Last Minute Tax Tip: Hire Your Kids

Hire your kids

Reduce your taxes, hire your kids to work for you!

Do you own your own small business as a sole proprietorship? Do you have kids? If so, did you know that you can pay your kids to work in your business and they won’t be subject to social security and Medicare taxes? Now if you pay them more than their standard deduction, they could be subject to income tax withholding but even so, not having to pay the employment tax is a big savings. You also don’t have to pay Federal Unemployment taxes either.

Why is this good to know? Well if you pay your kids wages from your business, it’s a business deduction and that’s money you’re keeping in the family and not paying self employment taxes on. It’s important to keep the wages commensurate with work that the kids actually perform. The IRS isn’t going to buy the idea that your 4 year old is earning $50,000 a year doing statistical analysis for your company. But what can your kids actually do?

My first job was handling all of the scut work that the secretaries in the office wouldn’t do. I cleaned the white board in the meeting room, made the coffee, made photocopies and ran errands. I was happy because I was getting paid, the secretaries were happy because they didn’t have to do those jobs any more, and the boss was happy because his staff was happy. I was 15 at the time, but frankly a much younger kid could have handled that job.

My son’s in college now, but he used to be my IT guy. For the cost of a Chucky Cheese pizza and some tokens, he’d take care of any computer problems I had. After he left for school, I had to hire a professional to help me. The freelance IT person I hire costs me $99 per hour. I had no idea how valuable my son was as an employee until he went away. I had never paid him a wage. (Granted, I’m paying through the nose for tuition but that’s another story.) What I should have done was pay him a wage and let him buy his own pizza. That would have reduced my self-employment taxes.

So what about your kids, do they help you with your business? Can they? Would they? If the answer is yes, then you might want to consider putting them on the payroll.

Who’s allowed to do this? There are only two categories of businesses where you can put your children on the payroll without paying employment taxes. One is sole proprietors; that’s businesses that file a schedule C with their 1040 tax return. The other is partnerships where both of the partners are the parents of the children working. If there is even one partner who is not a parent of the child, then you must pay the payroll taxes. Also, if you own a corporation of any kind, you must pay employment taxes on your child’s wages.

With the year end fast approaching, and winter break heading this way, now might be a perfect time to test the waters for hiring your kids. The money you pay them now will reduce your taxable income for 2010.

2 thoughts on “Last Minute Tax Tip: Hire Your Kids

  1. Update, my son’s home from college and he fixed some things on the website for me. He saw this post and now he wants $99 an hour and back pay. I’ll have to be more careful about my posts.

  2. An addendum to this post: in order to qualify for no social security and medicare taxes, the child has to be under 18 if working in a parent’s business. If the work is not for the business, but domestic work in the parent’s home, there is no social security or medicare tax until the child reaches age 21. There is no Federal Unemployment Tax until age 21 whether the child works in the home or for the business.

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