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What Are Nanny Taxes & Do I Have To Pay Them?

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Ok, so you’ve heard that there’s this thing called the Nanny Tax and it sounds like another headache you might have to deal with. You’ve been searching around for a second opinion on whether or not you actually have to pay the thing. I get it; I’ve been there. As a budget-conscious CPA and mother of 3 who intensely dislikes overpaying on taxes (or anything), I've made it my life's work to help working parents save time and money - especially on their nanny tax filings. So let's break nanny taxes down into what matters:

nanny playing with little girl

  1. Do you really need to pay nanny taxes?

  2. What exactly are nanny taxes?

  3. What happens if you don’t pay nanny taxes?

  4. How and when do you pay nanny taxes?

  5. Are there ways to reduce your nanny tax bill?


Do I Have To Pay Nanny Taxes?

Let’s start with a little assessment of your particular situation.

Is your nanny your employee?

You only have to pay household employment taxes if your nanny or other household worker is your employee. So let’s figure out if that’s the case:

  • Will you pay a nanny, babysitter, learning pod teacher, housekeeper, landscaper, or other household service provider this year? If yes, continue. If no, you do not have an employee

  • Does the nanny (or other household worker) provide services in your home? If yes, continue. If no, you do not have an employee

  • If you drop your children off at a nanny’s home, the nanny is generally not considered your employee

  • Do you control when and where the work is done and provide supplies? If yes, continue. If no, you do not have an employee

  • If a nanny is working in your home and the schedule is determined by you (even if it changes week to week or you offer flexibility in start/end times), this is an employer/employee relationship

  • Exception: If you hire a nanny through an agency and you pay the AGENCY who in turn pays the nanny, the nanny is not your employee.

  • Exception: A housekeeper or landscaper arrives to work at your home at a time that works for them, they have other clients, and they use their own supplies (cleaning supplies, vacuum, lawn mower, etc.) - this does not constitute an employer/employee relationship

If you answered yes to all 3 questions above, congratulations! You are the freshly minted employer of a household worker. When you step back and think about it, it’s pretty cool that you’re able to provide a real job for a real person. And with that reality comes responsibility - it’s your job to make sure your nanny gets credit for their time spent working and for that you can get a few sweet tax breaks. Read on to learn if you will owe taxes for your employee and what tax-saving strategies might work for you.

Do you need to pay nanny taxes?

If you pay your household employee $2,200 or more during the calendar year or $1,000 or more in one calendar quarter, you will owe at least some sort of tax. The next section discusses what those taxes are and when you owe them.

But first, even if you’ve decided you have an employee, there are some special situations where you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages even if you hit those thresholds.

You do not need to pay nanny taxes on wages paid to:

  • Your spouse

  • Your child who is under the age of 21

  • An employee under the age of 18 at any time during the year, UNLESS the household services are the employee’s primary occupation. If the employee is a student, the household services are not considered the primary occupation.

  • Your parent, with an exception

  • You DO need to pay nanny taxes on wages paid to your parent if both conditions 1) and 2) below are met. You need BOTH of these conditions to be true; it’s not either/or:

  1. Your parent cares for your child who is either under the age of 18 OR has a physical or mental condition that requires the personal care of an adult for at least 4 continuous weeks during the calendar year. (Tip: this condition is met by most families with children)

  2. Your marital status is one of the following:

  • You’re divorced and haven’t remarried

  • You’re a widow or widower

  • You’re living with a spouse whose physical or mental condition prevents him or her from caring for your child for at least 4 continuous weeks during the calendar year

For more details on the assessment above, check out the IRS’s Household Employer’s Tax Guide.


What Are Nanny Taxes and Are They All Required?

Alright, so you’ve determined that you have an employee, you have or will pay that employee at least $1,000 this year, and your situation does not include any of the exceptions above.

Let’s talk about which taxes you might need to pay.

Social Security & Medicare Taxes (FICA)

  • Required? If you pay your nanny $2,200 in one calendar year, you are required to pay FICA taxes.