What Are LLC Guaranteed Payments? (Everything to Know)

Delina Chantel Yasmeh
Published by Delina Chantel Yasmeh | Author
Last updated: February 27, 2024
Methodology
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LLC-guaranteed payments represent a pivotal aspect of the financial structure within Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).

This serves as a mechanism to compensate members for services rendered or capital invested, irrespective of the company's profitability.

Drawing from my extensive experience as a business consultant specializing in LLC formation and management and collaboration with fellow experts, I’ve dedicated numerous hours to dissecting the nuances of LLC-guaranteed payments.

This article sheds light on the strategic importance of guaranteed payments in maintaining financial equilibrium within LLCs, highlighting their role in individual member security and the broader context of business resilience and fiscal responsibility.

Quick Summary

  • LLC-guaranteed payments are fixed amounts paid to members or partners of an LLC, regardless of the entity's profitability, ensuring members receive compensation for their contributions.
  • Setting up guaranteed payments requires drafting a detailed agreement outlining payment amounts, schedules, and conditions for termination or modification.
  • According to the Federal Reserve Bank's 2023 Report on Nonemployer Firms, 76% of nonemployer startups use personal funds for financing, underscoring the importance of guaranteed payments for financial security in LLCs.
  • I believe the complexity and potential tax implications of LLC-guaranteed payments highlight the importance of consulting with a tax professional.


What Are LLC-Guaranteed Payments?

A man counting bills for guaranteed payment

LLC-guaranteed payments are income paid to the partners or LLC members, no matter what happens. If the business fails, the member's credit rating is destroyed, and lawsuits are filed against them by creditors, they still get their guaranteed payment.

Guaranteed payments are considered taxable income. It is ordinary income and self-employment income for tax purposes.

LLC-guaranteed payments are payments made by an LLC to its members that are guaranteed to be paid out regardless of the LLC's net income. These payments are typically made in salary, dividends, or interest.

The purpose of a guaranteed payment is to provide security for the member or partner if the business fails. It can also help protect the member's credit rating if the company goes bankrupt.

Guaranteed Payments vs. Salaries

A man counting bills for guaranteed payment

The salary earned by an ordinary LLC member is paid based on the number of services they have performed.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank's 2023 Report on Nonemployer Firms, 76 percent of nonemployer startups use personal funds to finance their businesses [1].

This significant reliance on personal financing highlights the crucial role of guaranteed payments in providing financial security for LLC members, ensuring they receive compensation irrespective of the company’s immediate success.

Guaranteed payments are not subject to any cap, meaning that if a member performs no work for the LLC, they still receive the same guaranteed payments as someone working at total capacity [2].

As a result, salary payments are often seen as more favorable than guaranteed payments.

Interest and dividends earned by an ordinary member of an LLC are paid out based on the percentage of ownership the member has in the company.

Unlike guaranteed payments, these payments are not subject to a direct federal income tax. However, they are subject to state and local taxes.

Guaranteed Payments and Taxes

An LLC is treated as a partnership by the Internal Revenue Service for federal income tax purposes. When a business makes a guaranteed payment to an employee, it is considered a business expense.

This means that the company can deduct guaranteed payments from its taxable income, lowering its tax burden.

In addition, the payment is also considered taxable income for the employee, which means that the employee must include it in their annual tax return.

The tax benefits of guaranteed payments are twofold. First, the payment reduces the business's taxable income, which results in lower taxes.

Second, the employee's payment is taxable income, but it is taxed at a lower rate than regular income.

A managing member who gets part of the company's revenue as a guaranteed payment or draw will only end up paying about 7% taxes, or about 1/2 the sum of the employment tax rate, on the amount, based on IRS guidelines [3].

This significant tax advantage underlines the financial efficiency of guaranteed payments within the LLC framework.

When a business makes a guaranteed payment to an employee, it is responsible for withholding tax from the payment.

This tax is known as the estimated income tax [4]. The company must withhold tax at the same rate as it withholds tax from regular wages.

Guaranteed payments are taxed at the same rate as regular wages. The tax rate varies according to the tax bracket in which the employee falls, but it is always less than their standard tax rate.

"Guaranteed payments you pay Self employment tax which at 15.3% is double the FICA/Medicare rate and you pay income tax, the difference being you pay based on net profit from the business not gross earnings. You also as a partner participate in the net results of the partnership income and expenses which pass out to you. With the potential added benefit that you may qualify for the 20% QBI tax deduction on income that passes out from the partnership."

- Wray Rives, Certified Public Accountant at NeedaCPA.com

How to Set Up Guaranteed Payments?

Handing money to someone after writing signature on contract

To set up guaranteed payments, you need to do a few things. First, you need to draft a contract that outlines the agreement between you and the other person or business.

This contract should include the amount of money that will be paid each month and when the payments will start and stop.

It should also include the amount of money that will be paid if the payments are stopped early and what would happen if you failed to make a payment.

It's essential that this contract be specific and clearly outline all terms and conditions.

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Other Types of Distribution

Other types of distribution include:

  • Draw Payment: A certain amount of money paid to the members/owners of a company during each 'draw period' (usually biweekly or weekly, depending on the business).
  • Distributive Payment: A portion of the money earned by an LLC is distributed to its partners/members (corporations, other LLCs, etc.) according to their ownership percentage.

Both Draw Payments and Distributive Payments are considered taxable income.

FAQs

What Is the Difference between a Draw and a Guaranteed Payment?

The main difference between a draw and a percentage-based payment is that guaranteed payments are paid regardless of the business's income. Withdrawals and percentages depend on how profitable the business is during that pay period.

Do Guaranteed Payments Increase the Tax Basis?

Guaranteed payments do not increase the company's tax basis, but they do count as taxable income for federal tax purposes.

Can LLC Guaranteed Payments Vary Among Members?

Yes, LLC guaranteed payments can vary among members based on factors such as ownership percentage, partnership income, and the allocation of business expenses.


References: 

  1. https://www.fedsmallbusiness.org/reports/survey/2023/2023-report-on-nonemployer-firms
  2. https://www.cpajournal.com/2017/09/01/greatest-hits-avoiding-costly-mistakes-guaranteed-payments-partners/
  3. https://www.irs.gov/publications/p541
  4. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estimated-taxes

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