The Legal Review by Breedlove and Associates – Employment Taxes

A Complimentary Resource from © 2014 Breedlove & Associates, LLC. Breedlove & Associates

When it comes to taxes, the tiniest of details can be the difference between smooth sailing and a giant headache. With the back-to-school hiring rush in full swing, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with a few household employment details (also known as the “nanny taxes,” although the payroll, tax and labor laws apply to all types of domestic workers employed by a family). This particular household employment case highlights how a family’s personal income tax return became much more complicated after the wrong tax returns were filed.

The Mistake

The Richmond family hired a nanny last year and utilized a local CPA to handle their tax return filings. The CPA made all the family’s quarterly state tax payments on their behalf and prepared their year-end documents, but also made quarterly federal tax payments for the family using Form 941.

The Law

The use of Form 941 is for remitting federal quarterly tax payments for commercial businesses. But household employers are not commercial businesses, and according to IRS Publication 926, they should make estimated tax payments using the federal 1040 Estimated Payment schedule. The only exceptions to this rule are if the family already owns a business as a sole proprietor or if they operate a for-profit farm. These estimated payments cover the Social Security & Medicare (FICA) and federal income taxes withheld from an employee as well as the employer’s share of FICA and federal unemployment insurance taxes. The taxes are remitted to the IRS in mid-April, mid-June, mid-September and mid-January using Form 1040-ES.

The Mess

When the Richmond’s CPA filed their personal income tax return and Schedule H this year, the IRS showed the family owed additional taxes coincidentally equaling the amount of the taxes they sent in on their 941 returns. The family contacted the IRS and an agent informed them of their error in using Form 941. Unfortunately, the Richmonds were already past the 1st quarter of 2014 when they spoke to the agent and their CPA had filed another Form 941 on their behalf. 

The Outcome

The family ultimately had to file amended 941 returns for all of 2013 and the 1st quarter of 2014 with instructions to transfer those tax payments to their personal taxes using their Social Security number. This allowed the Richmonds to amend their 2013 personal income tax return and get on the 1040 Estimated Payment schedule for the rest of the 2014. While ultimately the family’s CPA had all the family’s payroll and tax information correct from the beginning, the mistake of filing a Form 941 instead of Form 1040-ES resulted in hours of additional work and a frustrated client. 

Household employment is a highly-nuanced section of the tax code with numerous exceptions and exemptions that don’t apply to commercial enterprises. The state and federal complexities, combined with the unique labor law obligations, can create risk for families and liability for their advisors. That’s why we were created as a comprehensive “nanny tax” specialist. Founded in 1992, we provide families in all 50 states with an affordable, “no-work, no-worry” solution to household employment payroll, tax and HR obligations.

Quick Tax Facts


$1,900: Annual wage threshold for Social Security & Medicare (FICA) reporting in 2014
$1,000: Quarterly wage threshold for Unemployment reporting (some state thresholds are lower)
$2,500: Total childcare tax breaks available for families
1.5: Overtime rate of pay when work exceeds 40 hours
$0.56: Federal mileage reimbursement rate in 2014
$7.25: Federal minimum wage (some state rates are higher)
$2: Approximate daily cost to have HomePay by Breedlove handle all payroll and tax compliance duties with no work and no worry.




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