Can I deduct mileage for babysitting?

June 04, 2020 by Steve Banner, EA, MBA
babysitter painting a sun with a child

Anyone who has ever looked after a cranky toddler or two while the parents were out enjoying themselves would agree that the answer to this question should be a resounding “yes.” But the correct answer is more like “sometimes.”

It all depends on the facts surrounding your babysitting gig. Are you employed by an agency to work as a babysitter? Or are you self-employed with your own babysitting business?

If you’re working for an agency, your employer may have an expense reimbursement policy that allows you to claim for the miles you drive to the homes of your clients. But even if your employer does not have such a policy, before 2018 you may have been able to deduct some or all of your mileage as an unreimbursed employee expense. However, this type of deduction for employees is currently off the table. Well, at least until 2026 thanks to changes to the tax code that came into effect after 2017.

On the other hand, the news is much better if you work for yourself. In this case, you can deduct 57.5 cents per mile for your babysitting business mileage in 2020. Or you could choose to deduct the amount of your actual expenses multiplied by the percentage of the car’s use for your business. But no matter which of these two methods you choose, if you work from home, the entire distance you drive to the homes of your clients and back is deductible.

But things look slightly different if you have another job in addition to your self-employed babysitting enterprise. If you usually work at an office or other work site in your primary job and sometimes travel directly to your first babysitting assignment of the day, you can deduct the distance you travel from your usual workplace to the home of the babysitting client. Any miles you may drive directly after that on that same day to other clients are also deductible. However, you cannot claim a deduction for the miles you travel to get home after the last client of the day, because that is regarded as a commuting expense which is not deductible.

Coming back to our original question, we can see how the tax code treats the mileage deduction for babysitters. But, the next question from many an exasperated babysitter might be to ask what the tax law has to say about hazardous duty pay!

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