Tax avoidance: Legal. Tax evasion: illegal. Seems pretty clear, but some classic “tricks” to reduce tax liabilities are coming under fire. The most recent: funneling your wages through an S Corporation to avoid payroll taxes.
From the Wall Street Journal:
There's a saying: Pigs get fed and hogs get slaughtered. The Internal Revenue Service surely hopes that includes tax hogs.
That is the message of a recent U.S. district court case won by the IRS against David Watson, a CPA in West Des Moines, Iowa. At issue: a common tax-cutting maneuver available to the owners of millions of closely held businesses.
The case, David E. Watson P.C. v. U.S., revolved around Mr. Watson's low pay as the sole owner and shareholder of a so-called S Corporation. Such companies, often called "Sub-Ss" after the subchapter of the tax code governing them, is a popular choice of entity for private firms. Unlike C corporations, Sub-Ss have no more than 100 shareholders, and they pass profits to owners without an extra layer of tax. There are nearly 4 million Sub-Ss in the U.S. today.
Mr. Watson's Sub-S was, in turn, one of four principals in LWBJ, an accounting firm. According to the decision, the firm made profit distributions of $203,651 and $175,470 to Mr. Watson through his Sub-S for 2002 and 2003, respectively, the years in question.
Mr. Watson, who had a graduate degree in tax and 20 years' experience, received only $24,000 of salary for each of those years, far less than the $40,000 a year earned by recent graduates in accounting with no experience, according to one expert for the IRS.