April 28, 2015
As the owner of an incorporated business, you're probably aware that there's a tax advantage to taking money out of the corporation as compensation (salary and bonus) rather than as dividends. The reason is simple. A corporation can deduct the compensation that it pays, but not its dividend payments. Thus, if funds are withdrawn as dividends, they're taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is taxed only once, to the employee who receives it.
However, there's a limit on how much money you can take out of the corporation in this way. The law says that compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it's reasonable. Any unreasonable portion is nondeductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. As a practical matter, IRS rarely raises the issue of unreasonable compensation unless the payments are made to someone "related" to the corporation, such as a shareholder or a member of a shareholder's family.
How much compensation is "reasonable"? There's no simple formula. IRS tries to determine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under like circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include:
There are a number of concrete steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered "reasonable," and therefore deductible by your corporation. For example, you can:
As in most tax situations, planning ahead avoids problems later. Feel free to call us if you would like to discuss this or any other aspect of your current or deferred compensation strategies.
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