Archive for Sunday, December 31, 2000

Baby sitters should receive pay worthy of work they perform

December 31, 2000


Dear Ann: What is the financial worth of a baby sitter? I have a 17-year-old, responsible daughter who loves kids. "Jennifer" baby-sits for a family with three children under the age of 6.

She helps the mother for four hours after school once a week, and baby-sits an additional four hours when the parents go out in the evening. She also does some light cleaning. For this, she receives $3 an hour. Jennifer also holds down a part-time job at a retail store.

I was surprised when it came time to file Jennifer's taxes. This family sent Jennifer a 1099 form from their clothing business, making her an independent contractor. That meant she had to pay self-employment taxes of $146 on the $1,033 she earned baby-sitting. If Jennifer had worked those extra hours at her retail job, she would have made $6 an hour, and her employer would have paid the taxes.

Jennifer feels that this family is taking advantage of her. We asked them to pay the $146 tax bill, but they refused. Is it fair to pay a loving, attentive teen-ager less than minimum wage to care for three young children and do light housework, as well? I cannot imagine many kids would baby-sit if they had to pay so much tax on the money they earned. What do you say? Baby sitter's Mom in Florida

Dear Mom: Jennifer's employers obviously wanted a tax break, which is why they gave her a Form 1099, placing the burden of taxes on your daughter.

Employers of students under age 18 who baby-sit are exempt from most tax-withholding requirements. Nonetheless, Jennifer was obligated to report this income, and may have had to pay income taxes on it regardless.

Jennifer should ask around and find out what her friends charge for baby-sitting. (In Chicago, the rate ranges from $5 to $10 an hour.) For three children under the age of 6, plus light housework, Jennifer should receive more than what she is getting. More to the point, it sounds as if the relationship with that family has soured. I believe Jennifer is better off working retail.

Dear Ann: I am a 22-year-old man in love with a wonderful woman who is 28. We plan to be together forever. The problem is, she already has two children, and had her tubes tied after her last child was born.

I want children and cannot imagine life without a family of my own. Please give me some kind of advice. In Love in Athens, Ga.

Dear Athens: If this "wonderful woman" is interested in having more children, she should talk to her gynecologist about reversing the tubal ligation.

The success of a reversal depends on the type of procedure that was used. Also, even if she can undo the sterilization, she may not be able to get pregnant, and if she does, there is an increased risk of problems.

Meanwhile, you need to decide how important it is for you to have biological children. Many stepfathers find enormous satisfaction in raising their wives' children. If you cannot find it in your heart to love her children as your own, perhaps she is not the right woman for you.

Write to Ann Landers c/o The Journal-World, P.O. Box 888, Lawrence 66044

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