Should I Pay my Spouse a Salary?

August 3rd, 2017


 It’s not worth the Taxes, Right?

It is not uncommon for one’s spouse to work in the family business, whether as manager or in some other capacity. Assume that Nicole Neurologist owns a medical practice. Her husband, Josh, supervises billing and IT operations. Is it worthwhile for both spouses to receive a salary? It may seem pointless. After all, their money ends up in the same bank account anyway. If Nicole has reached the maximum Social Security and unemployment thresholds, why pay Josh a salary and incur additional steep payroll taxes? While that is true, there are several advantages to employing the spouse that are worth considering.

Social Security Disability Benefits and Lost Wages

If Josh became permanently disabled, he would not receive Social Security benefits for his disability unless he satisfied two different earnings tests.  He must meet a “recent work” test based on his age at disability. For example, at age 31 or more, an individual must work five out of the ten years prior to claiming disability. He must also satisfy a “duration of work” test based on his age at disability. At age 50, he needs to have worked seven years in total prior to his disability.  If Josh was injured by an insured party, unless he has proof of a history of employment, he would not be able to recover any lost wages.

Enjoy Self-Employment Tax Savings

If Nicole’s business income is reported on Schedule C, she deducts the medical insurance expense for her and her family on page 1 of Form 1040. However, if Josh is an employee, then he can be the insured. She can deduct the medical insurance as a business expense on Schedule C.  This would result in significant tax savings, as she now saves the 3.8% Medicare portion of the self-employment tax; good deal for an expense she is incurring anyway.

Good Credit is Essential

Even if Nicole is the breadwinner, there may come a time that Josh will need to rely on his own credit history. If he is paid a salary it will be easier to obtain the credit he will need.

Boost his Social Security Benefits

The amount of Social Security benefits one receives is determined by the average of the 35 highest yearly salaries. Even if Josh’s earning power appears meager, one never knows what the future holds. If he eventually gets a more lucrative job, the years he received a salary from Nicole’s firm may ultimately boost his benefits significantly.

Maximize Pension Contribution

As an employee, Josh can be enrolled in the company pension. This allows the company to make contributions on his behalf. By adding Josh’s pension contribution to Nicole’s, the couple will enjoy increased tax free growth on their retirement funds, while the couple saves on both US and NJ income taxes.

Get a Dependent Care Credit

Unless both spouses have earned income they are not entitled to the dependent care credit, which is currently up to 35 percent of qualifying expenses of $3,000 for one child or dependent, or up to $6,000 for two or more children.

Additional Benefits

There are additional benefits to paying your spouse a salary. Call for a consultation.



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