Liability for the “nanny” tax

Employers of course have to pay employment taxes on the wages they pay to their employees. A nanny who takes care of a child is considered a household employee, and the parent or other responsible person is her household employer. Housekeepers, maids, babysitters, and others who work in or around the residence are employees. Repairmen and other business people who provide services as independent contractors are not employees. An individual who is under age 18 or who is a student is not an employee.

Payments and Withholding

As a household employer, the parent must withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes if the cash wages paid to the nanny exceed the threshold amount for the year. If the amount paid is less than the threshold, the parent does not owe any Social Security or Medicare taxes. The threshold for 2015 is $1,900. If the employee earns more than $1,000 in any calendar quarter, the parent must also pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on wages paid, up to $7,000. Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide, has more information about withholding and paying employment taxes.

If the amount paid is more than the threshold, the parent must withhold the employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes unless the parent chooses to pay both the employee’s and the employer’s share. The taxes are 15.3 percent of cash wages, 7.65 percent each for the employee and the employer. This includes 6.2 percent for Social Security and 1.45 percent for Medicare (hospitalization insurance).

The parent is not required to withhold income tax from the nanny’s wages. However, the parent and the nanny may agree to withholding income tax from the nanny’s wages. The nanny must provide a filled-out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to the employer.

The employment taxes amounts are part of the parent’s tax liability and can trigger an estimated tax penalty if not enough is paid during the year. The parent submits estimated tax payments on Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals.

Forms to File

If the parent must pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, or if the parent withholds income tax, the parent must file Schedule H, Household Employment Taxes, with the parent’s Form 1040. The parent may also need to file a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and furnish a copy of the form to the nanny. To complete Form W-2, the parent must obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS, either by applying online or by submitting Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number.

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