Are Draws and Distributions the Same?


Draws vs Distributions

Draws and distributions are the same thing. An owner’s draw is called as such because it is a withdrawal from the ownership account. However, IRS terminology on tax forms indicates it as “owner’s distribution.”

The owner’s draw is associated with Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, and LLCs structured as a single-member or a partnership. On the other hand, the term “owner’s distribution” is linked to corporations and incorporated LLCs. 

Distributions for corporations and incorporated LLCs involve a stricter draw-out process. Both owner’s draw and distribution are not subject to business tax withholdings.

What Is An Owner’s Draw?

An owner’s draw is money drawn out from the business by the owner. This withdrawal can be taken out of the business without being subjected to tax. Even if the company is not taxed at distribution, it must be filed as income on personal tax returns. Depending on the business structure, tax filing rules may apply to the owner’s draws. 

In a nutshell, owner’s draws are used for payment instead of getting a salary from the business. It provides flexibility for compensation because it can be set as regular or one-off payments.

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However, it’s important to note that any amount you take out reduces your owner’s equity. With this, you must compute for net profitability before making a draw-out because equity only increases from profit or capital contributions.

Rules for Owner’s Draws and Distributions

Special rules apply for owner’s draws and distributions based on your business structure. Generally, there must be initial business agreements before distributions occur. As the business becomes more profitable, changes in compensation may be justifiable, but any payments made through owner’s distributions must always be noted in meetings. 

Below are the rules to be taken into account:

  • Because LLCs are not federally recognized, check with state regulations on how you can distribute money to members. Normally, they are limited to changing an agreement year to year.
  • Officers in an S Corporation must receive compensation in the form of a salary, while owners can receive both salary and distributions. However, if the IRS finds the salary to be unreasonable, it can reclassify a distribution as a salary or dividend and impose penalties and taxes.
  • Owners of a C Corporation can take distributions, but not regularly. Generally, owners are paid with salary and dividends. On some occasions, they may also get non-dividend distribution, which is tax-free but it will reduce their basis in the C Corporation.

Different Types of Owner’s Compensation

Not all business owners opt for drawings and distributions. Owner’s compensation can come in the form of the following:

  • Salary- S and C Corporations pay salaries aside from distributions.
  • Guaranteed Payment- Partnerships and LLCs structured as partnerships pay guaranteed payments or agreed-upon amounts at the inception of the business, regardless of its profitability. These are tax-deductible to business income.
  • Dividends: S and C Corporations may also distribute dividends that are not tax-free.
  • Net Income: Single-member LLCs and Sole Proprietorships consider the entire business net income as compensation.

Reporting Owner’s Draw on Taxes

An owner’s draw can’t be deducted as a business expense and will not reduce the taxable income for the business. As you know, the higher the income, the higher the tax liability. Below are the ways to account for owner’s draws for tax purposes:

For Sole Proprietorship

In a sole proprietorship, owner’s draws are considered net income. Draw-outs should be reported on a Schedule C and are subject to income and self-employment taxes. These may increase your tax liabilities to the point that you may have to set up estimated tax payments. With this, it’s crucial to have a robust tax plan and make quarterly payments so you won’t get a huge penalty.

For S Corporations

For S Corporations, you should report total distributions on Form 1120-S, page 5 Schedule M-2, line 7. Owners will be issued a Schedule K-1 by the end of the year indicating their share of activity from the S Corporation, including distributions. 

If the owner has basis to receive a tax-free distribution, the distribution is added to net income on the tax return. If not, it will be considered a capital gains distribution reported on Schedule D.

For Partnerships

Similar to S Corporations, draws must be listed under Distribution on line 19 on a Schedule K-1 in partnerships. A partner must have basis to accept the distribution and should include it in the net income on their tax return. If the partner doesn’t have basis, the distribution should be reported on a 1040, Other Income on Line 8, using a Schedule 1.

Final Thoughts

It’s essential to strike a balance between your business equity and pay. Personal draw-outs will reduce your cash assets, and you obviously wouldn’t want to risk insolvency.

If you want to learn more about draws and distributions or you need a CPA who can help you understand how much you can take from the business, get in touch with Lear & Pannepacker, LLP.

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