Should I Pay My Spouse a Salary? Exploring Tax-Saving Strategies for Husband-Wife Partnerships

In the realm of business and taxation, the concept of employing one’s spouse has garnered significant attention as a potential avenue for tax savings. However, navigating this strategy requires careful consideration and adherence to specific guidelines to ensure its effectiveness. This comprehensive analysis delves into the intricacies of employing your spouse, highlighting key considerations, tax-saving strategies, and potential pitfalls to avoid.

Benefits of Employing Your Spouse

  • Tax Savings: By paying your spouse a salary, you can potentially reduce your overall tax burden. This is because employee wages are deductible business expenses, effectively lowering your taxable income.

  • Increased Flexibility: Employing your spouse offers greater flexibility in managing your business and personal finances. You can tailor your spouse’s salary and benefits package to align with your specific needs and goals.

  • Improved Communication and Collaboration: Working alongside your spouse can foster better communication and collaboration, leading to enhanced productivity and decision-making.

Key Considerations

  • Sole Proprietorship or Single-Member LLC: The tax savings associated with employing your spouse are primarily available to sole proprietors or owners of single-member LLCs taxed as sole proprietorships or partnerships.

  • Spouse Not a Business Partner: It’s crucial to ensure that your spouse is not a partner in the business. If they are considered a partner, they will not be eligible for employee benefits.

  • Proof of Employment: You must establish that your spouse is a bona fide employee, performing genuine work for the business. This includes assigning specific job responsibilities, setting regular work hours, and maintaining accurate records of their work.

Tax-Saving Strategies

  • Pay Tax-Free Employee Benefits: Instead of paying your spouse a salary, consider providing them with tax-free employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement contributions, and educational assistance. These benefits are not taxable income for your spouse and are deductible expenses for your business.

  • Create a 105-HRA: If your spouse is your sole employee, you can establish a 105-HRA (health reimbursement arrangement) to cover their medical expenses. This arrangement allows you to deduct these expenses as a business expense while providing tax-free reimbursement to your spouse.

  • Offer Other Fringe Benefits: Explore additional tax-free fringe benefits you can offer your spouse, such as term life insurance, working condition benefits (e.g., smartphones for work use), and marginal fringes (e.g., occasional meals or tickets to events).

Potential Pitfalls

  • IRS Scrutiny: The IRS may scrutinize your spouse’s employment status and the legitimacy of your tax deductions. Ensure you have proper documentation and evidence to support your claims.

  • Minimum Wage Requirements: Some states have minimum wage requirements for employees, including spouses. Be aware of these requirements and ensure you are complying with them.

  • S Corporation Considerations: If your business is an S corporation, your spouse may not be eligible for employee benefits if you own more than 2% of the company.

Employing your spouse can be a strategic move for tax savings and business flexibility. However, it’s essential to approach this strategy with caution and adhere to the guidelines outlined above. By carefully considering the key considerations, implementing tax-saving strategies, and avoiding potential pitfalls, you can harness the benefits of employing your spouse while minimizing the risks.

Hiring Your Spouse Inside of Your LLC: Tax Benefits Explained


Do I have to pay my spouse a salary?

You are not required by the IRS to give your spouse any W-2 wages, either. Reimbursement for health insurance and uninsured medical bills is the most beneficial fringe perk you can offer your spouse-employee. If your spouse is your only employee, you can do this through a 105-HRA plan.

Should I add my wife to payroll?

Good Reason #1 – Maximize the Spouse’s 401k contribution If a business owner and their spouse want to put away some big money for retirement, they may qualify for the Solo 401k. If so, BOTH spouses need to be on payroll AND for the proper amount to max out the 401k match.

Can I pay my spouse less than minimum wage?

Almost all employees have the right to a minimum wage. If you work for your spouse, parent or child, you do not have the right to minimum wage. Other close relatives (e.g., uncles, aunts and siblings) are fully protected by the law and must be paid at least minimum wage.

Do I have to pay my spouse wages?

As your spouse’s employer, you must withhold these taxes and pay them to the IRS. In effect, when you pay your spouse wages, you’re simply moving the income from one place on your tax return to another. Instead of wages, you should pay your spouse entirely, or mostly, with tax-free employee fringe benefits.

Should I put my spouse on the payroll?

You’ll realize no tax savings if you put your spouse on the payroll and pay him or her cash wages. Employee wages you pay your spouse are fully taxable. Your spouse-employee must pay federal and state income tax on wages. And you and your spouse must each pay half of the Social Security and Medicare tax on wages.

Can a spouse not pay a salary as an employee?

In this case, if your spouse works on a day-to-day basis in the business you may decide not to pay a salary to this person in addition to the money received as an owner. If you and/or your spouse own more than 2% of an S corporation, some of the benefits of “spouse as an employee” may not be available to you or they may be different.

Are spouse wages taxable?

Employee wages you pay your spouse are fully taxable. Your spouse-employee must pay federal and state income tax on wages. And you and your spouse must each pay half of the Social Security and Medicare tax on wages. As your spouse’s employer, you must withhold these taxes and pay them to the IRS.

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