You may be tempted to treat a caregiver as a “private contractor” in order to avoid the humbug of tax withholding and buying the right insurance policies. You would do so at your peril. The IRS and the State will take the position that the caregiver is an “employee,” that you are an “employer,” and that all of the legal obligations that attach to those labels apply to your situation.

IRS Publication 926 gives outstanding guidance about employment issues. One of the points raised is the need to verify and document that your prospective caregiver can legally work in the U.S. On that subject, you can find all of the information and forms you will need at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, Or, it may make sense to avoid becoming an “employer” by working with an agency.  The agency will be the caregiver’s employer and will deal with all of the legalities.  What you pay for this kind of service may make the extra cost a bargain.

Another set of issues arises if your caregiver is injured on the job.  If you carry the right kinds of insurance, you will be fine.  However, the consequences of failing to do so can be devastating.  Even you work with an agency that carries Worker’s Compensation insurance, you should still ask your personal insurance professional whether there is anything else you should do to protect yourself through your homeowner’s and umbrella policies.

Never hire a caregiver without carefully considering your legal responsibilities and potential liabilities.  Ask your trusted advisors–CPA, lawyer, financial and insurance professionals–for guidance, and check out the resources cited above.  You will be glad you did.

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