YOUR BUSINESS, YOUR SALARY!
- Profitability. Regularly review and update your firm’s cash flow projections to determine the salary level you can sustain while keeping the business profitable. Your compensation may be minimal as you start up your business. However, beware of going too long without paying yourself a salary, and be sure to document that you’re in business to make a profit. Why? Otherwise the IRS may view your perpetually unprofitable business as a hobby – a sham enterprise aimed at avoiding taxes. That can lead to unfavorable tax consequences.
- The market. If you were working for someone else, what would they pay for your skills and knowledge? When you’ve answered that question, discuss salary levels with small business groups and colleagues in your geographic area and industry. Check out the Department of Labor and Small Business Administration websites for salary information and national compensation surveys. In the early stages of your business, you may not be able to afford to pay yourself a salary commensurate with the higher ranges, but you’ll learn what’s reasonable.
Years ago, taxpayers often worked under the assumption that their tax bracket would be lower after they retire. Therefore, a common strategy was to defer as much taxable income as possible to the golden years. Now, however, with the possibility of higher tax rates in the future, it could be more efficient to pay those taxes today while rates remain lower. Since no one knows for sure what Washington will do, it might be time to hedge your tax risk and allocate your portfolio between accounts with differing tax consequences.
* Taxable accounts, such as savings or brokerage accounts, result in current taxation on earnings, but they also provide maximum flexibility. You can withdraw as much as you wish whenever you wish, with no IRS penalties. Keeping some of your nest egg in this type of account will provide immediate funds for major purchases, debt reduction, or emergencies.
* Tax-deferred accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s, only postpone the payment of taxes; eventually you will have to pay Uncle Sam when you withdraw the funds. But in the meantime, you generally receive a current-year tax deduction when you contribute, and the account can grow tax-deferred until you take it out at retirement.
* Tax-free accounts, such as Roth IRAs, are funded with after-tax dollars. What you put in, including any investment earnings, can be later withdrawn tax-free. The downside? You generally must wait until after age 59½ (and the account has to be open for five years) to make a tax-free withdrawal.
Diversifying your portfolio is only the first step. The next (and trickiest) step is properly investing in each tax class. For instance, your goal for a taxable account might be to generate growth while keeping taxable earnings to a minimum. This could be done by investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds or low-dividend yielding growth stocks.
In a tax-deferred account, investment income is not taxed until withdrawn, so earnings can come from any source without immediate tax implications. However, since you must start withdrawing funds from an IRA or 401(k) at age 70½, you might want to consider this in your planning.
Tax-free Roth IRAs offer the longest time horizon for investing since you are not required to make a withdrawal at any age.
In an era of high uncertainty and low-to-moderate economic growth forecasts, tax-efficient investing has never been more important. To review the tax implications of your investments, give our office a call today at (303) 447-1626.