Speaker or Consultant Fees
A speaker or consultant fee is a specified amount, determined by the speaker or consultant, for a speaking engagement or project consultation services. These fees are often confused with an honorarium payment but they are not the same. The amount of an honorarium payment is generally determined by the host institution whereas speaker and consultant fees are generally determined by the invited professional.
A consultant generally provides some expert advice or input into a project. In order to be considered as a consultant and paid as such, the person cannot meet the definition of an "employee" as it pertains to the project responsibilities. (IRS publication 1779 provides guidance on defining an "employee" and "independent contractor.")
If an invited speaker or consultant will receive payment from Vanderbilt University, the recipient must hold a visa that permit them to engage in speaking or consultation activities in the USA and to receive payment for those services. If the person can not legally receive payment for the services based on visa limitations, payment will be denied.
Payments to Invited Speakers
Invited speakers can certainly be paid for their services (speaker fee) or receive honoraria. Both types of payments are considered to be taxable income and are subject to income tax withholding. The amount of income tax withheld varies, and depends on a number of factors including the immigration status, tax treaty benefits, and immigration history of the invited guest. Travel expenses for invited speakers are not considered to be income and therefore, they are not subject to income tax withholding. These payments are considered business expenses. Additional information about payments to Invited Speakers can be found on our "Reimbursement of Travel Expenses" webpage.
Completing the Business Visitor Questionnaire ("BVQ")
As with all international visitors, international speakers and consultants must complete the Business Visitor Questionnaire (BVQ). This information can be found at our "Immigration Services" tab under "Business Visitors."
An international tax record must be created for all international speakers and international consultants. The International Tax office will use the BVQ information to create the international tax record and will contact the department, or if feasible, the speaker or consultant directly if additional information is required.