These Are the Tax Implications of Employing Family Members

As small businesses keep growing at a steady rate, entrepreneurs and business owners will eventually reach a point on which they have to start employing workers to help make a company successful. It is not uncommon to see that many opt to offer a job to their family members, as they already know the qualifications, skills, and attitudes certain relatives have. This can bring many benefits to a business, as it allows you to spend more time with your loved ones, it strengthens the family economy. Besides, this also comes with different tax implications that you might want to take advantage of.

Whenever we hire an employee, regardless of them being a relative, a friend, or a job applicant, we need to remember that we still need to cover certain employment taxes. These include federal income tax withholding, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes. There is one exception, though, which is the federal unemployment tax, also known as FUTA. This tax is used to help fund workforce agencies in every state. The Current FUTA rate is 6%, and it is applied to the first $7,000 we pay our employees in the year. We might be exempt from having to pay this tax on certain family members, which comes as a great advantage for many entrepreneurs and business owners.

Employing a spouse tends to be quite a common scenario for those who are just starting their own business. In this case, their salary is subject to all the taxes mentioned above except FUTA, in the case of a sole proprietorship. However, by being the owner of a sole proprietorship and choosing to employ our spouse, we can have access to an interesting tax-saving strategy. If our employee-spouse chose to purchase a health insurance policy under their name, extending the coverage to their employer-spouse, this can be written off as a fully deductible business expense.

Another situation that we can see happening quite often is when parents offer their kids an employment opportunity. This might happen under different circumstances, and it also comes with certain requirements in order to remain compliant to IRS regulations. If our child is under 18 years old, their wage isn’t subject to FICA and FUTA employment taxes, and if they are under 21, their salary is only subject to FICA. We need to make sure we treat our child as a real employee, compensating them fairly, complying with all legal laws and requirements, and giving them the benefits the rest of our employees receive.

Lastly, offering our parents employment at our business is another common situation among family businesses, small companies, and startups altogether. If we are employing our parents, their salaries are subject to income tax withholding, Social Security, and Medicare taxes only, as FUTA taxes do not apply to their wages. It is very important to remember that FICA taxes also apply to any payment we may make to our parents and that qualifies as a “domestic service”. This is particularly important if we are employing our parents, if we have child or stepchild living with us, if we can’t take care of the child or stepchild for more than four continuous weeks due to a mental or physical condition, and if our child or stepchild is under 18 and requires constant care for at least four continuous weeks because of a mental or physical condition.


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