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Do I Have to Pay Nanny Tax?

Do I Have to Pay Nanny Tax? - TaxAct Blog

If you pay someone to come to your house and take care of your children, you may wonder if you need to pay the “nanny tax.”

Many household workers expect to be paid in cash, either because they are unbanked or don’t want to have taxes withheld. Who will know if you avoid all that paperwork and bother, electing instead to just pay cash and forget it?

Unfortunately, it is possible to be found out if you don’t pay taxes on wages paid to household employees. Your employee could get hurt on the job or file for unemployment benefits, for example, at which time it becomes obvious they aren’t covered.

Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could ask about regular payments to a particular person in the unlikely event of an audit. Or word could simply get around, especially if you are a public figure.

At the end of the day, you’ll sleep better if you know whether you need to pay taxes on your household employees or not.

Paying taxes also benefit both you and your employee. By contributing to Social Security, your employee builds up a record for his or her future retirement benefits. The employee will also be covered for worker’s compensation and unemployment purposes. And you may be able to take a tax credit for your child care expenses by keeping everything above board.

How do I know if I have to pay nanny tax?

Not everyone has to pay nanny tax. For example, if you take your kids to a day care center or to someone’s house, you probably don’t have to worry about it.

In these cases, the child care workers may be employees of the day care center, independent contractors or part of another type of business. Someone is also likely to be an independent contractor if he or she has several different clients.

If your child is cared for by your spouse, your child under age 21, your parent, or any child under 18, and you pay that person, you generally don’t have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.

You also won’t get stuck paying nanny tax on every high school student who watches your kids on Saturday night, either.

You must pay employment taxes if you pay your nanny – or any household employee:

  • $1,900 or more during a calendar year or
  • a total of $1,000 to your employees during any quarter

If you regularly pay someone to care for your child at your home, you probably need to pay nanny tax. Here’s how to go about it.

6 steps for paying household employees — “nanny tax”

Step 1: Ask your household employee for a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a completed Form I-9 and a completed federal Form W-4, as well as a state income tax withholding form (if your state has an income tax). Also, you can ask the employee if they want you to withhold income taxes from their pay (this is optional).

Step 2: When you pay your employee, deduct income tax withholding if you and the employee have agreed to it. You can use the tables in IRS Publication 15, Employer’s Tax Guide, to determine the correct amount to withhold.

In addition, for 2015, you generally should withhold from the employee’s wages 6.2 percent for Social Security taxes and 1.45 percent for Medicare taxes for your employee.

You’ll also want to withhold those same percentages from the employee’s wages for the taxes you pay as the employer. Another option is to pay both shares of these taxes yourself, totaling 15.3 percent.

Remember not to deduct Social Security and Medicare tax from amounts you pay your spouse, your child under age 21, or generally from your parent or anyone under age 18.

Step 3: To avoid a big tax bill and possible penalties next year, make estimated tax payments each quarter or increase the amount of income tax your employer withholds from your pay.

Step 4: As an individual (and not a business), you can file Schedule H, Household Employment Taxes, with your individual income tax return. This is easier than filing multiple forms throughout the year as a sole proprietorship or another business would be required to do.

On Schedule H, you’ll report:

  • Federal income tax you withheld from your employee’s pay.
  • Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) if you paid cash wages to household employees totaling more than $1,000 in any calendar quarter during this year or the prior year. Generally, you pay FUTA taxes on the first $7,000 of cash wages to each household employee. Do not pay FUTA taxes on wages paid to your spouse, your child under age 21 or your parents. Any state unemployment taxes you pay generally reduce your FUTA tax.
  • Social Security and Medicare tax. You pay 15.3 percent total Social Security and Medicare tax, which includes the 7.65 percent you may have withheld from your employee’s pay.

Step 5: Check your state laws to learn about any additional household taxes you may need to pay and report.

Step 6: After the end of the year, you must complete Form W-2 for each employee and provide copies to them. You must also send a summary Form W-3 to the IRS.

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About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at,,, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.

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