The Family Business Advantage in Tax Planning and Employment

Employing family members within a private business is a strategy embraced by many for its substantial tax benefits and the personal satisfaction of running a family-oriented operation.

However, navigating the legal and tax implications demands careful consideration and strategic planning.

In this week’s Friday Tax Tip, we explore the why and how of employing family members, focusing on maximising tax advantages.

Family Business

(Read Time: Approx. 4 minutes)

Topics Discussed:

  • Tax benefits of employing family members.
  • Strategies for effective tax planning and compliance within family employment.

The Tax Efficient Family Business

The Rationale Behind Family Employment

Employing family members isn’t merely about nepotism or convenience.

At its core, it’s a strategy employed by business owners to optimise tax savings.

The distribution of business profits among family members who are actively involved in the business allows for a more efficient use of personal tax allowances and lower tax bands, potentially resulting in significant tax savings for the family as a whole.

Understanding the Tax Benefits

The primary allure of employing family members lies in the ability to spread the income generated by the business across the family’s tax allowances.

This method can effectively lower the overall tax rate on business profits from as high as 45% to as low as 20%, or even exempt it from tax, depending on how the income is distributed.

For instance, distributing profits as a salary to a family member who has no other income could fully utilise their personal allowance, thereby reducing the taxable income of the business.

Tax Considerations

The Taxman’s Scrutiny

While the tax advantages of employing family members can be substantial, it’s crucial to ensure that these arrangements are legitimate and justifiable in the eyes of HMRC.

There’s a thin line between strategic tax planning and tax evasion.

The employment must involve real work and fair compensation, reflective of the role and responsibilities undertaken by the family member.

Additionally, ensuring that the employed family member isn’t part of an arrangement to pay the money received back into the business helps to keep any scrutiny from the taxman away from your business.

Compliance and Documentation

To navigate this landscape successfully, maintaining clear and detailed records of the employment terms, roles, responsibilities, and remuneration is essential.

This documentation serves as evidence of the legitimacy of the employment should it be scrutinised by HMRC.

Additionally, adhering to minimum wage laws and ensuring that the remuneration reflects the market rate for the work done are critical components of compliance.

Strategic Employment Practices

Employing your Children

Employing underage family members in the business is permissible, but it comes with its own set of rules and considerations.

Beyond complying with child labour laws, the employment must be genuine – meaning the child performs actual work that is beneficial to the business.

This arrangement can be tax-efficient, provided it adheres to legal standards and the remuneration is justifiable.

The Dilemma of Salary vs. Dividends

Deciding between compensating family members through salaries or dividends is a pivotal choice that requires careful consideration.

While salaries allow for the use of personal allowances and can be exempt from National Insurance Contributions (NIC) up to a certain threshold, dividends may offer a more tax-efficient route for distributing larger amounts of income.

The decision largely depends on the business structure, the individual’s tax situation, and the overall family income distribution strategy.

In-Depth Case Studies and Real-life Applications

Case Study 1: Dividends over Salary

Background: Yummy Limited, a highly successful chain of fast-food restaurants, provides an excellent example of strategic family employment.

The main proprietor, Godfrey, decided it was time to involve his son, Gordon, in the business.

Gordon, a newly qualified accountant with a promising career ahead, was offered an annual salary of £50,000 as an inducement to join the family business.

The Tax Dilemma

Paying Gordon a salary of £50,000 would subject Yummy Limited to an employer’s National Insurance (NI) charge, costing the business around £5,000 annually.

Given that NI contributions do not confer benefits to the employer, Godfrey sought a more tax-efficient method to compensate his son.

Strategic Solution

Instead of a salary, Godfrey opted to transfer a small portion of his own 100% shareholding in Yummy Limited to Gordon.

This move allowed the company to pay Gordon through dividends rather than a salary, effectively bypassing the employer’s NI charge and saving the company £5,000 a year.

Case Study 2: Employing Your Children

Wesley runs a window cleaning business, employing his daughter, Sarah, not just for menial tasks but as a significant part of the business.

Sarah’s involvement grew to a point where it was no longer just a part-time job; it had become her career, and Wesley was paying her a substantial wage, incurring a hefty employer’s NI levy.

Innovative Approach

Upon consulting with his accountant, Wesley took Sarah into partnership within the business.

This changed her income from being salaried to self-employed, drastically reducing the NI contributions required.

There was no employer’s NI to pay, and while Sarah still had to pay NI on her self-employed income, the rate was significantly lower than her previous employee’s NI.

Tax Benefits

These case studies exemplify the well-informed approach required when employing family members within your business.

From choosing between salaries and dividends to transforming employment relationships into partnerships, each strategy carries its own set of tax implications and benefits.

Concluding Thoughts: Maximising Benefits, Ensuring Compliance

Employing family members offers a dual benefit of tax savings and the joy of running a family-centric business.

However, the path to successfully implementing this strategy involves a deep understanding of tax laws, meticulous planning, and strict compliance.

By focusing on legitimate employment practices, fair compensation, and strategic income distribution, business owners can achieve significant tax savings while fostering a supportive family business environment.

Ready to optimise your family business for tax efficiency while ensuring compliance?

Our team of tax experts is here to guide you through every step of the process.

Visit us at to discover how we can assist you in maximising your tax benefits, minimising liabilities, and securing your family business’s future.

Let’s work together to transform your business strategy into a legacy.

Reach out today for a consultation and take the first step towards financial efficiency and peace of mind.

Contact us today at 01772 788200 to find out more about how we can help, or WhatsApp us out-of-hours at 07787 010190.

Sending an e-mail is simple too, just fill out this short form and we’ll get back to you!

Kind regards,

Ilyas Patel