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I'm enrolled in a local community college as a dual-credit student (basically that means I can complete high school courses in college to get a college degree and high school diploma simultaneously), and, as such, I'm a minor.

A few weeks ago I received an email from the college saying that they needed someone to share notes with other students in a class I'm in (those that have accessibility difficulties, mainly), and that they would pay for them (not much, around ~$100). I'd like to do this, but I'm not sure if I can since I'm a minor. They sent me some forms I had to fill out (Agreement to Purchase class notes and a W-9), and the main one I'm not sure about is the W-9 form. Am I allowed to fill this out and sent it back to them as a minor, or do I have to do something else (get a parent/guardian to sign it maybe?), or am I not able to do this?

Thanks in advance.

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    well they have college email addresses and the prof of my class notified us about this opportunity so I don't think it's a scam – sun234 Feb 2 at 16:20
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    Read the contract, be aware of any extra work you may need to perform, scanning, etc. – Mattman944 Feb 2 at 23:15
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    @Fattie Probably not a scam - this is sometimes done if there's a student with a disability who needs someone else to take notes for them. Ex: lincoln.edu/peer-notetaker-ssd – Joshua Dwire Feb 3 at 0:29
  • @JoshuaDwire - yes exactly that's what it's for – sun234 Feb 3 at 0:48
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There shouldn’t be any issue with you doing this as a minor.

Because they have asked you to fill out a W-9 form, you know that they intend to pay you as an independent contractor, not an employee of the college. This means that they will not be taking any tax out of what they pay you. By signing it, you are simply telling them that you are giving them your correct Social Security number and that you are a legal US citizen or resident alien. It is not a contract.

The “agreement to purchase class notes” is a contract, however. Generally, minors can sign contracts, but they are not legally enforceable against the minor, and the minor can void the contract at any time. So the college might ask your parents to sign it. Or they might not; they might decide that the likelihood of you going back on your agreement is too low to worry about.

This income would go on your tax return next year. However, at the amount of money you are talking about, you would not be required to file a tax return unless you have another source of income. The filing requirements are found in the Form 1040 instructions.

It sounds like a neat way to earn a little money and help your fellow students while doing something you’d be doing anyway (attending class and taking notes). Have fun!

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    Thank you! This was exactly what I was looking for – sun234 Feb 2 at 20:27
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    It's a pretty common arrangement if there is a student with disabilities in the class who is unable to take notes. Here's what it looks like where I went to school: counseling.umd.edu/ads/notetaking – Moshe Katz Feb 3 at 0:42
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    @MosheKatz That makes sense. It’s a neat idea. Thanks for letting me know about that. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 3 at 0:46
  • They might also not bother with a contract because $100 is a trivial amount to them. A lawyer's time dealing with a contract breach would be worth more than they'd recover. – Barmar Feb 3 at 15:22
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    @DanielR.Collins Skepticism is generally a good thing, but I agree that this sounds very legit. I have removed the offending content per your suggestion. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 3 at 22:21
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In most states, you can get a paying job at age 16*, so yes, it's perfectly legal to sell your notes.

* Heck, I had a paying summer job at age 14 (but that was back when only bike racers wore helmets, and kids rode in the backs of pickup trucks).

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    @RonJohn The UCI did not require bike racers to wear helmets until 2003, in the wake of the death of Andrey Kivilev – Mohair Feb 3 at 16:45
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YMMV based on location.

What you would be doing by selling your notes is the equivalent of selling a good or product you produced yourself. Since it's not working for a wage, you should have no legal issue doing this, though there may be tax implications if you are claimed as a dependent by anyone else.

The agreement to purchase also presents an issue, as minors under a certain age cannot enter into a contractual agreement on their own.

It's also important (and a given) that you don't misrepresent yourself on government forms such as the W-9. That being said, the W-9 should be the least contentious part of this whole arrangement.

If I were in your shoes, I'd go for it even if I couldn't legally enter a contract. Typically the legality of your signature on a contract only comes up when the contract comes under contention (failure to pay/failure to produce/etc.).

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  • Thank you for your answer. As for the location, I am in Texas. – sun234 Feb 2 at 18:09
  • In Texas, you can legally sign a contract at any age, though the contract may become void if it's determined that the minor signed in error due to inexperience or similar. be sure to check up on the tax situation before proceeding either way. – GOATNine Feb 2 at 18:20
  • could you elaborate on what you mean by tax situation? thanks. – sun234 Feb 2 at 18:24
  • @GOATNine Your statements in your last comment are not correct. The dependent’s income does not go on the claimant’s (parent’s) tax return, it goes on his or her own tax return. And a dependent is not generally taxed at their parent’s rate, either. You may be thinking of the “kiddie tax,” but that is only for unearned/investment income above a certain level. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 2 at 18:51
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica, so as I understand it, I wouldn't have to do anything (like file taxes or such) since the $100 I'd get is under the minimum taxable income level? – sun234 Feb 2 at 18:54
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This sounds like a fairly standard arrangement, often used when there's a student in the class with a disability. For example, here's one college's Peer Notetaker page: https://www.lincoln.edu/peer-notetaker-ssd

The college should be familiar with any legal issues related to hiring a minor, but if it's a W-9, I don't think there would be any. A W-9 means you'll officially be self-employed, so any child labor laws probably don't apply*. Note that you'll probably receive a 1099-NEC and need to pay self employment tax at the end of the year.

Being under 18 may mean the contract isn't enforceable, but I doubt the college would see that as in issue, since they can just not pay you if you don't hold up your end of the contract.

* I'm not a lawyer, so consult a lawyer if you need a legal opinion.

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  • +1, Welcome to Money.SE! FYI, if the OP only has $100 in self-employment income, there won't be any self employment tax due. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 3 at 0:56
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica Right, the threshold is around $400 self-employment income for needing to file taxes; however, if they have other income that results in needing to file taxes, I think taxes would be due on the self-employment income even if it's under the threshold by itself. – Joshua Dwire Feb 3 at 1:18
  • No, you need at least $434 in self-employment income before you owe any self-employment tax. See Schedule SE, lines 4a and 4c. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 3 at 3:24
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There's a difference between void and voidable, and a contract with a minor is the latter, not the former. There's little case where it being voidable would be relevant; if you are paid before delivering the notes, and don't deliver the notes, the university still has a claim against you; if you void the contract, you need to return the money gained from it. If you say that you'll give the notes, but don't (and aren't ever paid), you can void the contract to avoid a breach of contract claim, but even if you were not a minor, the university would be unlikely to pursue someone who flaked out like that.

And while the Agreement to Purchase is technically a contract, that's not really the main purpose. It's mostly a paperwork thing: they have documentation that they can show if anyone audits where their money went, and you and the university have a written statement of what each party expects (you: money, them: notes).

It's probably a good idea to speak with a parent, anyway.

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As a minor, you are free to sign contracts, there is no legal problem for you. There are laws in place that are to protect you as a minor, so if there were any problems, they wouldn't be your problems, but someone else's.

Since you are a minor, you and your guardians, which are usually your parents, can void any contract that you signed, until a short time after you are 18 years old. If a contract is voided, it is legally as if it had never existed. So you then have no obligation to take these notes, and the university has no obligation to pay you. Only you and your guardians have that right. The university is bound by the contract unless you void it. And nobody has the right to modify the contract. So you can change your mind and void the contract, your guardians can decide against your wishes that they void the contract, but the university can do nothing. They are bound by the contract unless or until you void it.

If I, as an adult, sign a contract with a minor, I'll obviously keep in mind that you can void the contract. If that is too risky for me, then I'll have to find an adult. For example, I wouldn't sell you a brand new car because you can drive it for three months, and then void the contract, and return a used car without paying me - too risky. But if the contract says "You do the job, and I pay you", that's not a big risk. Worst thing that can happen to me as the adult is that you don't do the job, and I don't pay, and I have to find someone else.

Your university will have done the same thing and thought about the risk. It's a low risk to them, the worst that can happen to them is that they don't get any course notes and you don't get paid.

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