Our ag clients are typically multi-generational, and most of them came into the business as youngsters, often helping grandparents and parents with odd jobs. Farm life offers children many benefits: a strong work ethic, the opportunity for teamwork, important skills — even another language!
“We encourage our clients to take their children’s involvement a step further by properly compensating them and planning ahead for their futures, which can be extraordinarily helpful from both the taxation and college financing perspectives,” mentions Chad Van Houten, Senior Manager and CPA. “The work you do now could help set up generations of success.”
PAY YOUR CHILDREN
Be sure you pay your children an actual wage so that you can shift some of your business income to a lower tax bracket. Depending on your business structure, you may be exempt from payroll taxes when paying your children under the age of 18. We often recommend that our clients pay their children just below the filing requirement, or be really creative and pay their children higher than a nominal amount – but with a catch! This money should be used to contribute to a savings plan, such as an IRA (including Roth IRA), or to contribute to a 529 college savings plan. Keep in mind Roth IRA and 529 contributions are not pre-tax, which can be tricky. You still want to claim your child as a dependent, so it’s critical to work with your financial advisor to strategically explore other types of education or retirement plans.
HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT (HSA) PLAN
Enrolling in an HSA plan, with a higher deductible, makes good financial sense for young farmers. The HSA acts as a pre-tax savings account for people who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. Funds contributed to an HSA account are excluded from wages or deducted from income and can even be made after year-end for additional planning opportunities. Often times, younger people opt for higher-deducible health plans, but can still find themselves paying a significant amount of money out of pocket due to the higher co-pays and deductibles. This is where HSA accounts come in handy and are especially helpful for a large one-time medical expense in the year, such as the birth of a baby.
AVOID THE “KIDDIE” TAX
Be sure to work with a member of our accounting team when planning your children’s fair wages to avoid unknowingly creating a filing requirement. You want to be sure and avoid the “kiddie tax,” which according to the IRS occurs “If the child's interest, dividends, and other unearned income total more than $2,100, part of that income may be subject to tax at the parent’s tax rate instead of the child’s tax rate.”
You may want to consider term life or disability insurance policies to cover the period of time when the kids may be too young to farm and earn an income if something were to happen to the parents.
Also, it is almost never too early to start thinking about your trust and estate plan. Creating a living trust to own the farm real estate may help avoid the public governmental probate process in the unfortunate case of the parents passing.
Remember, there are many grants and educational resources available through the USDA. Be sure to take advantage of all your options! Specifically, be sure to check out Special financing for new farmers through to the extended Farm Bill. The renewed farm bill allows down payment assistance up to $300,000 at a 1.5% interest rate if you qualify as a new farmer.
Please be sure to give Chad Van Houten or another member of our Ag team a call to discuss any of these suggestions!
Ian serves as a lead client contact focused on attest services. He applies his international perspective gleaned from working with clients from multiple industries including utilities, technology, pharmaceuticals, retail and not for profit. Although Ian initially started out as a marketing major at Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business, he later switched to the accounting program to gain more insights into how businesses run.
Ian is a Modesto native but spent seven years with PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) – starting as an intern in San Jose, then joining the firm’s LA office before eventually transferring to their offices in first Edinburgh and later Aberdeen, Scotland.
While abroad, Ian and his wife Jessica found time to travel throughout Europe, including a 3,000 mile camping trip through France and Italy with their 5-month old son. Ian "considers Edinburgh one of his favorite places in the world, despite the high cost of living in the UK." He highly recommends traveling there, especially during the festivals in August.
Ian would like to spend his Saturdays in June with his young family enjoying the ocean either in Carmel or Pismo Beach. By October, he’s likely to be headed to Big Sur for a camping trip. When January rolls around, Ian will no doubt be yearning to put his season pass to use snowboarding at Dodge Ridge.