I am the President and CEO of a uni-national corporation. A one-person S-corporation, to be exact. I chose this over an LLC for a variety of reasons (most of which I don’t remember anymore), but one of them was – what else? – to save some money. I wrote a relatively wordy post a few years back on Forming An S-Corporation To Reduce Self-Employment Taxes. But I just read this e-mail from MyCorporation* that has a concise example with a nifty graphic thrown in:
In an S-Corporation, only earnings paid to an owner as salary is subject to payroll taxes. Any money left in the business for reinvestment or distributed to the shareholder as a dividend is not subject to self-employment tax.
Maria is a sole proprietor bringing in sales of $90,000. After she pays her costs & expenses, her profit is $60,000. As a sole proprietor, she is required to pay self- employment tax of 15.3% on this entire $60K of profit, which equates to $9,180.
Now, let’s assume Maria formed an S-Corporation for her business, and chooses to pay herself $35K for the year in salary, and take the remaining $25K of profit through a distribution. She still earns the same $60K in profit. But, let’s look at the tax situation. Because corporations only pay Social Security & Medicare taxes on salaries, she’s only liable for $5,355, saving over $3,800 in taxes!
If you have a single-person LLC, the tax situation is usually very similar to that of a sole-proprietorship. (I should add that in some states you can also choose to have the LLC taxed as an S-Corporation. I would consult a local attorney for more details on this.) Now, the salary has to be “reasonable” based on the compensation of similar work elsewhere, so don’t get too crazy with this.
The catch? As an employer, the S-Corporation has to pay unemployment taxes. The exact rate varies from state to state, but the federal minimum is about $450 per year if your annual income is at least $7,000. However, as both the employer and employee, it is very difficult for me to actually “lay myself off” and claim unemployment benefits. So this fact cuts slightly into potential tax savings.
* I actually used LegalZoom to file my incorporation papers, which is their main competitor. I don’t really remember any big differences between them, but was happy with my Legalzoom experience.