Snow Days for Families and Their Nannies

snow days for families and their nanniesIt looks like Mother Nature is ignoring the calendar and has started sending winter weather our way with a month still left in fall. If this year’s winter is anything like last year’s, we have lots of snowy days ahead. With that in mind, here are some guidelines for families and their nannies about how to handle snow days.

The first decision that a family must make is what constitutes a “snow day” (or other form of weather-related condition). Many rely on school or government office closings, a “state of emergency” condition, or road conditions. Whatever policy a family decides to adopt, it must be clear to the nanny and should definitively address whether or not a nanny should report for work. This of course can be tricky – a family might think conditions are good enough for the nanny to come to work, but the nanny may feel the roads are too unsafe, for example. When creating a snow day policy, both families and nannies should discuss relevant factors and both points of view need to be considered.

Certain jobs require their employees to report to work regardless of weather conditions, such as emergency medical staff, police officers, etc. In a situation where a nanny works for someone in one of these types of positions, the nanny must report for work so that the employer can do their job. If a heavy storm is predicted, the family may want the nanny to stay overnight the night prior. Hopefully this can be worked out mutually, but ultimately it should be the employer’s decision if the nanny should stay overnight, with as much notice as possible. In such a case where the family requires a nanny to spend the night, the family may wish to compensate the nanny for the extra hours.

Another factor that should be addressed when creating a snow day policy is whether or not the nanny has any dependents (including pets). If the family is open to it, the nanny may bring her child or pet to stay overnight at the family’s home. Alternatively, the employer may provide extra monetary compensation so the nanny can arrange for backup care.

Some families may choose to offer paid time off for bad weather days, if it’s not critical that the nanny report to work on a given day. Others may just count a snow day as a personal day, and follow their predetermined pay schedule in such an instance. Some families may still want the nanny to come to work even if the employer is working from home or has the day off. Part of the snow day policy should include an allowance of extra time for a nanny to get to work due to road conditions, etc. For example, if a nanny is due at the home at 9am on a bad weather day, she is permitted a grace period of two hours due to weather-related issues.

All of these conditions and factors must be considered when creating a snow day policy, and communication between the family and their nanny is crucial to this process. Discussing these concerns in advance will hopefully allow families to create a policy that is reasonable and considerate of both their needs and their nanny’s.

Please contact us with any questions at (518) 348-0400.

Tax Credits for Families

tax credits for families2015 may be another good year for tax credits for families. Most of the child- and education-related tax breaks on the table the last several years are available once again to parents — or in some cases to grandparents or to students themselves. Make sure that you and your family are taking advantage of the credits, deductions, and other tax-saving opportunities that apply to you. Savvy, strategic tax-related decision-making can become a family tradition, if it’s not already.

Tax Credits

Tax credits reduce your tax bill dollar-for-dollar. (See the Chart Tax deductions vs. credits: What’s the difference?) So make sure you’re taking every credit you’re entitled to. The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) made the benefits of the following credits permanent:

  • For each child under age 17 at the end of the year, you may be able to claim a $1,000 credit. Warning: The credit phases out for higher-income taxpayers.
  • For children under age 13 (or other qualifying dependents), you may be eligible for a credit for a portion of your dependent care expenses. Eligible expenses are limited to $3,000 for one dependent, $6,000 for two or more. Income-based limits reduce the credit but don’t phase it out altogether.
  • If you adopt, you may be able to take a credit or use an employer adoption assistance program income exclusion; both are limited to $13,400 for 2015 (up from $13,190 for 2014). An income-based phaseout also applies.

For more information on the income-based phaseouts that apply to these credits, see the chart below.

Education Credits 

If you have children in college or are currently in school yourself, you may be eligible for a credit:

American Opportunity credit. This tax break covers 100 percent of the first $2,000 of tuition and related expenses and 25 percent of the next $2,000 of expenses. The maximum credit, per student, is $2,500 per year for the first four years of post-secondary education. The credit is scheduled to be available through 2017.

Lifetime Learning credit. If you’re paying post-secondary education expenses beyond the first four years, check whether you’re eligible for the Lifetime Learning credit (up to $2,000 per tax return).

Be aware that income-based phaseouts apply to these credits.

For more information, contact GTM’s Household Employment Experts at (888) 432-7972.

Senior Care Payment Options

senior care payment optionsAccording to Paying for Senior Care, nearly all money spent on long term senior care comes from government programs (like Medicaid, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, and Social Security); insurance (like long term care and health insurance); personal property; and, private assistance (including nonprofits, foundations, and pharmaceutical companies). No coverage—including health and long term care insurance—will  fully cover the complete needs of your elderly loved one, and the senior and his or her family will need to cover many aspects of care themselves.

One fact is true—at-home care for an elderly loved one is labor intensive and is provided mostly by trained individuals. Therefore, it can quickly become very expensive. Some senior care payment options have recently become available for elders and their families to consider.

Accelerated Death Benefit

This is a life insurance death benefit paid in cash in advance, tax-free. An accelerated death benefit is available to people needing long-term care for an extended period of time. Also known as a “living benefit,” accelerated death benefits may include all or part of the total life insurance death benefit.

Charitable Remainder Trust

This allows people to use their own assets for long term care while reducing their taxes. Generally used by well-off people who donate specific asset types to a public charity at fair market value, the trust enables people making donations to receive a tax deduction on the amount gifted. The donor receives payments from the trust that then can be used for long term care. When the donor dies, the balance of the funds in the trust go to the charity.

Deferred Long-term Care Annuity

This is available to people up to age 85, this annuity allows people to create two funds—one for long-term care expenses and the other to be used as they like. The long term care fund may be accessed immediately and if not used may be passed to  heirs, but eligibility depends on the annuity holder’s health. There are many health criteria and the fund could be taxed.

Life settlement

This is a fairly recent financial option in which the owner of a life insurance policy sells an unneeded policy to a state-licensed third party (or investor)l for more than its cash value and less than its face value. Until recently, if a policy owner opted out of a policy by surrendering the policy or allowing it to lapse, the additional value was relinquished back to the issuing life insurance company. In some cases, an insured’s health may have declined since the policy was issued and the policy may be worth considerably more than the surrender value. A life settlement is an alternative to a surrender or policy lapse, or when the owner of a life insurance policy no longer needs or wants the policy, the policy is under performing or can no longer afford to pay the premiums.

Reverse mortgage

This is a loan based on home equity that enables older homeowners to convert part of their home equity into tax-free income without having to sell the home, give up the title, or incur a new monthly mortgage payment. According to the Federal Trade Commission, with a regular mortgage, policyholders make monthly payments to the lender. In a reverse mortgage, policyholders receive money from the lender and generally don’t have to pay it back for as long as they live in their home. Instead, the loan is repaid when they die, sell their home, or when their home is no longer their principal residence. The proceeds of a reverse mortgage generally are tax free, and many reverse mortgages have no income restrictions.

Viatical Settlement

This allows people to sell their life insurance to a third party and use the money to pay for their care. In viatical settlements, cash payments may be up to 85 percent of the policy’s face value. Such a settlement is only possible if the policyholder is terminally ill (a life expectancy of two years or less). Money received from a viatical settlement may be tax-free. Viatical settlements may potentially affect Medicaid eligibility.

Other income

While the majority of people over age 65 receive their largest source of retirement income from Social Security (ssa.gov), some may also access Supplemental Security Income (SSI),which provides monthly cash payments to help pay for food, shelter, and clothing. Like Social Security, SSI is derived from payments workers put in during their working years and is available to people with limited incomes age 65 or older, or are blind or disabled. Local Social Security Administration offices can help determine eligibility. Outside of Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement pensions are the next largest income source for people age 65 or older. (The Pension Rights Center at pensionrights.org provides pension counseling.)

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Need Some Extra Help for the Holidays?

holiday helpThe holiday season can be stressful enough, let alone if you are having a holiday party and/or visitors staying with you. But luckily we can provide you with some assistance!

We are happy to introduce you to Kanika, our newest staff member! Kanika specializes in assistance with planning, organizing, and executing parties and other events, along with clerical work. Do you need an extra set of hands for your upcoming holiday party? Kanika is your girl! She also has banquet experience and can easily help with prepping, cleaning, and serving food.

Kanika can also handle clerical jobs such as data entry or any other type of office work. If you need extra help with your home office or place of business on a temporary basis, Kanika is ready to pitch in.

She currently attends Maria College, and we are very excited to have her as our newest staff member!

If you would like to book Kanika for holiday party or office assistance, please contact Melissa at 518-881-0202.

The Affordable Care Act and Household Employees

affordable care act and household employeesRegarding the Affordable Care Act and household employees, including nannies, household employers may be wondering what, if anything, they need to do in order to comply with changes in health care laws. Below are some of the topics most likely to be relevant to household employers. Please note that rules and regulations are subject to change. A New England Nanny’s affiliate, GTM Payroll Services, will provide updates as they occur.

Household employers are NOT required to offer health insurance to their employee(s). Any employer with fewer than 50 full-time employees is not required to provide health insurance coverage to their staff.

Household employers MUST provide a Notice of Coverage Options. All employers must provide this notice to all current and any future employees. This will inform your employees about the coverage options that are available and the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace allows individuals to compare health insurance plans offered by private insurance companies. There are two sample notices that the Department of Labor provides, depending on whether you currently offer your employees health coverage or not.

Your employee is required to obtain health insurance coverage. While the law does not require you to provide coverage, your employee must be covered. Employees can purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. To be eligible for health coverage through the Marketplace, your employee must live in the United States and be a U.S. citizen or national; if not a U.S. citizen, coverage can still be obtained, provided the requirements listed here are met. Plans and coverage will vary greatly from person to person; all of the information needed to get insurance can be found here.

If you wish to provide insurance to your employee(s), you most likely will not be able to use the Marketplace. As “sole proprietors” cannot obtain coverage for their employees through the Marketplace, most household employers are not eligible to purchase coverage for their employees. If an employer wishes to pay for coverage for their employee(s), a Health Insurance Reimbursement Arrangement may be the best option.

Household employees may qualify for a tax credit on their monthly premiums. Depending on 2015 income level and size of household, individuals may qualify for premium tax credits and other savings on a private insurance plan. Employees can apply part or all of this tax credit each month to their premium payments. The Marketplace will send the tax credit directly to their insurance company, so they pay less for premiums each month. Use this chart to help your employee see if they qualify.

For more information, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Health Insurance for Nannies – Open Enrollment Starts Soon

health insurance for nanniesWith so many questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many household employers and employees are asking for information about how they can obtain health insurance for nannies (and other household employees), so the individuals can avoid paying any fees for not having coverage. The good news is that employees have an opportunity to shop the health insurance marketplace next month during the open enrollment period.

Open enrollment begins on November 15, 2014, and ends on February 15 of 2015. This is an opportunity for individuals who have not yet enrolled in health insurance coverage to obtain coverage – otherwise there may not be another chance to be covered in 2015 until the next open enrollment period sometime next year. For those enrolled in a 2014 Marketplace plan, the benefit year ends December 31, 2014. To continue health coverage in 2015, the current health plan must be renewed, or a new health plan can be chosen through the Marketplace during the 2015 Open Enrollment period.

A potential benefit for nannies regarding the monthly health insurance premium is a tax credit, which depends on household size and income. According to Healthcare.gov, if your income falls within the following ranges you’ll generally qualify for a premium tax credit. The lower your income is within these ranges, the bigger your credit:

  • $11,670 to $46,680 for individuals
  • $15,730 to $62,920 for a family of 2
  • $19,790 to $79,160 for a family of 3
  • $23,850 to $95,400 for a family of 4
  • $27,910 to $111,640 for a family of 5
  • $31,970 to $127,880 for a family of 6
  • $36,030 to $144,120 for a family of 7
  • $40,090 to $160,360 for a family of 8

There are also subsidies that many nannies may be able to take advantage of. The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a subsidy calculator that provides health insurance premium and subsidies estimates for people purchasing their own health insurance in the exchanges created by the ACA. Enter your income, age, and family size to estimate your eligibility for subsidies and how much you could spend on health insurance. You’ll be able to see if you qualify for the premium tax credit or cost-sharing subsidies.

For more information, visit Healthcare.gov or contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Company Holiday Party? Let us Help!

Companyparty

Senior Care Issues: Home Modification for Seniors

home modification for seniorsHealth and safety in the home is an important issue to consider when the home is where the caring of your loved one takes place. Also, it has become a workplace for your employee. Whether your senior loved one decides to stay in his or her home or to live in your home, the home must be made and kept safe. Up to half of all home accidents could be prevented with home modifications and repair. Home modifications for seniors enable safety and allow people to stay in their homes longer.

Adapting homes for safer and friendlier senior environments can encompass some quick and easy fix measures, as well as full renovations. Modifications can include installing: lever-style door and sink handles; bathroom grab bars (shower and toilet); improved lighting and installing night lights; handrails (on both sides of stairs and ramps); wider doorways for wheelchair access; stairway chair lifts; walk-in/low curb or curbless showers; and, a bath/bed room on the first/main floor.  They may also include removing all loose rugs and clutter. Other useful tools include kitchen utensils like automatic openers and other kitchenware that offer built-up handles for easier gripping (as with hair brushes and combs, too), and bowls and plates with nonskid bottoms.

There are many companies that offer home medical supplies and equipment ranging from shower chairs, grabs bars, and raised toilet seats to less obvious but equally helpful and practical products that assist with dressing, eating, hearing, seeing, walking, writing, and almost all activities of daily living. Even motion detectors may be used to signal when a senior is near the top of the stairs or slipping out the front door.

If you are looking for contractors who specialize in home modification for seniors, The National Association of Home Builders and AARP offer a certification for an aging in place specialist, called CAPS. Builders and remodelers (and an increasing number of general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants) take a three-day course to learn how to remodel for seniors and create an aesthetically enriching, barrier-free living environment. According to NAHB, CAPS training extends beyond design to address codes and standards, common remodeling expenditures and projects, product ideas and resources needed to provide comprehensive and practical aging in place solutions.

Also, physical and occupational therapists can offer many recommendations on remodeling, as well as assistive devices and durable medical equipment.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

HRAs: A Great Option for Employee Health Insurance

HRA nanniesHealth Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are a creative option for household employers with a range of budgets who want to offer a contribution program for health-related expenses as an employee benefit.

HRAs have been the best option for healthcare benefits in the household employment industry for many years – whether you use an HRA as a standalone option or combine it with a major medical insurance plan.

HRAs are flexible, convenient, and cost-effective, offering:

  • Freedom of choice to help control healthcare costs for your nanny, senior care worker, or other household employee
  • Freedom of control, making your employee accountable for the management of their medical treatments
  • Convenient roll-over feature so you don’t lose your contributions at the end of the year or when an employee leaves
  • Flexible budget options – contribution amounts that you determine
  • Versatility- an HRA can be used alongside other savings accounts and health options and can be used to fund insurance premiums and deductibles
  • Popular with the employee – HRAs use employer contributions, not employee salary deductions

HRAs allow employees and employers to take advantage of the lower premiums offered by high-deductible major medical plans and help keep healthcare costs under control. The employee becomes more self-reliant, aware of healthcare issues, and develops better judgment with health-related costs and arrangements.

The employer offers a useable, affordable employment benefit to their employee that helps recruit and retain the best employees, but doesn’t break the bank.

For more information, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Fall into Fall this Weekend!

fall funIt looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous weekend (and for some, a 3-day weekend!) – the weather looks great, the leaves are changing colors everywhere, and it’s peak time for apple picking. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to get out with the kids for some fall fun. Here are a few of the places to go around the region this weekend from Albany.com:

Goold Orchard Apple FestivalSat, Oct 11, 2014 until Sun, Oct 12, 2014 | 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Fresh food, pick-your-own apples and pumpkins, live entertainment, craft vendors, horse-drawn wagon rides, face painting, live music and more!

– By reservation Thursday-Sunday evenings during the month of October.

Weave through haunted woods on a tractor-drawn wagon. Around each and every corner there’s a frightful scene and behind each and every tree lurks an uninvited guest waiting for you!

Sun, Oct 12, 2014 | 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Enjoy local chowder with a competitive edge. Over 30 restaurants are competing for best chowder. Who will win? YOU decide!

 - Sat, Oct 11, 2014 | 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Enjoy a hayride overlooking the fall foliage of the Green Mountains. Take a Pony Ride or get lost in the hay bale maze. Enjoy home made baked goods, chili, apple cider and hot chocolate!