Employees vs Consultants (Independent Contractors): 

The University classifies and pays individuals who provide services as Employees unless the nature of the services and other circumstances satisfy the criteria for Independent Contractor status.


Columbia University hires Consultants and Service Providers to accomplish the objectives of the University when such Services are specialized, highly technical, and commercially available and cannot be economically or satisfactorily performed by University employees as part of their normal duties.

An individual or company receiving a portion of the funds from the sponsored project is considered a consultant if he/she/it:

•Is an expert advisor;

•Is paid for time spent on a fixed hourly/daily basis, which includes travel expenses, supplies, etc.;

•Is using his/her/its own equipment and materials, not equipment or materials from his/her/its institution, for the work on the project;

•Is providing services that are specialized, highly technical, and commercially available;

•Is considered to be paid a “fee for service” whose work and IP belong to Columbia University;

•Pays his/her/its own taxes on earnings from the project;

•Is not employed by Columbia University in any other capacity; and/or

•Is not involved in programmatic work on the project; including project deliverables such as reports.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) analyzes specific characteristics, such as behavioral and financial control and the relationship between the employer and the individual performing services.  An example of behavioral control is when the Department/School provides direct instruction/supervision of the contracted provider. Service Providers are Independent Contractors and as such are not overseen by the contracting party in this manner. They supervise their own actions to accomplish the goals and expectations articulated through an agreement and Scope of Work.



Please contact the ISERP Business Office if you would like to hire a consultant to determine eligibility and the next steps.


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