Nannies: Are you a household employee or a contractor?

If you work as a nanny in California and consider yourself “self-employed,” you are not alone. It is not uncommon for families to hire household help and then to classify them as independent contractors. Whether a family makes this classification out of ignorance or for tax-saving purposes, it is wrong, and even illegal.

According to, California classifies most household help as “household employees.” Misclassifying a household employee as a contractor is tax evasion. Not only that, but it sticks the tax burden on you, the worker, and deprives you of many of your worker rights. If you work as a nanny in The Golden State, it is important that you understand your employer’s responsibilities and your own rights.

The household employer’s tax responsibilities

California has its own special tax rules for persons who employ babysitters or nannies. The state often refers to these rules as the “California nanny tax obligations.” According to the law, household employers have four primary responsibilities:

  1. Pay the employer’s portion of Medicare and Social Security, along with state and federal unemployment insurance taxes and the California Employment Training Tax.
  2. Withhold state disability insurance, Social Security and Medicare taxes from employees’ paychecks each pay period, as well state and federal income taxes.
  3. File tax forms on a monthly or quarterly basis.
  4. Prepare and distribute each employees’ W-2, and file copies with the Social Security Administration.

Of course, tax obligations for your employer may vary depending on how much you earn. The point is, though, that your employer is responsible for taking care of tax obligations, not you.

The household worker’s rights

When you work as an employee and not an independent contractor, you can save thousands of dollars on taxes each year alone. However, there are other laws that protect your rights to a fair and livable income. One of those is California’s minimum wage law.

The law entitles household employees to a decent minimum wage. This varies from county to county, which details for you. The state minimum wage is $12.00, while Emeryville has the highest minimum, at $16.84 per hour.

The law also entitles you to a myriad of other benefits. Those include paid sick time, mileage reimbursement, overtime and workers’ compensation insurance.