How much control do we as their employer have over their activities?
A: The general and overarching rule is that a worker is an employee, if the employer has the right to control the means and method by which the employee undertakes his/her labor. The more factors which weigh in favor of control, the more likely that a court (and the IRS) will determine that the worker is in fact an common law employee.
Can we require weekly sales reports?
A: This is a weak factor. By itself, it wouldn't make the independent contractor an employee.Can we require them to make a certain number of calls?
A: No. You would be controlling the employee's method of labor.
Can we pay them a base salary and then require them to meet certain sales goals in order to earn additional commission or bonuses?
A: This depends on how strictly your goals operate to control the worker's labor. If the requirements of the commissions/bonuses operate to control the worker's method of labor, then the worker is an employee.
The traditional common law factors for the determination of employee v. independent contractor are (Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 US 730, 751-752 (1989)):
1. The hiring party's right to control the manner and means by which the product is accomplished.
2. The skill required;
3. The source of the instrumentalities and tools;
4. %he location of the work;
5. The duration of the relationship between the parties;
6. Whether the hiring party has the right to assign additional projects to the hired party;
7. The extent of the hired party's discretion over when and how long to work;
8. %he method of payment;
9. The hired party's role in hiring and paying assistants;
10. Whether the work is part of the regular business of the hiring party;
11. Whether the hiring party is in business;
12. The provision of employee benefits;
13. The tax treatment of the hired party.
See Restatement § 220(2) (setting forth a nonexhaustive list of factors relevant to determining whether a hired party is an employee).
No one of these factors is determinative.
I realize that this is somewhat vague -- however, the law is vague -- deliberately so. The government has a great interest in transforming all workers into employees, because it's so much easier to control the flow of tax money.
BotXXXXX XXXXXne: more control = more risk of full employment status. Maybe the solution is to just bite the bullet and hire everyone as a regular employee.
Hope this helps.