After nine posts discussing the various aspects of self-employment tax management strategies for my special situation, let me wrap this up. The plan involves two actions:
• Set up a C corporation with tax year ending in June that receives all self employment income;
• Set up an individual 401(k) (also called self-employment 401(k)) plan at the corporation level.
The plan will work in multiple aspects, namely:
• Minimal Double Taxation Risk: We've discussed that a small-scale C corporation does not bring much adverse double-taxation consequences as owner-employee can always extract income through W-2 income (which may includes contribution to corporate-level retirement plans) and interest/royalty payment.
• Tax Deduction: C corporation allows you to shield more income from tax at both corporation and individual level, especially by having the corporation buys life and medical insurance (and other fringe benefits), and setting up flexible spending plans for dependent care and medical expenses.
• Income Deferral: By setting up an individual 401(k) (or self-employment 401(k)) plan, one can effectively defer up to $42,000 income every year, or $84,000 for a married couple. This limit is much generous than other regular retirement plans.
• Transfer of Income: The benefit of having a company entity (and having a spouse) is you can leverage the corporate vehicle to transfer income between the two, which may reduce the exposure on FICA/self-employment tax because the social security tax portion has an individual annual cap of $90,000 (for the year 2005).
• Shift of Income Timing: By having the tax year of the corporation ending in a different day than the individual tax year (which is usually calendar year), you may fine tune your W-2 income from the corporation for your advantage when your individual tax bracket changes significiantly between two years.
Before you get excited, let me emphasize that this plan is tailored toward my personal situation, and it does not consititute general tax advice for whoever receives self-employment income -- you should always consult your tax advisor before playing with your tax. (I did have my plan blessed by my KPMG tax advisor, which is part of my relocation benefits.) Especially, the following incomplete list of unique situation of my own may make the customized plan less meaningful to you:
• First thing first, I have a reasonable size of annual self-employment income (in low five figures), and I have tremendous personal interest in personal finance topics. If you don't have enough self-employment income to play with (say several hundred dollars a year), or don't have the bandwidth to maintain the paperwork, it does not make economical sense to set up a corporate entity and/or self-employment retirement plans.
• I received a lot of W-2 income from my daily job and such income easily pushes me over the maximum of annual social security tax. At the same time, I don't expect my wife to work on daily W-2 income jobs in the next few years. Therefore, the above-mentioned income transfer technique makes sense for us.
• I don't have a cashflow problem so it is not a difficult decision for me to contribute 100% of my self-employment income to a tax-deferred plan if I have to.
• My relocation will create huge difference between my 2005 and 2006 tax brackets; such bracket shift is not usual for people with normal income streams.
Nevertheless, I still hope the entire series, which includes 10 posts and spans across three months, is valuable to someone who wants to get some hints on how to plan sideline income. Below is the table of contents for the entire series and enjoy!
Table of Content: Tax Strategy for Self-Employment Income Series
Part 1: The Tax Exposure
Part 2: The Framework
Part 3: The Major Options
Part 4: Individual 401(k) Introduction
Part 5: Individual 401(k) Analysis & Resources
Part 6: SEP IRA and SIMPLE Plans
Part 7: Forms of Doing Business
Part 8: LLC and S Corporation
Part 9: C Corporation
Part 10: The Conclusion