Owners Draw – What is it and Why Do Business Owners use it to Pay themselves?

Denise Elizabeth P
Senior Financial Editor & Contributor

Date Published: July 8, 2021

Withdrawing or taking money out from the accounts of a limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, partnership or a sole proprietorship to spend for personal reasons is what is known as an owner’s draw.

For those wondering why people would even bother to withdraw cash from the aforementioned business entities: an owner’s draw is a way for owners to compensate or pay themselves in place of receiving a salary.

It would benefit small business owners to know about an owner’s draw, the conditions with which they can opt to pay themselves through an owner’s draw, and the legal or tax repercussions in case any are present.

What is an Owner’s Draw?

Owners draw

A business owner, sole proprietor, or a co-owner has the ability to take money from their business through what is called an owner’s draw.

An owner’s draw can be taken on a as needed basis or it can be scheduled to be taken at regular intervals.

When an owner’s draw occurs, the money is taken out of the equity of the owner which is composed of the accrued funds that the owner has contributed to the business inclusive of the owner’s share in the profits and losses of the company.

It is the responsibility of the owner to assess and cautiously evaluate the impact of the owner’s draw to their business as deducting from the owner’s equity through an owner’s draw can inhibit the business from having sufficient capital to continue its operations.

It is important to note that owner’s draws are not an eligible expense that can be deducted from taxes.

Owner’s draws must not be recorded in the Schedule C of the business.

However, it is the payment of salaries and wages that can be deducted from taxes.

Alternative names for an owner’s draw include ‘draw’ and ‘personal draw’.

How does an Owner’s Draw work?

personal draw check

In general, a business owner tends to take a personal draw by writing a check addressed to themselves from the bank accounts of the business.

From the check that has been cashed out, the owner can then deposit those funds into their own accounts where they can use those funds to pay for their own expenses and not of the company’s.

An owner’s draw is relatively uncomplicated and direct when two conditions are met with the first being that the company is structured for taxation purposes as either a partnership, limited liability company or a sole proprietorship business entity.

The second condition is that the money being withdrawn comes directly from your own business equity.

The cash withdrawn will reduce the amount in your own equity’s balance and thus increase the losses the business faces if any.

The equity of any business owner can be increased by adding more funds to the capital that has been invested and by the business earning more profits.

The alternatives to an Owner’s Draw

Instead of taking money from an owner’s draw, partners involved in a partnership may opt to obtain guaranteed payments.

Guaranteed payments are processed as standard partnership income distributions which are not subjected to income tax withholding and are customarily tax deductible by the business as it classifies as a business expense.

It is important to take note that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prohibits the partners of a partnership or the owner of a sole proprietorship to pay themselves a salary or wage as an employee of their business.

Businesses that are structured and classified as an S corporation can pay out salaries to the owners of the business and have them paid in dividends in conjunction with those owners being able to take an owner’s draw.

Come time for settling taxes, an S corporation is similar to a limited liability company, partnership and sole proprietorship in the sense that the business’ losses and profits passes directly through to the owners or owner of the business and are then reported on their individual tax returns instead of being reported first on the business’ tax returns before it gets reported onto the owner’s tax returns.

Small business owners do not tend to choose to have their company structured as a C corporation due in part to the complication of legal and financial matters and the fact that a C corporation would subject the owners to what is known as double taxation where taxes on dividends and corporate taxes are paid.

Shareholders in a company are usually the owners of a corporation.

When a shareholder is the part owner of a corporation, their ownership is dependent on the shares of stocks they own in the company where dividends are paid out to them in proportion to the shares of stocks they own if the board of directors have approved of this.

The owners or shareholders of C and S corporations that also take on the role of employees or officers in the company are obligated by the Internal Revenue Service to have themselves paid a compensation that is reasonable.

The owners or shareholders of a C corporation do not take owner’s draws from the business however, they can be paid through dividends on their shares of stocks in addition to a bonus that goes hand in hand with their compulsory salary.

A limited liability company that is owned by a single member is automatically handled as sole proprietorship for the purposes of federal taxation.

On the other hand, a limited liability company that is owned by multiple members is automatically handled as a partnership for taxation purposes.

Despite this, the owner or owners of a limited liability company can decide to have their businesses handled as a C corporation or S corporation instead.

How does a Draw effect Tax?

An owner’s draw, like a dividend and other kinds of distributions, is not usually subject to payroll taxes once it has been paid.

However, income and self employment taxes will still need to be paid for Medicare and Social Security on owner’s draws every quarter on a basis that is estimated and when individual federal tax returns are filed.

Other things to consider

Money that has been taken from an owner’s draw cannot be deposited as a contribution into a retirement savings plan.

The Internal Revenue Service only permits retirement savings plan contributions to come from either your wages or your salary.

The possibility of reducing your stake of ownership in the business as well as reducing the value of the corporation or company as whole when you lower the capital you have invested into the business by taking an owner’s draw is present.

It will be in your best interest to fully know and understand the terms and conditions specified in the business agreement you entered with the other owners of the company before a drawn is taken. It would be beneficial to consult with legal and financial professionals before taking an owner’s draw.

Key Takeaways

  • An owner’s draw is the money that the business owner withdraws from the bank account of the business typically done by writing a check to themselves.
  • Every owner’s draw taken will lower the amount of the business’ equity and thus affect its value as a whole.
  •  An owner of certain business entities like a limited liability company, S corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship can opt to take an owner’s draw while an owner of a C corporation cannot.

The information shared in this article is not a substitute for actual legal or tax advice nor is it actual tax or legal advice in itself.

The information shared in this article may not accurately depict your presiding state’s laws or the current changes that have been made to it since state and federal laws change often.

For tax or legal advice that is up to date, it is always best to consult with a qualified attorney or accountant.

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  1. IRS.gov "Types of Retirement Plans" Page 1 . July 8, 2021

  2. IRS.gov "Paying Yourself" Page 1 . July 8, 2021

  3. IRS.gov "S Corporations" Page 1 . July 8, 2021

  4. IRS.gov "S Corporation Employees, Shareholders and Corporate Officers" Page 1 . July 8, 2021

  5. IRS.gov "Employment Taxes" Page 1 . July 8, 2021