Safe Help In Your Home

Step Two: Am I an employee or an independent contractor?

I want to hire in-home help
I provide in-home help
I work for an agency that places workers in clients' homes
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Working for an agency

If you provide services through an agency, you are probably an employee of that agency. It will withhold taxes, provide you a W-2 form at the end of the year, and bill clients. The agency will have policies about paid holidays, sick and vacation leave; it may or may not offer you health insurance. If you want a raise, you bring this up with the agency, not with the client you help.

Most agencies have policies prohibiting clients from supplementing salaries or giving gifts to their helpers. This is to protect clients from pressure by their helpers. Make sure you honor this policy.

Working directly for clients

If you work directly for clients, your employer and your client are one and the same. You’ll have to negotiate benefits, health insurance, paid holiday and sick leave with this employer/client. This dual role can strain your relationship because the person you help is also the person who may deny your raise and tell you to work on a holiday you’d like to take off.

Are you are you an employee or independent contractor? This is a big deal to the IRS and determines who is responsible for withholding money to pay taxes. Generally, people who set their own hours, divide up their work as they see fit and have several clients are independent contractors. People who work many hours if not full time for one person are probably employees. A house cleaner who cleans 10-12 homes a week, spending 3-5 hours at each home, is clearly an independent contractor. A home health aide who works from 9-5 Mon.-Fri. caring for one person is clearly an employee. How many hours of assistance are you providing? How many other clients do you have? Your employer needs to file IRS Form 1040-H annually (
You will need to pay estimated quarterly taxes on your earnings using form 1040ES.
For more information go to:,,id=99247,00.html, schedule H, household employment taxes. Nolo Press,, provides more information on this topic.

If you are an employee, your employer (just like an agency) will withhold taxes and give you a W-2 form. If you are an independent contractor, your employer will give you a 1099 form documenting your earnings for the year but you must take responsibility for paying estimated taxes each quarter. When interviewing, be sure to discuss this topic. People often pay in-home helpers an hourly rate without giving a thought to the tax implications. They may also not know they are expected to submit the W-2 or 1099 to the IRS.

Step Three: Interviewing Effectively