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Missing Payroll, Now What

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Last updated: 24 Nov, 2018
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By Jason Watson ()
Posted November 23, 2018

There is a near certainty that we can make the S Corp election retroactive to January 1 of 2018. As mentioned earlier, one of the pillars of S Corps is to pay a salary to the shareholders. If you are reading this after Thanksgiving dinner and yet another Cowboys loss, it is time to step on the gas and get payroll setup so a payroll event can be ran before the end of the year.

But if it’s 2019, and 2018 is all over, there are three options (in descending order of elegance)-

Issue a 1099 to Yourself
Really?! For real? Hang in there on this one. What we can do is issue a 1099-MISC for a portion of the business net income to yourself which will be reported on Schedule C of your personal tax return. In turn, this income will be subjected to self-employment taxes. Remember self-employment taxes and Social Security and Medicare taxes are the same thing.

The amount of the 1099-MISC is entered into Line 7 of Form 1120S as Officer Compensation. Therefore from an Officer Compensation to net business / K-1 income comparison, this technique still satisfies the reasonable salary sniff.

While the IRS might frown upon this option, at the end of the day they are typically satisfied since employment taxes are essentially being paid. Again, this is not as elegant as the W-2 option, but it certainly works for the first year.

Additionally, if you were to lose an IRS challenge on reasonable salary determination the IRS would impute income on Schedule C. We are simply following what they would eventually do anyway. Again, this is a first-year mulligan. A one and done. Payroll must be set up for the following year, and normal W-2 and other filings must be done.

Reclassify Distributions as Wages
We used to do late payrolls since we processed payroll manually, in-house. We have now partnered with ADP to handle all our payroll processing (we still consult with you on a reasonable shareholder wage and make the payroll entries into ADP). ADP is wonderful, but they are rigid. As a result, no late payrolls.

We list this option is case you or someone else wants to run a late payroll event after December 31, but we advise against it. If you want to see a flurry of IRS and state notices, and waste time wading through it all, then go for it.

Roll the Dice
As paid tax professionals, the Watson CPA Group cannot advise this course of action. Having said that, we have observed several taxpayers labeling the first year as a mulligan, not creating a W-2 or a 1099, and taking his or her chances. Audit rates are about 0.4% for S Corps, and currently the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA) is charging the IRS with the task of auditing S Corps that do not pay a salary and who report losses for three or more years. As a result, profitable S Corps appear to be flying under the radar especially if you only miss one year of paying a salary (your first year).

What could happen? The IRS could simply impute wages, create payroll liabilities and send you a bill. We’ve seen S Corporations get these types of notices. This is not ideal since the state is not getting its share of things such as unemployment and disability, and the IRS is sharing data with states.

Again, rolling the dice is not our professional advice, even if it rhymes. We do not want some stray bullet from the IRS hitting us while trying to hit you- we will decline the engagement if you want to roll the dice. We don’t want your problems to become our problems (sorry).

Conversely, let us do it right. You sleep well at night. More rhymes. Everyone wins.

Of course the Watson CPA Group can take care of all this paperwork for you!

Huge Emphasis: We cannot stress enough that having an LLC in place is cheap insurance even if you don’t ever elect to be an S Corp. While IRS guidance is hazy, it is our recommendation plus the recommendations of tax attorneys and other consultants that the effective date of the S Corp election should not occur before the earliest date that the LLC has members, acquires assets or begins conducting business.

Taxpayer's Comprehensive Guide to LLCs and S Corps : 2019 Edition
This KB article is an excerpt from our book which is available in paperback from Amazon, as an eBook for Kindle and as a PDF from ClickBank. We used to publish with iTunes and Nook, but keeping up with two different formats was brutal. You can cruise through these KB articles, click on the fancy buttons below or visit our webpage which provides more information at-

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