The Complete New Hire Paperwork Checklist for Your U.S. Small Business

All the new hire paperwork you need when you hire a new team member.


There’s a lot that goes into finding and hiring the perfect person for your team, from scrolling through resumes and LinkedIn profiles and managing the interview process to reaching out to references and making the offer.

But once the offer is extended and your new employee has accepted (yay!), there’s one final thing to do, and that’s getting all of their employment forms in order.

Let’s take a look at all the paperwork you need to collect when you bring a team member onboard—and how to make the process as simple, efficient, and streamlined as possible.

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The New Hire Paperwork You’re Legally Required to Collect

Some paperwork you’ll want to have on file for your new employee to make things easier for your company down the road (more on that later)—but there are also certain documents you’ll need to have on file.

If your business is based in the U.S., there are a few employee forms you’re required by law to collect from your new hire, including:

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

Form I-9 is a form used to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S.—and, as an employer, there are two things you need to do with this document to comply with employment eligibility laws.

First, your new hire will need to complete Form I-9 with relevant personal information, including their name, birthdate, Social Security Number (SSN), address, and citizenship status. The employee must also list the documents they’ll provide to verify their eligibility to work in the U.S. (for example, an American passport, green card, or a driver’s license and birth certificate).

Then, you’ll need to collect your employee’s I-9 and review their documents to confirm they’re eligible to work in the U.S.

Once you’ve collected the form from your new employee and looked over their documents, there’s nothing else you need to do (like send the form to the Internal Revenue Service or IRS for short); you’ll want to have it on file as proof that you verified each employee’s eligibility before they started working for your business.

But if you’re wondering whether there’s an easier way to cross this task off your to-do list, you’re in luck.

Suppose you bring on a ton of new employees, or you’re doing a major hiring push. In that case, you should definitely consider using the E-Verify system, which allows you to verify your new hire’s employment eligibility electronically.

Form W-4

A W-4 form is a tax form that records how much each worker will withhold in income taxes. Because your employee’s tax withholding is paid to the IRS every pay period, it’s important to collect this form before your employee’s first paycheck.

Similar to Form I-9, you don’t need to send your new hire’s W-4 form to the IRS (or anywhere else); you need to keep it on file for tax purposes. It’s also important to note that your employee can opt to change their income tax withholdings at any time—in which case, they’d need to turn in a new W-4 to your HR team.

SSN

According to the IRS, all employers are “required to get each employee’s name and Social Security number (SSN) and to enter them on Form W-2.” Just like Form I-9, this practice helps ensure that your new employee is legally eligible to work in the U.S.

State Tax Withholding Forms

Just like a federal W-4 outlines how much to withhold for your employee’s federal taxes, a state W-4 form outlines how much to withhold in state taxes.

Not all states require employees to fill out these state forms. But if your business operates in a state that does require it, you’ll need to collect a completed form from your new hire before their first paycheck.

(If you’re not sure if your state requires you to collect a state withholding form from your employees, make sure to check your state government website for further information.)

State New Hire Reporting Forms

All states require employers to report new hires to the state to comply with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Essentially, these reports allow state agencies to enforce child support.

Each state has its own time frame for reporting new employees, details you need to collect, and procedures for submitting the information. You can learn more about your state’s requirements and guidelines in this State New Hire Reporting Guide from the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The New Employee Paperwork You’ll Want to Collect for HR Purposes

From a legal perspective, collecting your employee’s SSN, I-9, and W-4 forms (and, when applicable, state income tax forms) is non-negotiable. But just because that’s all the new hire forms you’re legally required to collect doesn’t mean that’s the only paperwork you’ll want from your newest team member.

Some additional forms you should consider collecting from your new employees include:

Emergency Contact Information

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Hopefully, your employees will never experience an emergency at work. But, if they do, you want to know who you should get in touch with—and have their contact information handy.

When you bring a new team member on board, ask them to provide at least one emergency contact and share any relevant contact details (including name, phone number, and email address). That way, if there is some sort of emergency at work, you’ll have everything you need to alert the right person.

Benefits Forms

If you provide any employee benefits, you’ll also want to have your incoming team member fill out the appropriate paperwork for each insurance provider along with their new employee forms. This includes forms for their health insurance, life insurance, or retirement plan policies.

Acknowledgment of Employee Handbook

If you have an employee handbook, you should give every new hire a copy of it—and make sure they sign an acknowledgment that they a) received the handbook and b) agree to abide by the policies it outlines.

Policy Forms

On the other hand, if you don’t have an employee handbook, you’ll want to have your new hires sign any relevant policy forms as part of their onboarding paperwork. These new hire forms should outline the policy itself (for example, a sexual harassment policy or an attendance policy), describe the penalty for not complying with it, and require a signature acknowledging that the employee has read and understood the policy.

Depending on your company structure, you may also want to have your new hires sign additional business-related forms, like non-disclosure or non-compete agreements.

Direct Deposit Information

If you plan to pay your employee via direct deposit, they’ll need to complete a direct deposit form with their bank account information (including routing number and account number).

How to Make the New Hire Paperwork Process As Efficient As Possible

Want to make sure your onboarding paperwork process is as streamlined and efficient as possible? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Have employees complete their paperwork on day one. You want to get all of their forms filled out as soon as possible. And the best way to do that? Make it a part of each new hire’s first day with your company. By making any relevant new hire forms part of your employees’ onboarding process, you’ll ensure that nothing falls through the cracks—and no important document goes unread or unsigned, so both you and your company are protected.
  • Keep a checklist for each employee. When you’re bringing on several new hires, it can be easy to forget what new hire forms you need to collect, when you need to collect them, plus if, when, and where you need to submit them. Having a checklist for each team member can help you keep everything straight and ensure that you collect and submit all necessary paperwork in a timely manner.
  • Stay organized. If your business is audited, you want your paperwork to be complete, organized, and easily accessible. Make sure you have a system in place to keep all your employee files (including new hire forms) in order.
  • Review all paperwork at least once a year. Things change—and the longer employees are with your company, the more likely it is that information within their employee documents (like emergency contact information, address, or tax withholdings) will change as well. Regularly remind your employees to alert you of any changes—and have human resources review their documents at least once a year to make sure everything is complete and up-to-date.

Use This Checklist to Stay on Top of Your New Employee Paperwork

Collecting the proper new employee paperwork is critical, both from a legal and a business operations perspective. But now that you know exactly what paperwork you need to collect from your new hires, you have everything you need to stay organized—and ensure your new hire paperwork process goes off without a hitch.

 

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This post was updated in December 2021.

Reviewed for accuracy by Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA.



about the author

Freelance Contributor Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.