When hiring a companion or home health aide (HHA) to care for an older adult at home, there are two main options: you can work with a home care company or you can hire an independent caregiver.

Hiring caregivers through a licensed home care company means that seniors and their families don’t have to concern themselves with things like tax considerations, payroll issues, bonding and workers’ compensation insurance. Home care companies handle the employer’s side of these things for their professional caregivers. This includes determining if an individual is legally able to work in the United States, handling employment tax withholding and record keeping, and making tax payments.

Hiring an independent in-home caregiver who is not affiliated with a company can have a significant impact on your tax bill. In these situations, the caregiver is considered a “household employee,” you are considered their “household employer,” and therefore you are responsible for paying their unemployment, Social Security and Medicare taxes.

If you choose to go this route instead of hiring a home health aide through a home care company, it is crucial to understand the tax implications of this decision.

IRS Rules for Caregivers and Household Employers

Defining Household Employers and Household Employees

For tax purposes, an independent caregiver is considered your household employee if you dictate what work they perform in and around your home and how it is done. An independent home health aide is your household employee if they receive instructions on how to care for the older adult from you or another member of the family and you supply the equipment they need.

Independent caregivers tend to fall into the household employee category, unless they are your parent, your spouse, your child (under 21 years old), or an employee under the age of 18. These individuals are never considered employees, even if they receive compensation for providing care.

On the other hand, an individual who is self-employed typically determines how they do their work and furnishes their own equipment and supplies. Self-employed caregivers are classified as independent contractors, rather than household employees, and must pay their own employment taxes.

Employment Eligibility Verification for Independent Caregivers

Once you’ve determined that your independent caregiver will be functioning as a household employee, the first thing to do is ensure that he or she can legally work in the United States. Prior to the new home health aide starting their work, the two of you must fill out Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), which requires your employee to produce documentation proving their eligibility to work in the U.S. All acceptable forms of documentation for establishing their identity and employment authorization are listed on the third page of this form. The completed form doesn’t have to be formally filed with any government agency, but you, as their employer, must keep it for your records. The government can ask you to present this document at any time.

You’ll also need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and keep a record of your household employee’s Social Security number on file.

Tax Obligations of a Household Employer

The tax amount that you must contribute for an independent caregiver who is a household employee will vary, depending on which state you live in and how much you pay for their services.

It’s vital that you maintain detailed accounts of all paperwork related to their wages and taxes. You must keep a given year’s employment tax records for at least four years after whichever is later, the due date of the tax return or the date when the taxes were actually paid.

Each time you pay the caregiver, be sure to write down the date of the transaction and itemize the following:

  • Employee’s wages, both cash (e.g., cash, check, money order) and noncash (e.g., food, clothing, lodging)
  • Federal income tax withheld
  • State employment tax withheld
  • Social Security tax withheld and
  • Medicare tax withheld

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How Employment Taxes Are Paid

Withholding Federal Income Tax

Household employers are not required to withhold federal income tax for household employees, but they can if the employee requests it. If your independent in-home caregiver wishes you to withhold their income tax amount from their paycheck, simply have them fill out a Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate), which you will then file with the IRS on their behalf. Just remember, if you withhold their federal income tax, you are responsible for paying the full amount on tax day. You must also inform the aide about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can reduce the amount that a low-income earner owes in taxes.

Household Employer/Employee Tax Rates

If wages for a household employee amount to less than $2,200 in 2020, neither you nor the employee are responsible for paying Medicare and Social Security taxes on those wages. If you paid the caregiver $2,200 or more, then you are responsible for withholding and paying the Medicare and Social Security taxes for their employment, which is 15.3 percent of their total cash wages. In a typical employment situation, the two parties split this cost down the middle, with the employer paying 7.65 percent (6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax) out of their own pocket and withholding the remaining 7.65 percent from their employee’s wages.

  • Calculating Medicare Tax

    Once the $2,200 threshold is met, all wages are considered when calculating the dollar amount of an employee’s Medicare tax. The Medicare tax amount will be whatever the caregiver’s total wage amount was for the year multiplied by .0145.
  • Calculating Social Security Tax

    When it comes to calculating Social Security tax for a household employee, only wages up to $137,700 are taxed. The Social Security tax amount will be all wages up to $137,700 multiplied by .062.
  • Calculating Federal Unemployment Tax

    If your pay all your household employees a total of $1,000 or more during any calendar quarter of the tax year, then you must also cover the six percent federal unemployment tax amount (FUTA), which helps compensate workers who lose their jobs. Once the $1,000 in a single quarter qualification is met, a six percent FUTA tax is applied to wages up to $7,000. The FUTA tax must be paid from your own funds.

Special Rules for State Employment Taxes

Certain states also require household employers to pay a state unemployment tax. Information on state unemployment taxes can be found by contacting your state’s unemployment agency. You can find a list of contacts for state UI tax information and assistance on the United States Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration website.

Tax Deadlines for Household Employers

Paying taxes as a household employer requires you to fill out and file Schedule H along with your federal income tax return and pay the tax amount due by April 15, 2021.

The following timetable will help you keep track of the important tax deadlines for submitting forms for the 2020 tax year.

February 1, 2021, Deadline:

  • Submit to your employee Copies B, C and 2 of Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement).
  • Send Copy A of Form W-2 with form W-3 to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Don’t send Form W-2 to the SSA if you didn’t withhold federal income tax and the Social Security and Medicare wages were below $2,200 for 2020.

April 15, 2021, Deadline:

IRS Publication 926 (Household Employer’s Tax Guide 2020) offers more in-depth information about filing taxes as a household employer, and contains a tax withholding table to help you calculate how much you and your employee will owe in taxes.

An Easier Way to Hire In-Home Care

If managing and paying taxes as a household employer is not something you feel you are up for, consider hiring a caregiver through a licensed home care company. The company will take care of all tax obligations, workers’ compensation insurance, and payroll issues, leaving you with a simple hourly rate for home care services.

Read: How to Select an In-Home Care Agency