Many self-employed parents have no idea that it’s absolutely legal—and a great tax move—to hire their own kids to work in their companies. Better yet, it’s a great way to help your kids develop a work ethic, teach them some basic work skills and encourage them to work for their spending money.
Better yet: your business doesn’t have to be a full-time gig. If you work a regular job, but sell items online on the side and report your profit on your taxes as self-employment income, you own a business. You can hire your kid this summer.
The most important things to keep in mind when hiring your kids are to make sure:
- You keep a log of their job responsibilities and work hours
- Your kids are old enough to handle the work, and
- You pay your kids a reasonable rate for their time
Why Hire Your Child?
There are many reasons you might want to pay your kid to work for your. For one, you may have some very basic tasks you need done, from shredding documents to light online research. You might not have time to do it yourself. However, you may have a tough time hiring anyone for an hour or two of work each week.
Second, you may want your child to start working for money, rather than just getting handed an allowance. If you own your own business, you can feasibly hire your 10-year-old. However, there’s pretty much no chance an outside company would be willing to hire a kid that young (unless they’re an actor or model)!
Finally, you get a tax break for paying your kids (it can fall under an accounts payable category of “office help”) AND the money stays within your family.
How to Legitimately Employ Your Kid
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is well aware that many business owners hire family members. It’s not a tax scam to do so—as long as you follow IRS rules carefully. Here’s how to hire your child and stay on the IRS’ good side:
Document Your Child’s Work
In case the IRS ever audits you, create a formal job description for your child and keep it on file. Also set your kids up with W-4s (Employee’s Withholding Certificates) and I-9s (Employment Eligibility Verifications) with your business, suggests the legal site Nolo.
You should also keep time sheets for your child’s work, just as you would require of any employee, notes Nolo. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Work logs can be handwritten in a notebook or typed into a computer—whatever is easiest. Just keep consistent records of your child’s hours and the work they did.
Pay Your Kid a Reasonable Rate
You can’t really get away with paying your tween $50 an hour to shred documents and clean your office. The IRS may assume you’re trying to create a nice little way to shield your income from taxes. Minimum wage is probably a safer bet for basic tasks.
However, if your teenager takes photos for your company and posts them on social media, for example, or does similar higher-level tasks, you can pay them a bit more. Check online job sites or call a local temp agency to see what workers are typically paid in your locale for a similar type of work.
And here’s a good one: You actually have to write your child a check or you could transfer money from your business account to their Greenlight card. In other words, you have to pay your working kid real money. You can’t give them pizza or pay for summer camp and claim that those items were in lieu of an actual salary. That’s a big IRS no-no.
What About Taxes?
If your kids are age 17 or younger, you’re not required to withhold Medicare and Social Security taxes from their pay. And if your child is under age 21, their wages aren’t subject to federal unemployment taxes. These rules generally apply if your company is a sole proprietorship or Limited Liability Company (LLC), according to Entrepreneur. If your company is incorporated, or you just want to be sure you’re doing things correctly, talk to a tax pro.
Will your kid have to pay taxes on what they earn from you? Depending on your child’s overall income (are they getting money from anywhere else?) and how much you pay them annually, there’s a good chance your child won’t have to pay any federal or state tax on earnings from your business.
In other words, when it comes to hiring your kids to work in your business, it’s pretty much a win-win all around.
(photo courtesy © Intel Free Press cc2.0)