The Income Question: Different Ways to Pay Yourself as a Small Business Owner


As a small business owner, determining how to pay yourself is a crucial aspect of managing your personal finances while running your business. While the best approach may depend on various factors, such as your business structure and tax regulations, understanding the different payment options available to you is essential. In this blog post, we’ll explore several common methods small business owners can use to pay themselves.

Owner’s Draw:

  • An owner’s draw is a straightforward method commonly used by sole proprietors, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs). With an owner’s draw, you can withdraw money from the business’s profits as needed. Simply transfer funds from the business account to your personal account. It’s important to note that owner’s draws are not considered salary or wages, so they don’t involve payroll taxes. Consult with an accountant to ensure compliance with tax regulations and track your withdrawals accurately.


  • Paying yourself a regular salary is a common approach that provides stability and structure. Treating yourself as an employee of your business allows for consistent income and simplifies tax withholding and reporting. Set a reasonable salary based on industry standards, your financial needs, and the profitability of your business. Be sure to follow payroll procedures, including issuing pay stubs, deducting payroll taxes, and filing the necessary tax forms.


  • If your business is structured as a corporation and you are a shareholder, you may be eligible to receive dividends. Dividends are distributions of profits to shareholders, typically based on the number of shares each shareholder owns. Unlike salaries, dividends may have different tax implications, so it’s crucial to consult with an accountant or tax professional to understand the specific regulations and requirements governing dividend payments.

Profit Distributions:

  • For partnerships and LLCs, profit distributions are a common method of paying owners. These distributions are based on the agreed-upon ownership percentages and are typically derived from the business’s profits. Profit distributions are separate from salaries and are subject to different tax treatment. Consult with an accountant or tax advisor to determine the appropriate distribution strategy and ensure compliance with tax laws.

Reimbursement of Business Expenses:

  • Instead of taking a direct salary, you can opt to have your business reimburse you for legitimate expenses incurred on its behalf. Maintain detailed records and receipts for these expenses, and submit them to your business for reimbursement. Reimbursement allows you to recoup your out-of-pocket expenses while keeping personal and business finances separate. Consult with an accountant to ensure proper documentation and compliance with tax regulations.

Retirement Contributions:

  • Paying yourself by contributing to retirement accounts is a smart long-term strategy. As a small business owner, you can contribute to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Simplified Employee Pension IRAs (SEP IRAs), or Solo 401(k) plans. These contributions provide tax advantages and help you build personal retirement savings while reducing your taxable income. Consult with a financial advisor to determine the most suitable retirement plan for your business and personal financial goals.


Choosing the right method to pay yourself as a small business owner is crucial for managing your personal finances and ensuring compliance with tax regulations. Whether you opt for an owner’s draw, salary, dividends, profit distributions, reimbursement of business expenses, or retirement contributions, it’s important to understand the implications of each approach. Consult with professionals, such as accountants, tax advisors, and financial planners, to determine the most suitable payment method for your specific business structure and financial goals. By implementing an appropriate payment strategy, you can effectively manage your personal finances while nurturing the growth and success of your small business.