December 3, 2018 0 comment

Put Your Children on Your Payroll

Did your children under age 18 help you in your business this year? Did you pay them for their work? You should pay them for the work—and pay them on a W-2. Why? First, W-2 wages paid by the parent to the parent’s under-age-18 child for work done on the parent’s Form 1040 Schedule C business are both

  • deductible by the employer-parent, and
  • exempt from federal payroll taxes for both the parent and the child.

Thus, if you operate your business as a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC taxed on Schedule C or as a spousal partnership, then you face no federal payroll taxes on the W-2 wages you pay your under-age-18 child. (And in most states, you also face no state payroll taxes.) Further, your child faces no federal payroll taxes. If you operate as a corporation, your child and the corporation pay payroll taxes. But that does not eliminate the benefits; it simply reduces them.

Second, thanks to tax reform, your child can use the 2018 standard deduction to eliminate income taxes on up to $12,000 in wages.

Third, your child can contribute up to $5,500 to either of the following:

  1. A tax-deductible IRA, and deduct that amount from federal taxation. This is the best strategy to use if the child has more than $12,000 in W-2 wages and you want the child to have more tax-free money.
  2. A Roth IRA, which is not tax-deductible, but the child can (a) remove the contributions (money put in) at any time, tax- and penalty-free, and (b) remove the earnings tax-free after age 59 1/2. This is the best strategy to use if the child has less than $12,000 in total W-2 wages and other earned income, because the child has no need for a tax deduction.