Ultimate S Corporation Tax Savings Guide

S Corporation Tax Savings


By taking advantage of the unique tax benefits offered by an S Corporation, you can significantly reduce your tax burden and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. In this ultimate guide to S Corporation tax savings, we will walk you through everything you need to know about forming and operating an S Corporation, from eligibility requirements to filing deadlines and retirement plan options. We will also explore the potential disadvantages of choosing this entity structure so that you can make an informed decision.

What is an S Corporation?

If you’re looking to maximize your tax savings, you’ll want to know what an S Corporation is and how it can benefit you.

An S Corporation is a type of business entity that offers many advantages when it comes to taxation. One of the main benefits of an S Corporation is that it allows for pass-through taxation. This means that the profits and losses of the corporation are passed through to the shareholders and reported on their individual tax returns. By doing this, the corporation avoids double taxation, which is common in traditional C Corporations. A multi-member LLC can also elect to classify the entity as an S corporation for tax purposes.

An S Corporation is a form of tax entity, elected for strategic purposes via classification with the IRS.

Eligibility and Ownership Structure of an S Corporation

To understand who can become an owner, the shares allowed, and how profit and loss are allocated in an S Corporation, let’s delve into the eligibility and ownership structure. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Ownership requirements

In order to be eligible for S Corporation status, there are certain restrictions on who can be an owner. Only individuals, estates, certain trusts, and tax-exempt organizations can hold shares in an S Corporation. Non-resident aliens and corporations cannot be shareholders.

2. Shares allowed

An S Corporation can have a maximum of 100 shareholders. This limitation ensures that the corporation remains small and closely held.

3. Profit allocation

In an S Corporation, profits and losses are allocated among the shareholders based on their percentage of ownership. This means that if you own 30% of the shares, you’ll receive 30% of the profits or bear 30% of the losses.

S Corporation Tax Election Date and Filing Requirements

To make the election, you must file Form 2553 with the IRS within a certain timeframe. The filing deadlines vary depending on when your business was formed or acquired its assets. Generally, the election must be made no later than two months and 15 days after the beginning of the tax year you want it to take effect. Failing to meet this deadline could result in your business being taxed as a C corporation or partnership for that year.

Legal entities like LLCs and corporations can qualify for the S corporation tax entity classification election.

One of the main advantages of electing S corporation status is pass-through taxation. This means that the company’s profits and losses are passed through to the shareholders’ personal tax returns, avoiding double taxation at both the corporate and individual level. Shareholders report their share of the income or loss on their individual tax returns.

By electing S corporation status, legal entities can benefit from limited liability protection while also enjoying potential tax savings through pass-through taxation.

This benefits newly created Corporations, as their default tax classification is C corporations.

Industries Benefiting from S Corporation Election

Industries that can benefit from electing S corporation status include small businesses in the service industry, where the owners actively participate in the daily operations, specifically service businesses.

For example, imagine a small family-owned restaurant that decides to elect S corporation status, allowing them to pass through their profits and losses to individual shareholders’ tax returns, ultimately reducing their overall tax liability and maximizing their savings. Healthcare companies also find value in electing S corporation status because it allows them to allocate expenses efficiently while still benefiting from pass-through taxation.

Self-Employment Income Tax Benefits of S Corporation

By electing to be treated as an S corporation, you can minimize your self-employment tax liability and maximize your after-tax income.

As a pass-through entity, the profits and losses of the S corporation are passed through to the shareholders’ personal tax returns. This means that you only pay taxes on your share of the company’s profits at individual income tax rates, rather than at both corporate and individual tax rates like in a C corporation.

To illustrate these potential tax benefits, let’s take a look at the following table:

Tax ImpactSole ProprietorshipS Corporation
Self-Employment TaxSubject to full 15.3% rate on all net earnings from self-employmentOnly subject to self-employment tax on reasonable compensation
Income TaxPay ordinary income taxes plus additional 15.3% for self-employment taxOnly pay ordinary income taxes on distribution and reasonable compensation

As you can see, by properly planning your taxes and utilizing the advantages of being an S corporation, you can significantly reduce your overall tax burden as a self-employed individual.

Qualified Business Income Deduction and Special Service Trades or Businesses

Now that you understand the self-employment income tax benefits of an S Corporation, let’s dive into the qualified business income deduction and special service trades or businesses.

The qualified business income deduction allows eligible S Corporations whose principal business is a qualified trade or business to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income from an S Corporation. However, there are some limitations and exceptions to be aware of. For instance, certain industries such as health, law, accounting, performing arts, and financial services may face restrictions on claiming this deduction. Additionally, if your trade or business is based on the reputation or skill of its employees or owners, it might not qualify for the deduction.

To calculate the deduction amount accurately, you need to follow specific methods outlined by the IRS. Understanding these details will help you maximize your tax savings as an S Corporation owner while staying compliant with the regulations.

What Is Reasonable Compensation for an S Corporation?

You may be wondering what constitutes reasonable compensation for an S Corporation – and that’s a great question! When determining a salary for an S Corporation, it’s important to consider the risk management, legal requirements, and tax implications.

Obtaining salary surveys and conducting a financial analysis helps to establish a reasonable salary range for the position. Risk management should be taken into account when setting a salary, as the compensation should be enough to secure the company from financial harm. Legally, the salary should be consistent with industry standards, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has rules and regulations that must be followed when setting the salary such as qualifications, training, and experience in industry.

There are a few factors to consider:

– Taxation implications: It’s important to understand the tax implications of setting a salary for yourself. The IRS has guidelines for how much salary should be set for yourself, and it’s important to adhere to these rules.

– Employee benefits: Setting up a reasonable salary for yourself may also have implications for employee benefits. For example, if you’re paying yourself a salary that’s too low, you may not be able to provide your employees with the benefits they need.

As your recall, S Corporations shareholders or owners are not subject to self-employment income on the earnings. Therefore, properly determining reasonable compensation is extremely important. In addition, one of the main benefits of an S Corporation is the avoidance of double taxation in comparison to a C corporation. This means that an S Corporation shareholder normally receives cash tax free distributions from the S Corporation. Therefore, the combination of reasonable compensation and tax-free distributions from cash flow earnings is important to get right as this is one of the main issues that could lead to a tax audit.

Here are two commonly used S corporation wages to distribution methodologies:

1)      50:50 method

Where the shareholders split their desired cash flow earnings between wages and tax-free distributions.

2)      60:40 method

Where the shareholders receive 60% of their desired cash flow earnings via wages and the remaining 40% via tax-free distributions.

These are commonly used methods but ultimately you need to follow the criteria and regulations set by the IRS. It is important for shareholders and owners of S Corporations to consult with a tax practitioner with assistance in determining the appropriate reasonable compensation.

Qualified Business Income Deduction and Wages for S Corporations

Paying yourself wages as an employee of your S Corporation helps you maximize the Qualified Business Income deduction.

The pass-through deduction allows you to deduct up to 20% of your qualified business income (QBI), but there is a wage limitation. You can deduct the lesser of 20% of QBI or the sum of 1/2 W-2 wages, or 1/4 W-2 wages plus 2.5% unadjusted property basis.

This means that if you pay yourself wages as an employee, it can reduce the amount of QBI eligible for the deduction. This is a huge, misused opportunity by many S Corporation owners. Planning for the next few years around this tax advantageous deduction is important because it allows you to maximize your tax savings.

Retirement Plan Options for S Corporations

Maximize your self-employed tax savings with a variety of retirement plan options available for S Corporations. One popular option is the solo 401(k), which allows you to contribute both as an employee and employer, maximizing your savings potential.

With a solo 401(k), you can contribute up to $22,500 as an employee and up to 25% of your compensation as an employer, resulting in a $66,000 contribution.

Another option is the SIMPLE IRA, which offers easy setup and maintenance with lower contribution limits. You can contribute up to $15,500 as an employee and the employer must match contributions up to 3% or make a non-elective contribution of 2% of compensation.

Lastly, consider a profit sharing plan where the employer makes discretionary contributions based on business profits. This allows for flexibility in contributing larger amounts during profitable years while reducing contributions during leaner times.

These retirement plan options can help you maximize tax savings, if properly planned.

Disadvantages of S Corporation: Losses Financed with Debt

To fully understand the disadvantages of using an S Corporation when financing losses with debt, picture a road trip where you’re stuck in traffic with no way to exit and take a more efficient route to your destination. When losses are financed with debt in an S Corporation, there are significant limitations that prevent those losses from being utilized to offset other income at the individual level. This creates a roadblock in capital structure and financing options for businesses seeking tax advantages.

 The limitations of using an S Corporation for losses financed with debt:

  • Limitations of Using an S Corporation for Losses Financed with Debt.
  • Limitation: Inability to increase tax basis through non-owner loans
  • Financed losses remain trapped at the S Corporation level
  • Unable to offset other income at the individual level

This lack of flexibility restricts businesses from maximizing their tax benefits and can hinder their financial growth.

Disadvantages of S Corporation: Distribution of Non-Cash Property

The use of an S Corporation can present disadvantages when it comes to distributing non-cash property, which may hinder entrepreneurs seeking optimal tax planning strategies and financial growth.

When an S Corporation distributes property other than cash, it triggers certain tax implications that can complicate the distribution process. Unlike partnerships, where appreciated property retains its carryover basis, S Corporations treat distributed appreciated property as if it were sold at fair market value. This creates phantom income for shareholders. The fair market value treatment of distributed appreciated property in an S Corporation can lead to a significant tax liability for shareholders. They may have to pay taxes on the gain even though they haven’t actually sold the property. The requirement to distribute appreciated property at fair market value limits the flexibility of S Corporations when it comes to transferring assets or restructuring ownership.

These distribution challenges and non-cash property issues highlight some of the drawbacks of using an S Corporation when considering distributions involving assets other than cash.

Disadvantages of S Corporation: Promote or Non-Pro Rata Allocations

S Corporations can lead to a tangled web of complications when it comes to promote or non-pro rata allocations. This is because their limited ability to have multiple classes of shares clashes with the diverse nature of promotes. Promote allocations typically involve different classes of shares that provide different rights and privileges. These can include preferential treatment in terms of profit distributions or liquidation proceeds.

However, S corporations are only allowed to have one class of shares, which restricts the flexibility in allocating income or loss among shareholders. This limitation can result in tax implications and may not be beneficial for those seeking a promote or non-pro rata allocation structure.

It is important to carefully consider alternative business structures that offer more flexibility and accommodate the desired allocation arrangements without creating unnecessary complications for tax purposes.

Consider a partnership or C corporation entity structure, these provide multiple options to specially allocate income or loss.

State Taxes for S Corporations

S Corporations have state income tax filing like other types of entities. Due to their passthrough features, the share of income at the state income tax level is passed down to the owner. The owner then files a resident or non-resident state income tax return in that specific state.

Now many states also offer the option for S Corporations to pay state income taxes at the entity level avoiding the passthrough feature. This is called Passthrough Entity Tax (PTET). There are also similar options for non-resident owners that are required to file state tax returns with different states called Composite state tax return.

Planning around all of these state tax filing options can provide tax savings and also save on the amount of returns that need to be prepared and filed annually.


An S Corporation could be a perfect tax entity for many business owners depending on their business activity and ownership. Above we discussed some of the pros and cons to classifying your entity as an S corporation. Hope you found it useful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the limitations on the number of shareholders in an S Corporation?

Shareholder limitations in an S corporation depend on the type of shareholders. While there are no restrictions on the number of domestic shareholders, foreign shareholders and certain industries may have specific limitations.

What is the difference between a C corporation and an S corporation?

The main difference between a C corporation and an S corporation lies in their tax treatment and ownership requirements. A C corporation is a separate legal entity that pays taxes on its profits, while an S corporation is a pass-through entity where the profits and losses flow through to the shareholders' personal tax returns. C corporations have no restrictions on ownership, whereas S corporations have specific requirements, such as being limited to 100 shareholders and having only one class of stock. Additionally, C corporations are subject to double taxation, meaning both the corporation and the shareholders are taxed on corporate profits, while S corporations avoid double taxation.

How to change ownership percentage for an S corporation?

First, make necessary updates to the corporation's records, including stock certificates, shareholder agreements, and any other legal documents affected by the ownership change. Then to properly allocate taxable income to each shareholder (new and old), there are two elections available to calculate the income allocation. One splits the tax year into two years – with the taxable income calculated for each separate one and then allocated based on the ownership percentages of each split. The other is a blended ownership ratio based on the date of changes. Consult with your practitioner on this, you may need for the exiting shareholder to have approve the election in order to proceed with it.

Can you file the S Corporation tax election late?

The S Corporation tax election must generally be filed by the deadline specified by the IRS, which is typically within 75 days of the corporation's formation or the beginning of the tax year for which the election is intended. However, there are limited circumstances where the IRS allows a late S Corporation tax election under the relief provisions of Revenue Procedure 2013-30. To qualify for late filing relief, the corporation must have a valid reason for the delay and meet specific eligibility criteria outlined by the IRS. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional or attorney to assess your situation and determine if you qualify for a late S Corporation tax election.

How to make a late entity and S Corporation election at the same time prior to filing the first tax return?

If you want to make a late entity and S Corporation election simultaneously before filing the first tax return, follow these steps: - Determine eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements to make both the entity classification election and the S Corporation election. Generally, the entity must be eligible for the requested classification and meet the necessary criteria. - File Form 8832: File Form 8832, Entity Classification Election, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to elect the desired entity classification. This form allows you to choose how the entity will be taxed, such as a partnership or a disregarded entity. - File Form 2553: Submit Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to elect S Corporation status. This form must be filed separately from Form 8832 and within the specified timeframe, usually within 75 days of the entity's formation or the beginning of the tax year. - Include explanations and justifications: In both forms, provide a detailed explanation for the late filing and justification for making both elections simultaneously. The IRS will review these explanations when considering your request. - Keep records: Maintain copies of all filings, supporting documentation, and correspondence with the IRS for future reference.

As a one-person S Corporation, you have several tax-saving retirement plan options to consider.

Here are a few popular choices: Individual 401(k) (also known as Solo 401(k)): This plan allows you to contribute both as an employee and an employer. You can make salary deferrals as the employee and contribute a profit-sharing contribution as the employer. Contributions to an individual 401(k) are generally tax-deductible, and the plan offers higher contribution limits compared to other retirement plans. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA: With a SEP IRA, you can make tax-deductible contributions as the employer. The contribution amount is based on a percentage of your self-employment income. SEP IRAs are relatively easy to set up and maintain, but the contribution limits are generally lower than those of an individual 401(k). Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA: This plan is suitable if you have fewer than 100 employees. It allows you to make salary deferrals as the employee, and the employer must make either a matching contribution or a non-elective contribution. SIMPLE IRAs have lower contribution limits compared to individual 401(k) plans. Traditional or Roth IRA: Although not specific to S Corporations, traditional or Roth IRAs are individual retirement account options available to anyone with earned income. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, while Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax money. The best option depends on your current tax situation and your long-term retirement goals.

Are there any restrictions on the types of industries that can elect S Corporation status?

Disclaimer: The above is a comprehensive guidance of S corporation taxation. For further information or guidance you should contact an experienced CPA or practitioner who is familiar with all of the above tax legislation and applicability. Any information or articles presented on this website is for educational and informational purposes. The opinions stated on this website represent my own and not the opinions of any other person or organization. No information contained on this website is to be interpreted as financial, tax, investment, and or any other form of advice.

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