Monday, August 16, 2010

S Corporation Tax Reduction Strategies

You may be receiving several types of payments from your S corporation, including a salary, rental payments from leasing real estate to the corporation, and a portion of the S corporation's net income. Since even minor fluctuations in these payment categories can produce differing tax results, we have the following ideas for saving taxes when extracting S corporation cash.

Income Shifting
S shareholders often attempt to minimize their compensation to increase the pass-through income to other owners (typically children in a lower tax bracket. Clearly, an owner rendering significant services to the corporation cannot unreasonably reduce salary to increase income to other shareholders. However, reasonable adjustments may be made with this objective in mind.

Reducing Compensation
Wages paid to an S corporation shareholder-employee are subject to payroll taxes. However, pass-through S corporation income is not. Thus, shareholder-employees may be able to reduce their payroll tax liability by minimizing salaries to receive additional pass-through income.

The IRS is aware of this strategy and has successfully fought it in several court cases. In some cases, the corporation issued no compensation to the key employee providing virtually all of the services the corporation sold. Instead, the shareholder-employee took corporate distributions without incurring payroll taxes. The courts recharacterized the distributions as compensation and imposed payroll taxes. Despite these IRS victories a shareholder's salary may be adjusted to the lower end of a reasonable range, especially when services are not the primary income-producing activity of the corporation.

Generating Rental Income
It is generally beneficial for an owner to rent real estate to the S corporation because any resulting net rental income is exempt from payroll taxes. But the arrangement must be reasonable because the IRS has ample authority to recharacterize rent payments as compensation or dividends to the extent they exceed market rates. S corporation shareholders using portions of their homes to perform services for the corporation (or to store corporate inventory) may lease space to the corporation. Deductions are not available for this use, but the rent is exempt from payroll taxes.

S corporation shareholders can often choose how to structure funds extracted from the corporation. While compensation and rental amounts must be reasonable, shareholders' tax results can often be improved. To discuss how S corporation distribution strategies can improve your tax situation, please give me a call.


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