The COVID-19 pandemic may create tax benefit opportunities for you and your family members.

For example, you could hire your under-age-18 children, pay them, say, $10,000 each, and they could pay zero federal income taxes. And you or your corporation, the employer, would deduct the $10,000 you paid to each of the children. The child wins. You win. There’s more.

Schedule C Business

Let’s say you operate your business as a sole proprietorship, a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, a husband-wife partnership, or an LLC that’s treated as a husband-wife partnership for tax purposes.

That means you can hire your under-age-18 child, and the child’s wages will be completely exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA tax) and FUTA taxes. To be clear, the FICA tax exemption applies to the employee’s share of FICA tax that’s withheld from the employee’s paychecks and to the employer’s share of FICA tax that your business must pay over to the Feds.

For 2020, your under-age-18 employee-child’s standard deduction will shelter from federal income tax the first $12,400 of wages received if the child has no taxable income from other sources. In other words, no federal income taxes for the child with $12,400 or less in wages.

You can hire the under-age-18 child part-time, full-time, or whatever works for you and the child. Right now, children in this age category are probably not attending school, and the school district’s lengthy summer vacation may have already begun.

In the fall, will your under-age-18 child be attending school in person or online? You probably don’t know anything for sure at this point. But in the COVID-19 era, your under-age-18 child’s availability to work in your business may be at an all-time high.

The wages received by your child can be used to help keep the family afloat financially. If the family is not so financially stressed, your child can use some or all of the wages to fund a college savings account or make a Roth IRA contribution.

What if My Business Is Incorporated?

If you operate your business as an S or a C corporation, your child’s wages received from the business are subject to FICA and FUTA taxes, just like any other employee, regardless of the child’s age.

What if I Hire a Family Member over Age 21?

Do it—if this adds after-tax cash to the family unit! The wages received from your business are subject to FICA and FUTA taxes, just like any other employee. This is the case whether you operate your business as an unincorporated sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC, or as an S or a C corporation.

Tax Advantages for Your Business

When you hire a child or other family member, your business deducts the wages paid.

• If you operate the business as a sole proprietorship, a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, a husband-wife partnership, an LLC that’s treated as a husband-wife partnership for tax purposes, or an S corporation, the wage expense deduction reduces (a) your individual federal taxable income, (b) your individual net self-employment income, and (c) your individual state taxable income (if applicable).
• If you operate the business as a C corporation, the corporation deducts the wages paid to a child or other family member. The deductions reduce the corporation’s federal taxable income and probably the corporation’s state taxable income (if applicable).
• If your business will be unprofitable this year due to the COVID-19 fallout, deductions for wages paid to a child or other family member can create or increase a net operating loss (NOL) for 2020. If so, you can carry back the 2020 NOL for up to five tax years—back to 2015. The NOL carryback can trigger a refund of income taxes paid for the carryback year. That can really help. An NOL carried back to a pre-2018 tax year can be especially helpful because tax rates were generally higher in those days.

Keep payroll records just like you would for any other employee to document hours worked and duties performed (e.g., timesheets and job descriptions). Issue W-2s just like you would for any other employee.