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Nannygate in Slope! The hand that rocks the cradle is off-the-books

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Moms and Dads in Park Slope are guilty of Nannygate.

The political scandal from a decade ago — which famously snared plenty of pols for paying their domestic help off the books — is rearing its head as a new survey revealed this week that close to 90 percent of all nannies in the famously liberal neighborhood work in a black market.

Only 14 percent of local parents pay their nannies fully on the books, according to the gorgeously laid-out survey of 806 families compiled by the Park Slope Parents Web site.

The hand that rocks this cradle is working illegally.

And it’s no surprise — or even a cause for concern — among the mostly women who are doing the dirty work.

“Out of the seven families I’ve worked for, only one ever discussed taxes with me,” said Deborah Manwaring, a nanny for 21 years. “Parents are so worried about the cost.”

And taxes aren’t the only disquieting element of Park Slope nanny culture, according to the survey. The International Nanny Association’s most recent study says that nannies in families with one child in New York City make an average of $777 a week. In Park Slope, the average is $548 weekly — and 86 percent aren’t getting benefits, the survey showed.

The earth-shattering survey also revealed that:

• the bad economy has taken its toll on nannies. Salaries are down from last year and fewer nannies have gotten a raise. Last year 55 percent got a raise, this year just 33 percent did.

• only three percent of nannies receive even partial health-care coverage.

• only 33 percent of nannies have written contracts with their employers.

• the difference in salary between nannies who are on the books and those who are paid off the books ranges from 16 cents to $2.18.

On the plus side, the survey also showed that the average full-time nanny gets nearly 20 vacation and holiday days off — paid.

But by far, the most-shocking finding is that so many Park Slope parents are pulling the Zoe Baird and choosing to keep their nannies as undocumented workers.

A whopping 77 percent of couples pay their nannies fully off the books and another nine percent said they pay partly on the books.

Of course, a majority have a perfectly reasonable rationale: Fifty-eight percent of off-the-book employers said that they believe their nannies prefer it this way.

Manwaring isn’t sure that it’s so simple; she’s simply afraid to broach the subject.

“I don’t bring up taxes because they might fire me,” Manwaring said. “With the economy the way it is, I don’t want to be unemployed, so I have no choice.”

The plurality of the 77 percent of parents that pays its nannies fully off the books gave this Rangel-esque defense: 44 percent said the process of paying extra taxes is simply too difficult. Another 38 percent said it would cost them too much money to maintain the nanny’s salary after taxes.

The director of Park Slope Parents, Susan Fox, said that the difficulty of filing taxes on nanny salaries can be intimidating and that paying those taxes can be prohibitively expensive. But the survey indicated that nannies paid on the books only cost about one dollar more per hour than nannies paid under the table.

And as for salaries this year, the survey showed that rates are already going down because parents aren’t willing to pay new nannies as much as they have in the past. Another Park Slope nanny, Mona Supersat, said she works two part-time jobs to maintain a decent salary.

“I’ve been a nanny here for 13 years and finding an employer to pay enough to make a good living wage has never been so difficult,” Supersat said.

Parent and former Park Slope Civic Council President Lydia Denworth was disappointed when she heard that paying off the books has become so common.

“I wasn’t aware that the percentage was that high, but I certainly knew that some people weren’t paying on the books,” Denworth said. “It tells you how much it already costs. Things have gotten tighter for everyone.”

It’s fine for the nannies, of course — as long as they never want to retire on Social Security.

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Reader Feedback

The Nanny from Undisclosed says:
I have been working for Mr. Sheffeild at illegally low rates for years - and that is on top of the occupational hazzard of Ms. C.C. Babcock!
I am not alone, and I now I think we can all come together and threaten to leave our posts and go back to working in our respective bridal shops in Flushing, Queens if conditions don't improve.
March 9, 2010, 4:57 am
JJOE from PLG says:
Um, I'm going to call BS on all this. I saw this report from PSP and was surprised most pay less than I pay a nanny. But I was not shocked at how many were paid off the books - over the last year I interviewed 6 nannies for a PT position and had hired 2 of them and NONE of them wanted to be paid on the books! Not a single one. THEY are the ones telling parents they don't want to pay taxes. It's very short sighted because they won't be able to be a nanny forever and they should be paying into social security, but they're just not thinking of the future. Sorry to break it to the journalist who wants to make this an expose about exploited workers, but that's the truth ruth. In fact I'm worried we'll even be able to find somebody who agrees to be paid on the books as a full time nanny/housekeeper when I go back to work full time.
March 9, 2010, 9:13 am
anonymous from bk says:
Uh, do a survey on the entire city. To suggest that this is only going on in Park Slope is absolutely ridiculous.
March 9, 2010, 10:20 am
LEGAL from NPS says:
Only 86% off the books? Surprisingly low. Does that mean that 14% are legal residents or citizens?
March 9, 2010, 11:07 am
needer from ps says:
It's easy to lash out at Park Slope parents and accuse them of underpaying or not paying benefits...but as a freelancer and parent in the hood, I don't get benefits, either. And I get paid about 1/10th of what I made two years ago...and now I have to pay someone so I can work. It's hard for the nannies because it's hard for everyone. I don't think this paper has earned the snark it conveys. You adopt a tone of righteousness but are essentially a local New York Post. I say work harder at journalism; it's easy to judge, harder to objectively report.
March 9, 2010, 11:23 am
Andrea from PS says:
needer from ps says: "It's easy to lash out at Park Slope parents and accuse them of underpaying or not paying benefits...but as a freelancer and parent in the hood, I don't get benefits, either. And I get paid about 1/10th of what I made two years ago...and now I have to pay someone so I can work."
How is that relevant?
By that measure: When business lags, a biz owner should have the right to illegally underpay employees. Or the cost of all goods and services should be based on income (and PTers/jobless can eat out for free, and skip tipping; too bad for the biz and waitstaff). Or we should pay just *half* the mortgage/rent $, at no risk, if we go from FT to PT.
March 9, 2010, 12:29 pm
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
And this is "news" why?
March 9, 2010, 1:31 pm
Yea.. from Gravesend.. says:
I bet these same people who pay their nannies off the books/no benefits rag on Walmart and their policies...
March 9, 2010, 1:50 pm
Steve from Prospect Heights says:
That picture is from Cobble Hill Park, not Park Slope. But the same issues exist in both places, I'm sure.
March 9, 2010, 1:59 pm
Rodger Lodger from Mr. Rogers' says:
I agree with the parents who feel the taxes are too much. Nobody should pay taxes that they feel would cost them too much. That's the way our system should work. Further, most families gave so much to Haiti that they are too strapped to pay for their nanny taxes. There is just so much good a Park Slope Mom can do. Please be kind and gentle -- these Park Slopers are doing their best, within reason.
March 9, 2010, 2:04 pm
Jon from Chelsea says:
In the day and age of child abuse, sexual abuse and abductions it is a horror to see parents hand their children over to nannies who are not only illegal but who's identities cannot be confirmed just to get ahead at the office and make more money. It seems LV, Gucci, Mercedes and a groovy apartment are well worth putting your child at risk to these people. Sorry, I forgot about the house in the Hamptons

These people have no idea who these nannies are, who they associate with and what they are doing with their children. What is worse is that they don't seem to care because it seems that saving money for "things" means more than protecting their child. If these nannies or their accomplices ran off and sold your child for $5K, this pathetic bunch wouldn't even know where to find them because they may not know the real names of their domestic help.

I suppose the conciliation to these folks is that at least if their child has been abused or hurt they are dressed to kill for the cameras with their designer sunglasses and Rolex which can be seen as they walk with their head down from the black SUV to the front door of their luxury apartment building hoping everyone feels sorry for them. Maybe they will even get a sympathy promotion!

You should all be ashamed!
March 9, 2010, 2:27 pm
Peter from Carroll Gardens says:
Who cares? It's the way it has always been. It works. It is the way it should be.
March 9, 2010, 3:22 pm
jeff from carroll gardens says:
Alot of nannies don't want to pay their fair share of income tax. And employers don't want to pay their share either, plus you've got to figure it out. What a nice system... no one does what's right. Some nannies are not even legal, that is true, but even those who are legal think it is okay not to pay taxes. They are just like most contractors you run across.

We pay our nanny on the books.
March 9, 2010, 3:56 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Most nannies are stuck in their third world ways , don't understand the tax system and how it would effect them later on in their lives.
March 9, 2010, 4:27 pm
maxwell from Bed Stuy says:
White People, still junkies for cheap labor.
March 9, 2010, 4:41 pm
nannyemployer from heights says:
"earthshattering"? "shocking" ? your reporter is a bit clueless. i doubt these numbers vary much either over the last ten years or by ny city neighborhood. only becacuse there are so many uptight lawyers in park slope dreaming of an administration appointment or a future cabinet post do even 14% pay the payroll tax.
March 9, 2010, 4:52 pm
Joey from Bedford says:
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. In a free market people may work for wages set forth by their employers, no one forces them to work for them. As well, taxes (government extortion) and b.s. government regulation is avoided, which makes things easier and cheaper for families. the hypocrisy lies in the fact that the majority of these elitist moms who hire the nannies hate the evil walmart and in general hate business and support government morality imposed on all of us. nyc is a corrupt government cesspool
March 9, 2010, 5:10 pm
susan from manhattan says:
First, I question the accuracy of the International Nanny Association’s study which supposedly found that nannies in families with one child in New York City make an average of $777 a week. That would that the average nanny is paid almost $20 per hour. I live in Manhattan and I know lots of people with nannies. I know nobody who pays their nanny that amount.

Second, the claim that it would just cost $1 more per hour to pay someone on the books ignores a critical fact - in order for the nanny to take home the same pay, the employer would have to raise the pay by around 40%. That is a lot more than $1 per hour. Obviously, it is the nanny, not the employer who would get hurt by being on the books.

Third, the fact is that most Americans no longer get health care benefits through work - it is just too expensive. Providing health care for an individual costs around $600 per month. Most of us cannot afford to give our nannies a $600 per month raise. This is exactly why we need government provided health care.
March 9, 2010, 5:10 pm
Delia from DUMBO says:
This is crazy. Most of the nannies are not authorized to work in the US. Hence, the commonness of this approach and the fact that both parents and nannies prefer it this way.
March 9, 2010, 5:11 pm
Employer from Greenpoint says:
My biggest expenses - rent, then nanny, then food. If I didnt pay under the table (with paid vacation/holidays, bonus for xmas) I would never be able to afford to live here. Not everyone is RICH, just scraping by. I am ever grateful for my nanny and treat her so. And I like to think she is grateful for us and the best work conditions we can possibly provide.
Not everything is always so negative.
March 9, 2010, 5:13 pm
jlk from Brooklyn Heights says:
Really good nannies get paid well, and they are treated well (including paid vacations and personal time). Taxes are a side issue -- most nannies don't want taxes taken, in some cases even if the employer will "make her whole" by raising her salary.

This is their mindset, and if you want a great nanny who refuses to work "on the books," what are you going to do? It's not always an example of employers trying to cheap out (although that certainly does happen too).

A similar example are restaurants that won't take credit cards -- even though if they took credit cards it would mean that diners spend more and leave bigger tips, on average. Why? Because their mindset is that they should avoid taxes above all else (you can hide some cash, you can't hide credit card revenue). It's just the way they are.

Same with the nannies -- plus those who are here illegally just don't want their names on government data bases.
March 9, 2010, 7:54 pm
Ye Olde Parke Slope from Brownsville says:
white people, not only can they not kick the "Junk" of cheap labor, they post silly, prattling, ignorant, buffoon like statements. Ahh for the day when white folks were scared to walk the streets of Bklyn.
Third world, boy you people are so 20thC.
Delia U R a Dumbo!
March 9, 2010, 7:56 pm
Teri from Astoria says:
People need to do the right thing and pay their taxes employees and employers. People who hire illegals are just looking for cheap labor. If you can't afford the taxes or quality childcare you can't afford a nanny. Find a quality licensed daycare and do the right thing. I knew a woman who had it in the contract that the nanny worked 7 days a week. There were 2 week vacation but the nanny could not take a day off during the week. I could not help but think what a selfish person. And when I verbalized this the person proudly said she signed a contract as if that absolved her of her crime of violating labor laws and her basic lack of character. Really the people on here Nanny wont work for less, Hell no they won't work for less not for your bratty kids.
March 9, 2010, 10:09 pm
Karley from Park Slope says:
Why does this paper think it's OK to print such an incriminating article with a photo of an actual woman, and the child she is caring for? I've seen this woman at the park, and I've talked with her before. And I don't think she would like her image being used as the personification of illegal. It should be removed immediately.
March 9, 2010, 10:28 pm
Joe from Park Slope says:
It's just much easier to not have kids.
March 9, 2010, 11:01 pm
tim from upper hudson says:
Paying someone more than 300 dollars per annum for work and not filing it is illegal in NY. The books are just the cost of doing business, and the worker's deserve unemployment like other workers on the books.
March 9, 2010, 11:03 pm
t from williamsburg says:
Paying nannies on the books?? ha ha ha. The fines for minor mistakes are outrageous. The government doesn't make it easy for us.
March 9, 2010, 11:23 pm
The Nanny from Undisclosed says:
A nanny is a luxury - not neccessity (sp?)
If you can't afford to pay a nanny properly don't get one. There are other forms of childcare (group nursuries, playschools, etc.) and they work just fine. If you claim that you can't afford to legally employ a nanny and give her the insurance which you yourself probably would require from a full time job, then don't get a nanny. Simple as that.
March 10, 2010, 6:26 am
Andrea Flagg from Tri-State says:
I'd love to see a follow up about educating the families on the tax breaks they are able to take when paying legally. As well as the penalities they could encounter if caught for paying illegally.

Also if these parents are not paying legally do they have solid info. on the nanny? What if something horrible happens? How would they find her?
Also if something happens to the children- will the illegal nanny seek help from police or ER- or will she be afraid of being caught?

You may want to check out the website of:
www.legallynanny.com
www.gtm.com
4nannytaxes.com

Good luck! and please help to educate these families and nannies! As each child deserves quality nanny care!
Thanks!
Andrea Flagg- Co-Founder
Nanny Alliance of NY & NJ
www.nannyalliancenyandnj.com
info@nannyalliancenyandnj.com
March 10, 2010, 5:19 pm
Michelle LaRowe from USA says:
I think that people who think the survey is inaccurate or is false reporting do so because they confuse what a professional nanny is.

Today's nanny is an educated professional with a working knowledge and genuine love of children.

Just because someone calls themselves a nanny, doesn't mean they are one- or has the right to earn the salaries and benefits of one.

Michelle LaRowe
2004 INA Nanny of the Year
Author, Working Mom's 411 and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists
March 10, 2010, 5:37 pm
susan tokayer from new york says:
  I would like to comment of the article and also to respond to a comment made by Susan from Manhattan.  Although many nannies are still being paid off the books, I have found that by explaining the benefits of being paid on the books (contribution to social security, access to workman's comp. and disability, access to unemployment if they should lose their job, etc.)most nannies agree that being paid on the books is beneficial.  So, employers should probably take more time explaining the benefits.  Some nannies don't have a lot of formal education and don't understand the benefits initially. It is still a huge tax burden for the employer, who in essence, is double taxed when they pay on the books. The Obama administration (as mentioned in the State of the Union Address), is aware of the huge cost burden of childcare to families in the U.S.and is looking at increasing tax credits to families that pay for childcare. Of course to access tax credits employees must be paid on the books.    Regarding the comment from Susan...The INA survey is taken annually by nannies throughout the country.  INA then publishes the results.  It does not poll all nannies, obviously, and gets the information only from nannies that know about the survey, have access to a computer and take the time to respond.  This may mean that a more well informed nanny, and therefore, possibly higher paid nanny, is taking this particular survy, but the results are not manipulated in any way, just presented.  I am both the co-president of the International Nanny Association and I own my own nanny placement agency and I can tell you that there are many nannies that are paid $20/hr.
March 10, 2010, 6:40 pm
marcia from BROOKLYN says:
Parkslope parents are so cheap they only think about there own family i went on an interview to take care of a newborn child and they only want to pay thirteen dollars an hour with no tax i sad to the parent i do not work off the books and i asked do you work off the book and there were very mad because i asked them that question.BABY SITTER YOU NEED TO PUT IN SOCIAL SECURITY IN THIS COUNTRY IF YOU INTENED TO LIVE HERE DONT
May 21, 2010, 11:25 pm
linclon road nanny says:
Im a nanny working with an interracial couple an they refuse to even give a raise of pay. its the worse thing working with these black women in brooklyn. they only want to pay 12 dollars an hour
May 20, 2012, 10:55 am
Donna of Brooklyn from Brooklyn says:
I am asking my employer for a W2, i am legal here in New York to work. I am feeling that they don't want me give my W2, they said it won't do me good. Please advice...
Feb. 26, 2015, 1:16 pm
Donna of Brooklyn from Brooklyn says:
And also this is my second year to this family. Im planning to just end this second year and next year, leave. Im planning to apply in a legal nanny agency and to work on the books, do the right yhing, esp for my future...
Feb. 26, 2015, 1:19 pm

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