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Understanding Payroll and S-Corps: A Guide for Gig Workers

An essential aspect of operating an S-Corporation (S-Corp) as a gig worker: utilizing a payroll system for the owner's W-2 wages. By understanding how payroll works and how the revenue flows from capture to payout, you'll be better equipped to navigate the world of S-Corps and maximize your tax savings.

May 4, 2023


When you choose to operate as an S-Corp, you become both the owner and the employee of the company. As an employee, you must receive a ""reasonable salary"" for the services you provide to the business. This salary is subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are commonly referred to as self-employment taxes.

The primary reason S-Corps use payroll for owner W-2 wages is to maintain compliance with the IRS. By processing payroll and issuing W-2s to the owner-employee, the S-Corp can ensure that the correct amount of taxes is withheld and reported. This also enables the S-Corp to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with splitting income into salary and distributions, which we discussed in a previous blog post.

How Payroll Works for S-Corps

  1. Set up a payroll system: To begin, you'll need to set up a payroll system for your S-Corp, either using payroll software or by hiring a payroll service provider. This system will handle tax calculations, withholdings, and filings on your behalf. Please note that we provide this service at no additional cost for all members of Gig Worker Solutions.
  2. Determine a reasonable salary: As an S-Corp owner, you must pay yourself a reasonable salary for the services you provide. This salary should be in line with what similar businesses pay for the same or similar services.
  3. Calculate taxes and withholdings: Your payroll system will calculate the appropriate federal and state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and any other required withholdings based on your salary and filing status.
  4. Payroll frequency: Depending on your preferences and state requirements, you can choose to run payroll weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. Ensure that you comply with your state's payroll frequency requirements.
  5. Issue paychecks: After calculating taxes and withholdings, your payroll system will generate paychecks or direct deposits for the owner-employee's salary.
  6. File and remit payroll taxes: Your payroll system will also handle filing and remitting payroll taxes to the appropriate federal and state agencies, ensuring you stay compliant with all tax regulations.

Understanding the Flow of Revenue

The flow of revenue for an S-Corp is relatively simple. Here's an overview of how it works:

  1. Capture revenue: As a gig worker, you'll generate income by providing services to your clients. The revenue you earn is captured by your S-Corp, which is responsible for reporting and paying taxes on that income.
  2. Pay salary through payroll: Your S-Corp will pay you a reasonable salary through the payroll system, withholding and remitting the appropriate taxes to the IRS and state tax agencies.
  3. Distribute remaining profits: After paying the owner-employee's salary and covering business expenses, the remaining profits can be distributed to the owner as distributions. These distributions are not subject to self-employment taxes, providing a significant tax-saving opportunity.
  4. Report income on personal tax return: As an S-Corp owner, you'll report your salary and distributions on your personal income tax return, ensuring that your income is taxed at your individual tax rate.


Understanding the importance of payroll and the flow of revenue is crucial for gig workers operating as S-Corps. By using a payroll system for your owner W-2 wages, you can maintain compliance with the IRS, ensure accurate tax withholdings, and take advantage of the tax benefits associated with separating your income into salary and distributions.

Remember, setting up and managing a payroll system can be complex, and it's always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or business advisor to ensure you're handling everything correctly. By proactively learning about payroll and revenue flow, you'll be better prepared to navigate the world of S-Corps and make informed decisions that will help maximize your earnings in the gig economy.

So, go ahead and explore the possibilities of utilizing an S-Corp and payroll system as a gig worker. This strategic approach will not only provide you with tax savings but also set the foundation for a well-organized and compliant business structure. And as always, we are here to support you along the way!

You May Qualify For Up To $32,200 With The Self Employment Tax Credit.

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