Contact Congress to Protest Taxes on Au Pairs!

by cv harquail on February 11, 2012

Dear AuPairMom Readers-

I never thought that I’d be writing a post asking you all to take political action, but there’s an issue that hits the Au Pairing Community right at the heart.

Congress is deciding this week whether to impose a 7.65% FICA tax on au pairs.


Yes, that’s right. Congress wants to tax Au Pairs (and by extension, us host parents) to pay for Social Security/Medicare, even though these au pairs will never in their lifetimes receive any of the Federal benefits of these programs.

“Au pairs and other J-1 visa holders have always been exempt from FICA taxes because they return home after their programs and will never benefit from the Social Security or Medicare that these taxes fund. Thus, to impose these additional taxes on au pairs and American working families seems both inappropriate and unfair.”

While I understand that the Government needs to raise revenues to sustain a safety net for the old, the infirm, and the unlucky, I’d rather they did it by addressing tax inequalities among high earners (e.g., taxes on carried interest of investment bankers) and by closing tax loopholes exploited by corporations. Au Pairs and exchange students are a pretty defenseless lot. But I digress…

It’s Easy for Host Parents to Protest This Tax Proposal

Thank goodness for the internet, and for the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange (an association of many U.S. exchange organizations). Together, they are making it easy for any host parent to send a pre-written letter to our own representatives. Also, they have detailed information about their opposition to this tax, so you can learn more about it.

All you have to do is go to this page on the Alliance site, read the letter they suggest (make any modifications you want) and then send a letter directly to your Congress persons.

I used this very webpage to send a letter to my two senators and my Congressperson earlier this morning. It took me a total of 3.5 minutes– and I hadn’t even had my coffee.

So, AuPairMom community, if you oppose this tax on Au Pairs, I ask you to do three things:

1. Go to the Alliance page and send letters to your 3 representatives

2. Email or phone one other Host Parent, and ask them to do the same.

3. Tweet this post, or share it on Facebook, to publicize the issue to your hoat parents friends and interested others.

[Also, while you’re at it, you could ask your host parent friends to come visit AuPairMom too. On snowy Saturday mornings it can get a bit lonely here. :-) ]





A special shout out to readers KM, Heather and Carrie for their emails about this issue!


KM February 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I sent my letters in. This is unfair to au pairs and American host families. Thanks for posting this information.

SF Coordinator February 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Thanks for spreading the word and helping to keep us informed. I just signed and it was fast and easy to do.

Heather February 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I know… I couldn’t even believe it when I read the email that our agency sent us on this topic. How ridiculous is this concept? I find it hard to believe that my (and my AP’s) 7.65% couldn’t be found somewhere else in the country… Thanks for sharing info on this important topic!!

AFHostMom February 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

APIA sent out an email about this last night as well, and sending the letters was super easy.
Does anyone happen to know what bill this is attached to, and who is sponsoring it?

Seattle Mom February 12, 2012 at 2:22 am

I also sent the letters, but it is kind of strange that I can’t find any information about the bill anywhere. I tried searching Thomas (looking at bills that have been referred to Senate Finance Comm), google searches, etc… I would like to know the bill number too if anyone has it!

Carrie February 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I sent mine in. I also plan on calling the offices this week with a list of reasons as to why this doesn’t make sense. If you have time I would encourage you to call too, it’s pretty easy.

I am also trying to find a bill number and/or sponsor. If I can I will post here. I might call my agency seeing as they sent me the email in the first place, they might know more.

NoVA Host Mom February 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I sent mine in, then forwarded the email I got from the agency to friends and family. I also made a point of using up nearly every last allowable character in personalizing it. I know, I really do, that it will not actually be read. Some aide will see the subject matter, drop it into the “Opposed” pile, and be done with it. But at least it’s another check mark in the “NO” category. I’ll take what I can get.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

I wonder what Disney, Marriott, and resorts have been doing? They hire a lot of J-1 employees for the summer. I know when I go to Ocean City, it seems that almost every 3rd employee has a name tag stating what country they come from. The Camel’s special needs camp hires J-1 workers as counselors – in the 7 years she has been going to the camp she’s never had an American counselor. I know of one former AP who came back as a J-1 for Marriott – she worked at Six Flags and hotels across the country for months.

LuvCheetos February 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

It may not be on Thomas yet. It only goes on Thomas when it’s introduced. It could be a bill that hasn’t yet been introduced or an amendment that hasn’t been introduced. Also, sometimes bills can take a little while to make it to Thomas. I’ll check CQ. They tend to get bills faster.

Your Senator or Rep’s staff will read it.

LuvCheetos February 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

I checked CQ and found nothing. I would imagine this is an idea some Senator is floating and the Alliance’s lobbyists caught wind of it. It would seem that a strong response now might discourage it from going any farther.

KM February 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Here’s what I found. The bill is HR 3630, the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 ( The idea of requiring J-1s to pay FICA tax arose in the Senate Finance Committee, but it’s unclear who specifically made this proposal. You won’t be able to find any mention of J-1s in the bill language anywhere, as it is not a part of the bill at the moment, but rather one of many proposals to help offset the cost of the tax cut extension.

A strong response now will let the Senate Finance Committee know there is strong opposition to such an idea.

LuvCheetos is right. The Alliance did catch wind of this and alerted the au pair agencies.

Seattle Mom February 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Thanks KM. That’s good intelligence from Alliance- and great if we can help keep the proposal from ever finding its way into legislation.

This proposal would make hosting an au pair a lot less financially attractive. And as TACL says it could impact lots of businesses that rely on international seasonal employees. I’ve worked at summer camps where more than half the staff were from overseas, and this proposal would probably make things a lot harder for them. My impression was that there weren’t enough Americans willing to work for the pay being offered. The only time I worked on a staff of mostly Americans was at a summer program offered at a university where the pay was much better and also it cost a lot more for the kids to go there- in this case almost half the students were foreign :).

Should be working February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

So do American camp counselors pay this tax out of their meager earnings?

If they do, then actually i can see a certain logic in imposing this tax, although I oppose it for my own interest’s sake. The logic is, if the camp would otherwise employ Americans, then social security would be reaping the tax from those American counselors; and social security should not miss out on its share just because a camp chooses to employ foreigners. Work means paying social security. Even if someone will never reap the benefit (is terminally ill, plans to emigrate, will refuse the checks) s/he still has to pay.

We don’t pay social security for ourselves–G-d knows if it will be there for us–but we do pay it as workers in a system. This is why we should, in principle, be paying social security taxes for all housekeepers and nannies and other domestic-type workers, though not all of us do. I guess, speaking honestly here, if I didn’t have an au pair I would indeed be using American workers (afterschool care, babysitters) who would be paying into social security (if I put the babysitter on the books as I legally should), so why should I avoid this tax just by having a foreigner do that work? On the other hand, it’s not just work, it’s cultural exchange, so how does the ‘work’ count here?

It goes to the heart of the question, also controversial, as to whether au pairs are doing work that Americans would otherwise be doing. Frankly, in my case yes. But I see that the cultural exchange element makes it far more than just a work program. Still, I see the logic of the tax–although I wouldn’t want it to pass mainly because it is such a PALTRY sum we would be talking about here and definitely not a matter of getting the 1% to pay their share.

Carrie February 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Summer camp workers would likely fail the “Substantial Presence Test” and at the moment I am unclear what that means for FICA.

My Au pair already pays state and federal taxes that go to fund ESL classes for immigrants and refugees that she is not allowed to take because she is a temporary visa holder. It’s a bit unbalanced already, I don’t see the need make it more unbalanced.

Also, it is a burden on the families that host Au pairs, not just a financial burden, there is also the “extra dealing with the IRS” burden. Plus, we will have to withhold the taxes from their stipend. Take the time to fill out the right paperwork, etc., etc.

My husband and I are both union leaders. We thought long and hard about whether or not to join the Au pair program. Is she taking away a job from an American? In our case, it really turns out to be no. I think our second choice would have been that I stay at home.

Carrie February 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm

When I say summer camp workers I mean those from overseas.

Oh and for what it’s worth, I didn’t pay social security for at least 4 years while attending college and working at that same college, both as a work-study student and as a GTA.

Seattle Mom February 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I just got an email response from my Senator, Maria Cantwell, that specifically addresses this topic (I also got a more general form letter response from Senator Murray). She happens to be on the Senate Finance Committee. Here’s a quote from the letter where she specifically addresses FICA taxes on J-1 visa holders:

“The Finance Committee, of which I am a member, has discussed the merits of continuing the FICA exemption for J-1 visa holders on several occasions during this Congress. At this time, however, there is no legislation being considered that would change the FICA exemption for J-1 visa holders. Should I have the opportunity to consider legislation on this topic in the future, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.”

Carrie February 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I was just coming to post that. :). I got the same response.

Dorsi February 14, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Oh….I figured it must not be real. (After I sent the auto-letter to my representatives), I googled and could not get a single news hit — quite a bad sign.

NoVA Host Mom February 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

That is interesting, given the notification I got came from APIA. Concerning.

I wonder if it was one of those things that someone mentioned as an option by never got off the gound.

I googled when CNN made a report about the payroll tax agreement, and found nothing.

KM February 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

We received response from Senator stating there is “currently no legislation being considered” that would impose FICA on J-1 visa holders.

Our agency said there may be “no legislation being considered” because there isn’t currently a bill with the FICA provision in it; and there is no doubt FICA for J-1s has been extensively discussed as a possible offset to the payroll tax extension. Major lobbying groups working have frequently heard it from Senate staffers of both parties.

I think if anyone has any doubts about the veracity of this should contact the Alliance. This is the DC lobby group for exchange programs and likely where agencies received the information. I don’t think agencies would do this if there was no truth to it.

LuvCheetos February 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

It is not in the conference report for the payroll tax bill, so I think it was an idea that did not come to fruition.

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