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HR Questions for Dentists: Paying someone without proper paperwork

April 26, 2023
What do you do when an employee lasts only a short time and didn't fill out the proper paperwork to get paid? Here are the steps to keep you out of trouble.
Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg, Human Resources Experts

QUESTION: We hired a person who worked one day and quit the next. The individual quit before we could get new-hire paperwork completed, such as the W-4 form. What do I do with the hours the person worked that one day since I don’t have a W-4 completed? Which option do I use to calculate their tax withholdings? I’ve attempted to make contact, but my calls go to voicemail and are not returned.  


Before directly answering your question, I want to encourage a change to your processes to avoid issues like this in the future. New hires should be told prior to starting their job with you that their first order of business is to complete new-hire paperwork. Then, on their first day of work, devote the first hour or so to paperwork before allowing anything else to occur in their workday. This is the best way to ensure this aspect of hiring someone gets handled properly from the get-go.  

As you’ve already surmised, a paycheck is due and must be cut even though this individual has ghosted you. You must ensure you do this within the requirements of your state for final checks.   

When employers do not have a completed W-4 form, then the only option is to tax the individual at the highest rate—single and zero. The completed form is what allows an employer to apply a different tax formula, so without it, the individual must be taxed as though the person has no dependents to claim.  

Depending on the state you’re in, mailing the check may not be advisable without written authorization from the individual. Some state laws frown upon this, in which case you must simply hold onto it and continue efforts to make contact so you’ll know what to do. Eventually, you may have to put it aside and wait to see if you hear anything, and if not, it may have to be turned over to the state.   

If you end up mailing it, you should be sure you do this in such a way that it can be tracked, such as certified mail with a return receipt.  

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About the Author

Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg | Human Resources Experts

Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Boartfield is a human resources compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit bentericksen.com.