Optimizing Tax Strategies: Understanding S Corporation Elections for Tax Purposes, Reasonable Wage, and Accountable Plans

January 23rd, 2024, 9:30 AM

Selecting the correct business entity is pivotal in shaping your tax strategy. Among the various options available, the S Corporation (S Corp) stands out for its unique tax advantages. 

However, understanding the nuances of S Corp elections for Tax Purposes, Reasonable Wages, and Accountable Plans is crucial for any business owner aiming to maximize tax benefits and compliance.

Who Should Take Advantage of the S-Election?

An S Corporation election for tax purposes provides businesses the opportunity to avoid excess employment tax commonly associated with Schedule C entities as well as double taxation commonly associated with C Corporations. It is a concept that those TikTok Tax Tips tell you to jump on, but you need to vet your business against all considerations before you jump into the election.

The S Corp tax structure allows the business income to pass through to shareholders, who report it on their individual tax returns. However, not every business is eligible to elect S Corp status or, if they are eligible, there are other factors to consider that might suggest it is not the right structure. 


  • The business must be a domestic corporation.
  • It can't have more than 100 shareholders.
  • Shareholders must be individuals, certain trusts, or estates; partnerships and corporations can't be shareholders.


  • Pass-through taxation: S Corp status avoids corporate-level taxes, allowing profits and losses to pass through to shareholders' personal tax returns.
  • Potential tax savings: Shareholders can potentially save on self-employment taxes by dividing income into salaries and distributions.


  • The level of income of the entity should be considered. If low - Schedule C might still make the most sense. If high - C Corp status might make more sense.  

Is An Accountable Plan Really Necessary For My S-Corporation?

Accountable plans are structured reimbursement arrangements that allow businesses to reimburse employees, including owners, for legitimate business expenses. These plans adhere to IRS guidelines and offer several advantages for businesses, especially S Corporations.


  • Non-taxable reimbursements: Expenses reimbursed through an accountable plan are not treated as taxable income for the recipients.
  • Compliance and documentation: Accountable plans enforce proper expense tracking and documentation, ensuring adherence to IRS regulations.
  • Audit protection: Maintaining accountable plans demonstrates a commitment to IRS guidelines and the nature of an S Corporation election, which is good support in the event of an audit.

Strategies for Implementing Your Accountable Plan

Implementing an accountable plan involves formal documentation outlining the plan's terms, expense reporting procedures, and reimbursement protocols. Professional guidance from a tax expert or accountant is highly recommended to customize the plan to specific business needs and ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

Reasonable Compensation in S Corporations

Another crucial aspect for businesses operating as S Corporations is the determination of reasonable compensation. The IRS requires that shareholders who actively participate in the business must receive a reasonable salary, also known as reasonable compensation.

This requirement ensures that S Corporations don't abuse the pass-through taxation benefit by paying shareholders unreasonably low salaries and distributing the rest of the income as dividends.

Why is Reasonable Compensation Important?

The IRS is vigilant about preventing tax avoidance through the manipulation of wages and distributions. Paying a reasonable salary ensures that employment taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare, are appropriately withheld and paid. If the IRS determines that a shareholder's compensation is unreasonably low, it may reclassify a portion of the distributions as wages, leading to potential penalties and interest.

Determining Reasonable Compensation

While there isn't a specific formula for calculating reasonable compensation, factors such as industry standards, the complexity of the work performed, and the financial health of the business are considered. It's essential for S Corporations to assess comparable roles in the industry to establish a reasonable benchmark for compensation.

Finding the right balance between salary and distributions is key. 

Shareholders should be compensated fairly for their services to the company, and at the same time, they can benefit from tax savings by receiving distributions. Striking this balance requires careful consideration of the business's financial performance and industry norms.

Maximizing Benefits and Compliance For Streamlined Expense Management

While the decision to elect S Corporation status and implement accountable plans isn't one-size-fits-all, understanding their potential benefits is essential. These strategies can significantly impact tax efficiency, compliance, and the overall financial health of a business.

Consulting with tax professionals to assess eligibility, strategize elections, and tailor accountable plans is a prudent step toward optimizing tax strategies. 

By making informed decisions and understanding these critical aspects, businesses can effectively navigate the complexities of tax regulations while maximizing benefits.

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