The HomePay Blog

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Common NannyShare Mistake Disqualifies Family from Tax Breaks

by Breedlove July 17, 2014

NannyShare arrangements have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. This is because it is significantly cheaper to share a nanny than to employ one alone and both families can capitalize on tax breaks if the nanny is paid legally by both families. But many times, only one family follows through with this commitment. This case is an example of the negative financial consequences of mismanaging the tax and payroll process in a NannyShare.

The Mistake

The Cole family and the Whitman family agreed to employ a nanny to care for their children at the same time. The families settled on a total salary of $32,000 for their nanny with the Coles paying the full $32,000 in wages and getting a reimbursement check from the Whitmans each bi-weekly pay period for their half of the wages. Additionally, after going online to calculate the employer taxes, the Coles estimated that the tax liability would be approximately $1,500 per family for the year. These costs were to be reimbursed at the end of each quarter.

The Law

In a NannyShare arrangement, the law views both families as separate household employers. In order to be compliant, each family must:

- Set up state and federal tax IDs

- Withhold the proper taxes from the nanny's pay

- Prepare and file federal and state employment tax returns and remit their portion of the employee and employer taxes (based on their portion of the wages)

- Provide a Form W-2 to their employee at the end of each calendar year

- File Forms W-3 and W-2 Copy A with the Social Security Administration each year

- Prepare and attach a Schedule H to their personal income tax return

While it seems more convenient to let one family handle everything, this practice is illegal. It also disqualifies the other family - in this case the Whitmans - from taking advantage of the dependent care tax breaks.  

The Outcome

The Coles managed the payroll process on their own and then gave all the paperwork to their CPA at the end of the year. The CPA charged a total of $1,900, which was split between the two families. All told, each family had invested $18,450 into the employment of the nanny. The Coles presented their payroll and tax filing receipts to the husband's HR department and their CPA. They were very pleased to get a tax break totaling $2,500.

The Whitmans also pursued their tax break, but they were denied the $2,500 savings since they had not met all the requirements of the state and federal tax process. Mrs. Whitman's HR department was forced to reject the family's receipts because there was no proof that they paid legally. Aside from losing out on the tax breaks, the Whitmans took on unnecessary risk because any potential wage dispute or unemployment claim filed by the nanny would name the family as an employer. The state - and possibly the IRS - would pursue back taxes, penalties and interest from the family for failing to file the appropriate tax returns.

Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Signed in Massachusetts

by Breedlove June 30, 2014

Following in the footsteps of the states of New York, Hawaii and California, the state of Massachusetts has passed Domestic Workers Bill of Rights legislation that was signed by Governor Deval Patrick into law last Thursday, June 26th. The legislation, spearheaded by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, provides several new labor protections for nannies, senior caregivers, housekeepers and other household employees. While the law will not take effect until April 1, 2015, families need to be aware of the following new requirements:

1. Employees must have at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in each calendar week if they work 40 or more hours per week. If the employee agrees to work on their day of rest, they must be paid overtime (1.5 times the regular hourly rate) for each hour they work that day.

2. A household employee is allowed to take up to 8 weeks of maternity leave if she has worked full-time for the previous 3 months. The maternity leave does not have to be paid, but the family must hold the employee’s job if she decides to return to work.

3. Meals and lodging cannot be deducted from an employee’s wages without their prior written consent.

4. If the employee is a live-in and the family terminates her employment without cause, the family must give written notice and allow the employee to either; 1) Continue living in their home for at least 30 days, 2) Pay for comparable off-site housing, or 3) Give 2 weeks of severance pay to the employee. If the employee is terminated for cause, the family has no housing or severance obligations.

5. A written evaluation of the employee’s work performance must be given after 3 months of employment and annually moving forward if the employee requests it.

6. If the employee works 16 hours or more a week, the family must provide a contract that includes the following information: 
- The rate of pay, including overtime and any additional compensation
- Working hours, including meal breaks and other time off
- Provisions for days of rest, sick days, vacation days, personal days and holidays and whether those days are paid or unpaid
- Information about severance and if transportation costs or health insurance are paid for or reimbursed

If you have any questions about any provisions in the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and how it may affect your specific employment situation, please call our office at 888-273-3356. We’re here to help.

Being Paid Under the Table Can Delay Retirement

by Breedlove May 23, 2014

When a nanny, housekeeper or senior caregiver is paid legally, they are entitled to certain benefits that are earned through the payroll and tax process. But because many household employees are younger in age, sometimes they don't realize how important these benefits are. In this edition of The Legal Review, the Hanson family finds themselves in a big mess after their long-time nanny decides she's ready to stop working.  


The Situation


The Hanson family lives in upstate New York and has employed a nanny named Bonnie for the past four years. Unlike most nannies, Bonnie was 60 years old when the Hansons hired her, but had a wealth of experience with childcare as she was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life. Before working for the Hansons, the only job Bonnie ever had was working in a local retail shop for 8 years. With her upbeat personality and her love for children, she was a great fit for the Hansons after their first child was born and they were ecstatic to hear she would take on the challenge of a second child two years later.


The Mistake


When the Hansons first hired Bonnie, they asked their neighbors how they handled hiring a nanny for their kids. The Hanson's neighbors explained they paid their nanny like they would a babysitter and gave her cash at the end of each week. Bonnie agreed with this arrangement and she was paid in cash every Friday for four years.   


The Law


When a family hires a household employee to work in their home, they are required to withhold Social Security & Medicare (FICA) taxes from their employee's pay each pay period. Federal and state income taxes - while not explicitly required to be withheld - should be deducted as well to ensure the employee does not get stuck with a large tax bill during tax season.


The family is also required to pay a matching portion of FICA taxes, as well as federal and state unemployment insurance taxes. Some states, like New York, also require additional taxes to either be withheld from an employee or paid by an employer. Please visit our state-specific pages for details on the taxes in your state.


At the end of the year, the family is required to prepare a W-2 for their employee so they can file their personal income tax return. The family is also required to file Form W-2 Copy A and Form W-3 with the Social Security Administration and prepare a Schedule H to attach to their personal income tax return.


The Mess


After four years of working for the Hansons, Bonnie was 64 and nearing the age for retirement. In trying to prepare for this exciting time, she enlisted the help of a local CPA to gauge what her benefits would be so she could budget for the next chapter of her life. Unfortunately, when the CPA learned Bonnie had no employment records for the previous four years, he had to be the bearer of bad news and told her she was ineligible for Social Security benefits. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires a minimum of 40 credits (or 10 years of work) to be accrued before a person can earn retirement benefits - and Bonnie could only prove she had eight years in retail.


Bonnie was confused and asked the CPA how she could get credit for the last four years of her working career so she could retire at the end of the year. The CPA explained that the Hanson family would need to catch up on four years' worth of payroll reporting and tax returns in order for the SSA to approve Social Security benefits for her. With this information in hand, Bonnie approached the Hansons, who were understandably embarrassed and guilt-ridden at the thought of their long-time nanny not being able to retire on her schedule. 


The Outcome


The Hansons wanted to help Bonnie in any way they could. After four years working in their home, she was a valued member of their household and a grandmotherly figure to their children. The CPA Bonnie consulted with happened to have a couple of clients with household employees and told the Hansons to contact Breedlove & Associates about the late tax returns. While he knew the steps they needed to take to make everything right for them and Bonnie, he wasn't interested in taking on four years' worth of payroll and taxes.


The Hansons called Breedlove & Associates the next day and we were able to get them caught up on their employer taxes. We set them up as household employers with the IRS and the state of New York, gathered the four years' worth of payroll information for Bonnie, filed the late tax returns, and best of all, sent tax information for the family and Bonnie to the Social Security Administration so Bonnie could get the working credits she needed for retirement. The family unfortunately incurred thousands of dollars in back tax payments and interest, but we were able to get the state of New York to waive the majority of the penalties they assessed. Bonnie will turn 65 in November and she's now set up to retire just in time for the holiday season. 


How the Whole Thing Could Have Been Avoided


If the Hansons had verified what their neighbor said via an accountant or even a simple Google search, they would have realized paying Bonnie in cash was not the right course of action. When families become household employers for the first time, they often have a laundry list of questions. It's important that they are steered toward a resource that can set them up for success. We're always available for your clients when they need this initial consultation and it's free for them to call. Sometimes a ten minute conversation can save a family like the Hansons thousands of dollars.

Paying on a Net Basis is not as Convenient as You Think

by Breedlove April 23, 2014

The Whitaker family was a few months removed from the birth of their first child when Mrs. Whitaker decided she wanted to return to work. The family weighed their childcare options and determined a nanny would be the best fit for their new daughter. Even though they were first-time household employers, Mr. Whitaker felt comfortable handling the hiring and employment process without the aid of an agency or a tax professional.

The Mistake

After interviewing several candidates, the Whitakers found a nanny they really liked who had experience working with young children and lived within 10 minutes of their Massachusetts home. When it came time to discuss her pay and how taxes would work, the nanny mentioned she had never had taxes withheld before and was used to taking home a certain amount of money each week. Not wanting to let a minor detail result in losing their favorite candidate, the family hired the nanny after agreeing to pay her $500 per week on a Net Pay basis. The Whitakers didn't really understand what that meant financially or administratively, but figured since they were hiring the nanny in October, they could figure everything out when it was time to file their personal taxes.

The Law

Payroll is calculated, tracked and reported to the IRS and state tax agencies on a Gross Pay basis (before taxes). In the eyes of the law, there is no such thing as a Net Pay compensation agreement.

Instead, families should negotiate a household employee's pay in terms of gross wages and then withhold the following taxes:

Social Security tax - 6.2% of gross wages
- Medicare tax - 1.45% of gross wages
- Federal income taxes - determined by the employee's allowances on Form W-4
- State income taxes - determined by the employee's selections on their state withholding form
* Only applicable if the family lives in a state with income taxes

Employees fill out Form W-4 and their state withholding form to elect the withholding status that most accurately reflects their life situation. This allows them to pre-pay income taxes each pay period at a rate that will approximately cover their end-of-year income tax liability. It is the employee's obligation to make the appropriate elections on Form W-4 and weigh the other factors that might influence their tax liability (i.e. other income, investment dividends, deductions, tax credits, etc.).

If an employee's elections cause taxes to be under-withheld, they have to make a tax payment at year-end. On the other hand, if their taxes were over-withheld, they will get a tax refund at year-end. Either way, it has no impact whatsoever on the employer because their obligation is simply to withhold the appropriate amount of taxes from their employee's gross pay.

The Mess

The income tax withholding process is based on tax tables set by the IRS and the state - and they change every year. This makes working backwards from Net Pay to Gross Pay (also called "grossing up") a potential administrative nightmare for families and extremely prone to error.


When it came time for the Whitakers to file their nanny taxes for the first time - and file their personal income taxes - they discovered their willingness to gross up for their nanny's taxes actually caused them to pay more than they should.


The nanny elected to choose Single with 0 Allowances on her federal W-4. This election meant her gross wages were reported by the Whitakers as $668 per week in order to give her the $500 take-home pay she requested. Additionally, the family's employer taxes totaled $61 per week, making the total cost (before tax breaks) $729 per week for the 12 weeks of the calendar year the nanny worked for them.


However, since the Whitaker's nanny was single and had no children, the federal W-4 worksheet recommends she claim Single with 2 Allowances to better fit her life situation. If the nanny had filled the W-4 out this way, the Whitakers would only have reported $637 per week in gross wages to get the nanny to take home $500. The employer taxes in this case would be another $58 per week - taking the family's total cost (before tax breaks) down to $695 each week.


This $34 weekly difference amounted to $408 over the course of three months and would be $1,768 in additional taxes if applied to a full year.


The Whitakers were happy to pay this additional amount thinking they were helping the nanny cover her tax obligation. However, when the nanny filed her tax return, she got a large refund because, at Single with 0 allowances, the IRS determined she had too much in income taxes "withheld" from her pay. The family was confused and felt that since they covered her income taxes, they should be entitled to some or all of the nanny's tax refund.


A neighbor of the Whitakers suggested they call Breedlove & Associates for advice because we handled their household employment taxes. When the family called, we explained the inherent issues with grossing up a net pay. Not wanting to run into this situation again, the family signed up for our service. Unfortunately, when we reviewed their tax returns, we found numerous errors in their "gross up" calculations due to changing tax tables during the year. This led to miscalculations which required us to amend each return they filed.

The Outcome
Once they understood the situation, the Whitakers felt that the nanny had taken advantage of their generosity. They had agreed to cover her taxes, but they did not agree to overpay her taxes so she could get a large bonus at the end of the year. The family strongly hinted to the nanny that the tax refund money belonged to them, but the nanny did not take the hint and never offered to reimburse them. This caused friction and distrust between the two parties and led to the nanny's termination within the next three months.

How the Whole Thing Could Have Been Avoided
A little knowledge by all parties at the beginning of the relationship would have prevented all the mistakes and distrust. Knowing what they know now, the Whitakers understand to always offer a gross wage to any future nanny. Breedlove & Associates has an Employee Paycheck Calculator that can be easily utilized to convert a Net Pay to a Gross Wage. Little details like this can help you steer clear of financial and legal issues that could potentially make or break an employment relationship. And if you run across something out of the ordinary, just give us a call. Timely professional advice can save thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of tedious work for busy families.

Celebrate National Nanny Training Day Early with Breedlove

by Breedlove April 8, 2014

National Nanny Training Day 2014 is this Saturday, April 12th. It’s a great opportunity for caregivers who want to get the most out of their job by learning new skills to improve their quality of care. Thousands of professionals will participate in 37 events across 19 states (and Washington, D.C.) hosted by local nanny agencies.

This year, our very own Stephanie Breedlove will be participating in a pre-National Nanny Training Day Google Hangout on Thursday, April 10th from 9am to 10am CST to answer any questions you may have. Stephanie will be part of a panel of experts that includes Kathy Dupuy with Mom’s Best Friend, Lora Brawley with Nanny Biz Reviews, Katie Bugbee with and Kellie Geres with Regarding Nannies.

The Hangout will be broadcast live, so don’t miss your chance to have your questions answered by five of the most respected women in the industry. To RSVP and access the event, visit

We look forward to seeing you all there!

New Requirement for Sick Leave Begins for New York City Families

by Breedlove April 1, 2014

Effective today, April 1, 2014, household employers in New York City will be required to provide their employee with 2 paid days of sick leave per calendar year after one full year of service. This is in addition to the 3 paid days off required by the New York Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Many families already provide this benefit as a part of their employment arrangement, but for those that don’t, please keep this mandate in mind if you’ve had a nanny, senior caregiver or other household employee working for you.

New York City isn’t the only city where household employers are required to provide sick leave. Families living in San Francisco, Jersey City, Portland and Washington, D.C. have to comply with versions of this law as well – and families in Newark, New Jersey will join this list effective May 29. If you need to know the specifics of any payroll, tax or labor law in your area, please visit our state-specific pages.

Banking Hours - Why It Does Not Pay Off

by Breedlove March 18, 2014

The Lawson family wanted to take an impromptu vacation after Mr. Lawson received a promotion. The family scrambled plans together and organized a five day reprieve from work and responsibility. The best part of the trip for Mr. and Mrs. Lawson would be the opportunity to take their first vacation with their two-year-old son who was usually supervised during the day by the family's nanny.  

The Mistake 

The Lawson's nanny was their first household employee. They were paying her on the books for the (generally) 40 hours per week she worked (8 hours per day, Monday through Friday) and even gave her five paid vacation days per year. The family chose to not take their nanny on vacation with them and let her know she could simply take the week off. However, they did not discuss how this time off would be interpreted with respect to her vacation time.

Several months after the Lawsons came back from their vacation, their nanny requested to take all five of her paid vacation days to spend time with her parents and extended family who lived several states away. The family informed her that they already paid for her vacation days when they took their trip. However, to avoid conflict, the Lawsons let the nanny take her vacation with the agreement that they would bank those 40 hours by having her work an extra two hours "off the clock" every day for next four weeks after she returned.

The Law 

Federal wage and hour law does not allow employers to average the hours their employees work across multiple weeks - meaning they should be paid for every hour they work during the workweek the hours are accumulated. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines a workweek as seven consecutive 24-hour periods. Any hours worked in excess of 40 during a workweek are required to be paid at an overtime rate of at least 1.5 times the employee's regular rate of pay. These laws are in place so employers cannot carry over hours from week to week to avoid paying an employee overtime.

The Mess 

After two weeks making up for hours already paid to her, the nanny became frustrated with having to stay late at the Lawson's home. She confided in her roommate who was attending law school and explained a few things to her about labor law and the FLSA. The nanny confronted the family about the "off the clock" hours and the lack of overtime. She asked that the Lawsons allow her to resume her normal working hours and be paid time-and-a-half for the 20 hours of overtime she had already accumulated. The family, unfamiliar with the law, had to make an emergency call to their accountant to verify what their nanny claimed was true.

The Outcome 

The Lawson's accountant utilized Breedlove & Associates to handle the family's payroll and taxes and made a quick call to our office. A consultant informed her that the family indeed had to pay their nanny for the 20 hours of overtime she worked. Because the nanny was earning $18/hour, the 20 hours of overtime resulted in an additional $540 in gross wages having to be added to the nanny's next paycheck. The financial dispute between the family and the nanny ultimately created an awkward employer/employee relationship for both parties and the Lawson's nanny quit after the end of the calendar year. 

How the Whole Thing Could Have Been Avoided 

If the Lawsons and the nanny had discussed how the family's vacation would be viewed before they left, each side could have avoided the initial conflict. Additionally, the family could have reached out to Breedlove & Associates - or asked their accountant to do so on their behalf - before deciding to carry over the nanny's hours. When there are variances from the normal workweek, it's important for employers to verify all labor laws are followed before proposing or agreeing to any changes.

Ignoring Workers' Compensation Can Have Messy Consequences

by Breedlove January 22, 2014

Families hiring a household employee for the first time often feel like they're taking a crash course on taxes and payroll when they learn about how to properly pay their caregiver. But there's another part of being an employer many families forget - addressing workers' compensation. In this edition of The Legal Review, the Johnson family learns a valuable lesson about how important this insurance policy can be.


The Situation 

The Johnsons live in Ohio with their two children - one of whom has special needs. While Mrs. Johnson had left her career two years ago to be a stay-at-home mom, she was offered a job opportunity last summer she simply couldn't refuse. After several discussions on how to handle childcare for their kids moving forward, the Johnsons decided hiring a nanny would be the most beneficial for their special needs child. After a month-long search, the family found a wonderful nanny named Rebecca with several years of experience working with special needs children. 

The Mistake 

Rebecca was used to being paid on the books, but the Johnsons were unfamiliar with their responsibilities and enlisted the help of a local tax office for guidance. The CPA the Johnsons spoke to was familiar with household employment tax law. He was able to instruct the family on how to file for their federal and state tax IDs and keep up with Rebecca's payroll and the taxes withheld from her pay. But unfortunately the topic of workers' compensation was glossed over as the CPA told the Johnsons their homeowner's insurance policy probably had them covered.


The Law 

Many states, including Ohio, require household employers to carry a stand-alone workers' compensation insurance policy - and in Ohio, the policy must be purchased through the state. Workers' compensation provides a family's employee with coverage for medical bills and lost wages if she is injured on the job. The policy prevents families from having to cover these costs out of pocket and protects them from lawsuits because employees that accept workers' compensation benefits forfeit the right to sue their employer. Additionally, in states that require a policy, families caught without a workers' compensation insurance policy can face significant fines.


The Mess 

One day while cooking for the Johnson's children, Rebecca badly cut her finger causing her to lose a substantial amount of blood. The injury was so severe, she had to go to the emergency room where the doctor recommended that she keep her arm in a sling for a month to prevent any long-term damage. As a result of her trip to the ER, Rebecca accumulated thousands of dollars in medical bills. She had no idea how she was going to cover the expenses and how she was going to be able to effectively care for the Johnson's children one-handed for a month, so she went to the family for advice.

Because the CPA the Johnsons spoke to led them to believe they had workers' compensation coverage through their homeowner's insurance policy, the family contacted their agent to figure out how to handle Rebecca's claim. But to the Johnson's surprise, their agent informed them the liability coverage in their policy did not cover an employee working in their home. As such, Rebecca would be ineligible for workers' compensation benefits since there was no policy in effect at the time of the incident.


The Outcome 

The Johnsons thought Rebecca was doing a wonderful job with their children, so they had no choice but to cover her medical bills and wages for a month out-of-pocket if they realistically wanted her to keep working for them. Additionally, they didn't feel they could afford quality backup care while Rebecca recovered, so they arranged for Mrs. Johnson to work part-time from home and use the majority of her vacation time for the year to stay home with the children. The family has since purchased a workers' compensation policy and Rebecca continues to work for them.


How the Mistake Could Have Been Avoided 

Had the Johnsons called their insurance agent to double-check if workers' compensation was part of their homeowner's policy, they would have quickly discovered there was not a policy in place. The family could have purchased a policy through the state and Rebecca would have been eligible for workers' compensation benefits when she was injured. Additionally, the family would not have incurred the cost of her medical bills or lost wages and would have been able to hire a temporary nanny while she recovered.


Because workers' compensation is not administered through the tax and payroll process, it's an easy item to forget you're preparing to have someone work in and around your home. If you have questions about workers' compensation or if it's required in your sitution, please give Breedlove & Associates a call. A short phone conversation with one of our experts can ensure you won't make a potentially expensive mistake.

Tax Rules for a Holiday Bonus

by Breedlove December 20, 2013

Just like many other professions, the holiday season is a common time of the year for families to reward their household employee with a bonus. And since your employee is probably buying gifts for family and friends, the timing works out very well for her. During this time of the year, we often get questions on how to handle a holiday bonus from a payroll and tax standpoint, so here’s what you need to know.

A bonus may seem like it should be handled differently than the nanny’s standard pay, but the IRS considers a bonus to be just another form of taxable compensation. Therefore, you should add the bonus to your nanny’s normal gross wages and withhold taxes accordingly.

It’s a good idea to give your employee a heads up that her income will be taxed at a higher rate than usual for the pay period that includes the bonus. This is because the IRS’ tax tables assume her new gross wage amount is a raise rather than a one-time bonus. Because the tax tables are part of payroll law, there is no way to deviate from them to reduce your employee’s taxes.

However, the good news is the higher tax withholding is temporary and is treated as a pre-payment toward your employee’s tax liability for the year. So, when she files her tax return, it will be recouped in the form of a larger refund or a lower tax payment, depending on her situation.

If you would like to calculate the taxes that will be withheld from your employee’s bonus, please feel free to use our Employee Paycheck Calculator.

Minimum Wage Increasing in Several Cities and States in 2014

by Breedlove November 22, 2013

Many people think of minimum wage as the $7.25 per hour mandate set by the federal government. But in actuality, each state (and some municipalities) have the option of accepting the federal minimum wage or setting their own minimum wage. In areas where two minimum wage rates exist, the rule of thumb is you must pay your employee the higher of the two rates.


Every year, several states elect to change their minimum wage to account for things like inflation and cost of living. Starting January 1, 2014, if you are a household employer in the following states or cities, please make sure you are paying your employee at least the new minimum wage so you stay in compliance with state and city laws.



Arizona: $7.90 per hour

Connecticut: $8.70 per hour

Florida: $7.93 per hour

Missouri: $7.50 per hour

Montana: $7.90 per hour

New Jersey: $8.25 per hour

Ohio: $7.95 per hour

Oregon: $9.10 per hour

Vermont: $8.73 per hour

Washington: $9.32 per hour



San Francisco: $10.74 per hour

Albuquerque: $8.60 per hour

San Jose: $10.15 per hour


If you have any questions about minimum wage, overtime or other aspects of labor law, please visit the Answers page at or give us a call. We’re here to help!

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