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S Corp Salary Strategies: Paying Yourself Like a Pro

    Published August 14, 2023

    When it comes to running a business as an S Corporation (S Corp), one crucial aspect is determining how to pay yourself a salary. As a business owner, you want to ensure that you compensate yourself in a way that aligns with both your financial goals and legal requirements. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore effective S Corp salary strategies that will help you pay yourself like a pro while staying compliant with tax regulations.

    S Corp Salary Strategies: Paying Yourself Like a Pro

    Determining a Reasonable Salary

    To pay yourself like a pro in an S Corp, it’s important to establish a reasonable salary. The IRS requires that S Corp owners pay themselves a “reasonable” salary, which means compensation that is comparable to what someone in a similar role would earn in the industry. By determining a reasonable salary, you ensure that you are not underpaying yourself, which could lead to tax complications and potential audits.

    Conducting Salary Research

    To determine a reasonable salary, it’s crucial to conduct thorough salary research. Look into industry standards, salary surveys, and job postings to gain insights into the typical compensation for your role. By benchmarking your salary against the market, you can ensure that your compensation aligns with industry norms.

    Consult with a Tax Professional

    Navigating the complexities of S Corp salary strategies can be overwhelming. To make informed decisions, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional who specializes in small business taxation. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances and help you optimize your salary structure while adhering to tax regulations.

    Balancing Salary and Distributions

    As an S Corp owner, you have the flexibility to receive both a salary and distributions from the company’s profits. Striking the right balance between these two components is crucial for optimizing your overall compensation. While a salary ensures consistency and helps you build a strong employment history, distributions allow you to benefit from the company’s success.

    Understanding Self-Employment Taxes

    One of the advantages of structuring your business as an S Corp is the potential for tax savings. Unlike sole proprietors, who pay self-employment taxes on all business income, S Corp owners can save on self-employment taxes by dividing their income into salary and distributions. Salary payments are subject to payroll taxes, while distributions are not.

    Compliance with Employment Laws

    When determining your salary as an S Corp owner, it’s vital to comply with employment laws and regulations. Ensure that you meet the legal requirements in terms of minimum wage, overtime pay, and any other applicable labor laws. Staying compliant not only protects you from potential legal issues but also establishes a strong foundation for your business’s growth.

    Reevaluating Your Salary Regularly

    As your business evolves, it’s crucial to regularly reevaluate your salary. Factors such as industry trends, company performance, and changes in your responsibilities may warrant adjustments to your compensation. By staying proactive and keeping a pulse on your business’s financial health, you can ensure that your salary remains competitive and aligned with your contribution to the company.


    Q: How often should I reevaluate my salary as an S Corp owner?

    A: It is recommended to reevaluate your salary at least annually. However, certain events, such as significant changes in your business or industry, may necessitate more frequent reviews.

    Q: Can I pay myself a lower salary to save on taxes?

    A: While it may be tempting to pay yourself a lower salary to reduce tax liabilities, it’s essential to ensure that your salary is reasonable based on industry standards. Underpaying yourself can lead to penalties and potential audits.

    Q: Can I change my salary during the year?

    A: Yes, you can adjust your salary during the year if needed. However, make sure to document the reasons for the change and ensure that it aligns with industry standards and your business’s financial health.

    Q: Are there any specific forms or filings required for S Corp salary payments?

    A: Yes, as an S Corp owner paying yourself a salary, you need to file Form W-2 to report wages paid to yourself and other employees. Additionally, you must comply with payroll tax requirements and file relevant payroll tax returns.

    Q: Can I pay myself a salary if my S Corp is not profitable?

    A: Even if your S Corp is not profitable, you may still need to pay yourself a reasonable salary. Consult with a tax professional to understand the specific rules and requirements in such situations.

    Q: What happens if I pay myself an unreasonably low salary?

    A: Paying yourself an unreasonably low salary can raise red flags with the IRS. They may reclassify your distributions as salary, leading to potential tax liabilities, penalties, and audits.