How Business Owners Get Paid
At first glance, this article topic might seem too simple. After all, to get paid, don’t you just take money out of your business? Well, yes, but there is much more to it in the long run as well as from an accounting side. Let’s take a look.
The Traditional Paycheck
If you’ve ever worked for someone else, you probably received a paycheck every few weeks. It took care of three major things:
- Your regular pay that you live off from day to day
- Taxes you owe to the federal and state government
- Benefits. Depending on the employer, you might have received health care, retirement contributions, and vacation and holiday pay.
The employer took care of the needs you have today as well as some of your future needs.
Your Business Pay
Now that you’re the employer – of yourself, your business must cover all the items mentioned above. How it does that depends on the type of entity you chose when your business was formed.
If you are doing business as a sole proprietor, you take draws from your business instead of paychecks. A draw is simply a cash withdrawal that reduces the ownership investment you have made in your company. The draws do not include any kind of taxes, including self-employment taxes; these need to be deposited separately, usually through quarterly estimated tax deposits to the IRS and to any relevant state agency.
As a sole proprietor, you’ll likely need to find your own health insurance. And the most important thing you’ll need to do is plan for your retirement by investing in IRAs or otherwise saving money that is earmarked for your retirement.
From an accounting standpoint, owner’s draws are shown in the equity portion of the balance sheet as a reduction to the owner’s capital account.
If your business is formed as a C Corporation or an S Corporation, you will most likely receive a paycheck just like you did when you were employed by someone else. You will also be responsible for making the payroll tax deposit, funding the retirement plan, and paying for health care insurance.
From an accounting standpoint, corporate payroll, taxes, and benefits are all considered expenses and are shown on the income statement. Any money taken out additionally is a reduction to the owner’s capital account, and this is shown in the equity section of the balance sheet.
Rules for Shareholder benefits and additional distributions are complex, so please reach out to your tax professional for guidance.
If your business is formed as a partnership, each partner will be paid distributions based on the partnership agreement. Typically, that means receiving a base salary and a portion of the profits. You can also take money out of the partnership. Taxes are not included; you are responsible for making your quarterly estimated payments. Plus, you will also be responsible for paying self-employment taxes.
For benefits like retirement plans, partners can be eligible, but the tax treatment of these and other benefits is not necessarily the same as it is for a W-2 employee. Again, the rules are complex for deductibility, so it’s best to contact a tax professional to find out more.
Evaluating Company Profits
It’s critical to understand where your wages show up on your books so that you can truly understand your business’s profitability. With corporations, the salaries are included in the expenses, so net income is after, or net of, salaries and payroll taxes.
With sole proprietors and partnerships, the net income figure on the income statement does not include owner salaries because there aren’t any. Instead, only the equity section is impacted. Net income for partnerships and sole proprietors should always be high enough to at least “cover” an amount equivalent to a “so-called salary” for all of the active, participating owners.
If you have questions or need help understanding how business owners get paid, please feel free to reach out any time.