Tax Benefits and Kids: If Your Kids Work, You May Get a Tax Break

Tax Benefits and Kids: If Your Kids Work, You May Get a Tax Break

  • Learn how tax reform affected the standard deduction.
  • Learn about IRA options for children.
  • Find out how a self-employed parent can use tax-deductible dollars to employ their child.
  • Learn the rules involved in employing your child.
  • Discover the tax benefits of employing your children.

What do you know about the tax benefits kids receive for working? Did you know the 2017 tax reform (for earned income) almost doubled the standard deduction? It also gives kids significant tax incentives to contribute to IRAs. What if you're self employed and want to employ your child? There are great benefits to do so. Want to know more? Fiducial has a primer on the tax benefits of putting your kids to work.

What is the "kiddie tax"?

Children who are dependents of their parents are subject to what is commonly referred to as the "kiddie tax." This generally applies to children under the age of 19 and full-time students over the age of 18 and under the age of 24.

The kiddie tax originated many years ago as a means to close a tax loophole. Parents would put their investments under their child’s name and social security number so that their investment income would be taxed at lower tax rates. So, the kiddie tax was born. Under the kiddie tax, unearned income (investment income) in excess of a minimum amount was taxed at the parent’s highest marginal tax rate.

Tax reform enacted late in 2017 changed the way children are taxed. Children's unearned income is no longer taxed at the parent’s top marginal tax rate. Instead, it is charged at at fiduciary income tax rates. This generally results in higher taxes on the unearned income.

Tax-Free Income

On the bright side, a child’s earned income (income from working) is taxed at single rates, and the 2017 tax reform just about doubled the standard deduction for singles. The standard deduction is $12,200 for 2019. This means that your child can make $12,200 from working and pay no income tax (but will be subject to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes). If the child is willing to contribute to a traditional IRA, for which the 2019 contribution cap is $6,000, the child can make $18,200 from working—federal income tax free. There are significant tax benefits for kids who work, and contributing to an IRA takes advantage of them.

IRA Contributions

Your child may be reluctant to give up any of their hard-earned money from their summer or regular employment. If you, a grandparent, or others have the financial resources, the amount of an IRA contribution could be gifted to the child. This would give your child a great start toward their retirement savings and hopefully a continuing incentive to save.

Roth IRAs are actually a better alternative for kids. Unlike Traditional IRAs, they provide tax free income at retirement. However, the contribution to a Roth is not deductible. So, income in excess of $12,200 would not be tax free. Even so, the tax rate at the lower income level is only 10%. It may be worth paying a small tax to gain the tax-free retirement funds provided by a Roth IRA.

tax benefits and kids, teenager at computer
Photographer: Brooke Cagle | Source: Unsplash

Employing Your Child

If you are self-employed (an unincorporated business), rather than helping support your children with your post-tax dollars, you can instead hire them to work for your business and pay them with tax-deductible dollars. Of course, the employment must be legitimate and the pay commensurate with the hours and the job worked.

What are some of the tax benefits to hiring your kids? Wages paid to a child under age 18 are not subject to FICA—Social Security and Hospital Insurance (HI, aka Medicare) taxes—since employment for FICA tax purposes doesn’t include services performed by a child under the age of 18 when employed by a parent. Thus, the child will not be required to pay the employee’s share of the FICA taxes, and the business won’t have to pay its half either. In addition, by paying the child and reducing the business’s net income, the parent’s self-employment tax that is payable on net self-employment income may also be reduced. Win-win.

Tax-savings examples

Example: Let’s say you are in the 24% tax bracket and own an unincorporated business. You hire your child (who has no investment income) and pay the child $15,000 for the year. You reduce your income by $15,000, which saves you $3,600 in income taxes (24% of $15,000). Your child has a taxable income of $2,800 ($15,000 less the $12,200 standard deduction) on which the tax is $280 (10% of $2,800). A $2,800 contribution to your child’s traditional IRA would bring the child’s taxable income down to zero, and the child would owe no federal income tax.

By paying your child $15,000, you reduce your self-employment income for income tax purposes. You also reduce your self-employment tax (HI portion) by $402 (2.9% of $15,000 times the SE factor of 92.35%). However, if your net profits for the year were less than the maximum SE income ($132,900 for 2019) subject to Social Security tax, then the savings would include the 12.4% Social Security portion in addition to the 2.9% HI portion. In this case, the total SE tax savings would be $2,119.

FUTA exemption

A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA. This exempts from federal unemployment tax the earnings paid to a child under age 21 while employed by his or her parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting solely of his or her parents. However, the exemptions do not apply to businesses that are incorporated or a partnership that includes non-parent partners. Even so, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying your child for work that you would pay someone else to do anyway.

Have questions related to your child’s employment or about hiring your child to work for your business? Call Fiducial at 1-866-FIDUCIAL or make an appointment at one of our office locations. Ready to book an appointment now? Click here. Know someone who might need our services? We love referrals!