Heavy machinery workers (Owners and operators)


To determine if a person is an employee or a self-employed worker, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) looks at the factual working relationship between the worker and the payer. This article provides information on facts related to workers who own heavy machinery and operate it, and offers indicators that can help you determine whether a worker in this situation is an employee.

For example, in the forestry industry, types of heavy machinery may include: skidders, fellers, bunchers, forwarders, delimbers, slashers, harvesters, log loaders, and chippers.

For general information about determining whether a worker is an employee or is a self-employed worker, see Guide RC4110, Employee or Self-Employed?

Employer responsibilities

All employers are required by law to deduct Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions and employment insurance (EI) premiums from most amounts they pay to their employees. Employers must remit these amounts to CRA along with their share of CPP contributions and EI premiums. For more information on employer responsibilities and obligations, go to our Payroll menu page.

Agreements between the worker and the payer

There might exist two separate agreements between a worker who owns and operates heavy equipment and the payer that hires the worker. Firstly, a payer may hire the worker as an employee (we refer to this agreement as the employment contract). Secondly, the payer may rent the worker's heavy machinery under a separate contract with the worker (we refer to this contract as the rental contract).

For the worker to be an employee, the two agreements must be distinct and independent from each other. For example, if the heavy machinery owned by the worker is not operating, the employment contract of the worker with the payer must remain in force. Any remuneration for the worker's services under the employment contract and any amounts paid for the heavy machinery rental must be distinct from each other. The terms and conditions of both agreements can be contained in one written contract.

All terms and conditions of these agreements, whether in writing or agreed to verbally, must be analyzed to determine the nature of the relationship between the parties.

Indicators of an employer-employee relationship

Generally, an employee is someone who is hired to perform specific duties under the direction and control of the party that hired them. Under the terms and conditions of employment, a worker is not normally in a position to make a profit or incur a loss. An employee is not perceived as operating their own business, but rather as being an integral part of the payer's business.

The following are some indicators that can be used to help determine whether a worker is an employee. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and not all of the following indicators may be present in every situation. Please remember that all facts pertaining to the working relationship need to be considered.

  • The employment contract and the rental contract are distinct and independent from each other.
  • The method of remuneration is indicated (for example, hourly, daily, piece rate).
  • The remuneration for the worker's services is clearly distinguishable from the amount for any heavy machinery rental.
  • The remuneration for the worker's services does not depend on and is not connected to the amount paid for the heavy machinery rental.
  • The payer has the right to control the way the work will be done (for example, the payer has a supervisor on the work site).
  • The payer tells the worker where and for how long they will render the services (for example, location, schedule).
  • The payer has the right to decide what type of work the worker will do and has the right to choose another worker to be the operator of the machinery.
  • The services of the worker are not directly linked to the production of their heavy machinery. For example, in cases of major breakdown of heavy machinery, the worker may be required by the payer to carry out other duties for which the worker will be remunerated.
  • The payer is responsible for all damages caused and all injuries suffered as a result of the worker carrying out their duties, including any injuries suffered by the worker.

To distinguish a rental contract from an employment contract, the rental contract should include certain points indicating that the lessee (payer) assumes control of the machinery for the duration of the agreement. The following points should be covered in a rental contract:

  • the identification of the parties involved, (such as the worker and payer);
  • the responsibilities of the lessor (worker) and the lessee (payer) — including the responsibilities for the cost of maintenance, repair, and transportation related to using the leased equipment;
  • the duration of the rental agreement;
  • the monetary amount for the heavy machinery rental and the method of calculation (for example, hourly, per diem, weekly, per cord, per cubic metre, or by the length of the logs handled);
  • insurance and indemnification clauses for liability resulting from the possession, use, transportation, and condition of the equipment used;
  • the amount for the heavy machinery rental must be clearly distinguishable from the remuneration paid for the worker's services;
  • the amount for the rental must not depend on the remuneration paid for the worker's services.

If a worker is an employee, the earnings from the employment contract are considered employment income and are subject to CPP, EI, and income tax deductions.

How to request a ruling

If a worker or payer is not sure of the worker's employment status, either party can request a ruling by the CRA to have the status determined. More information on the ruling process is available in How to get a CPP/EI ruling.

For more information

To get more information, call 1-800-959-5525.

Legislative references

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