually pay contractors in India?
Yes, and it's common for small business owners to manually process contractor payments in an attempt to cut costs. But this can be time-consuming, especially as your business grows and if you work with multiple contractors in India or across borders.
It's also important to note that manually processing payments comes with some risks:
- Compliance. Running payroll manually means assuming the risk of human error and omission. Protect yourself and your business with Rippling, which automatically enforces compliance with any applicable local laws—no matter where your contractors live.
- Security. Manual payroll processing also poses security risks, especially if you use spreadsheets or paper records. Sensitive employee information can be lost, stolen, or misused.
Make payroll automatic by using Rippling. Rippling syncs all your business's HR data with payroll, eliminating the need for manual data entry entirely. Employees and contractors all over the world get paid quickly (and compliantly) in a single pay run.
How do you turn a contractor into an employee in India?
While hiring independent contractors over full-time employees can come with financial benefits, sometimes you do need a full-time employee. The challenge is making sure all the legal requirements are in order: India's labor laws require payroll deductions, benefits, and more for employees that you don't have to worry about for contractors.
With Rippling, you can effortlessly manage contractors—as well as quickly transition contractors to full-time employees—with legally compliant paperwork, benefits administration, payroll, and more. Rippling handles it all, so you stay compliant from onboarding to offboarding.
Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.