Contributed by Charles Brown, Farm Management Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, firstname.lastname@example.org, 641-673-5841
If you operate a business such as farming, employing your teenage children for the summer can not only provide them some spending money and provide them some responsibilities, but can also provide some income tax benefits to the parents.
Making your children employees and paying them wages changes the typical non-deductible “allowance” to a business deduction on the Schedule F. This reduces the federal, state and self-employment taxes the parent has to pay. As long as the child is under age 18 the parent is not required to withhold social security tax. The child’s wages also will not be subject to federal unemployment taxes until the child reaches age 21. As long as the child’s total income for 2014 doesn’t exceed $6200 and their unearned income (investment income) doesn’t exceed $350 they will owe no income tax on their income. If their investment income does exceed $350 and their total income exceeds $1000 then they will have to pay income tax on their investment income. Unearned income (investment income) consists of such things as interest, dividends and capital gains.
Let’s look at an example of how this might work. Consider the parent who agrees to give his son or daughter a $5000 “allowance” for the summer based on the fact that they also agree to do some work around the farm. This could be running errands, doing chores, painting the barn, doing field work, etc. As an “allowance” the parent is out $5000 and has no tax deduction. Change this to an employer/employee relationship and the $5000 becomes a tax deductible wage expense. The tax savings will vary, but for someone who is in the 15% federal tax bracket the tax savings, including federal, self-employment tax, and state tax would be about $1700. So the net effect is that your child’s labor really only cost you about $3300. Again the child would pay no income tax if this is the only income they have.
To adhere to the tax laws, the child should receive a W2 at the end to the year as any other employee would. The child should also be paid a wage that is complimentary to the work being done. Paying the 5 year old for doing field work may not pass the scrutiny of the IRS. Sole proprietors and husband-wife partnerships can pay their children, but corporations have no children, even though they may be children of the stockholders.
As an added benefit of the child now having earned income a contribution could be made to a Roth IRA. The maximum IRA contribution for 2014 is $5500, but can’t exceed the earned income. The parent could make this contribution for the child, but the contribution would also count towards the $14,000 annual gift exclusion or $28,000 if both parents agree.
Contributions to a Roth IRA are not deductible, but all withdrawals after age 59 ½ are not taxable. Contributions of principal can be withdrawn at any time and up to $10,000 of earnings can be pulled out when purchasing your first home. If the child was 15 years old when the $5000 was invested, at 6% interest it would grow to about $80,000 by age 63 or $180,000 by age 75.
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