Hiring your children, and the associated tax benefits of doing so is not new. But the new tax law, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, makes it an even better proposition. There are several reasons to consider this if you own a business.
Lowering the Family’s Effective Tax Rate
If you have children that can operate a computer (most of them do), make phone calls, photocopies, or have other skills pertinent to your business, making them your employees has the effect of reducing your tax liability. This is so because you are downloading taxes computed at your rate, effectively deducting money that you would likely give to the child anyway, but without a deduction. This deduction reduces your Federal, state and Self-employment tax.
Besides the benefits to you, the child benefits also since the tax rate could be as little as zero if the income is $12,000 or less, the amount of the Standard Deduction.
But wait, there’s more…
As they say in the infomercials: “but wait, there’s more!”. As if the above wasn’t enough, if you operate your business as a sole proprietor or a husband and wife LLC, you can hire your son or daughter that is younger than 18, and their wages will be exempt from Social Security, Medicare and Federal unemployment tax (FUTA). The FUTA exemption lasts until age 21.
If you are incorporated, then the child’s wages are still deductible, though no longer exempt from Social Security, Medicare and FUTA.
The gift that keeps on giving…
Now, for the pièce de résistance, what if we socked away $5500 a year of your child’s earnings into a ROTH IRA and they never paid tax on that money for the rest of their lives? Would that offend you? Is it legal? Yes, absolutely! The only rule pertinent here is that your child has to have earned income, their age doesn’t matter!
A word of caution
The above-mentioned rules work beautifully when sensibly constructed. But, we should warn against carelessness. For instance, you shouldn’t pay your 2-year-old a $50,000 salary and expect to get away with it. Teenagers can be very capable and as long as you document their hours and the work they do, you should be OK.
Hiring your kids can be profitable, tax-efficient and educational for the kids. If you also make it fun for them (the younger they are, the more important fun is as an ingredient), they will be productive and worthy employees and carry that experience into their other careers or they will be more receptive to working in the business, when and if the time comes to plan a succession.