Question: If I employ my 17-year old child, what withholding, etc. is required?
Whether a parent who employs his or her child in a family business must withhold FICA and pay FUTA taxes will depend on the age of the teenager, the amount of income the teenager earns and the type of business.
FICA and FUTA taxes
A child under age 18 working for a parent is not subject to FICA so long as the parent's business is a sole proprietorship or a partnership in which each partner is a parent of the child (if there are additional partners, the taxes must be withheld). FUTA does not have to be paid until the child reaches age 21. These rules apply to a child's services in a trade or business.
If the child's services are for other than a trade or business, such as domestic work in the parent's private home, FICA and FUTA taxes do not apply until the child reaches 21.
The rules are also different if the child is employed by a corporation controlled by his or her parent. In this case, FICA and FUTA taxes must be paid.
Federal income taxes
Federal income taxes should be withheld, regardless of the age of the child, unless the child is subject to an exemption. Students are not automatically exempt, though. The teenager has to show that he or she expects no federal income tax liability for the current tax year and that the teenager had no income tax liability the prior tax year either. Additionally, the teenager cannot claim an exemption from withholding if he or she can be claimed as a dependent on another person's return, has more than $250 unearned income, and has income from both earned and unearned sources totaling more than $800.
Bona fide employee
Remember also, that whenever a parent employs his or her child, the child must be a bona fide employee, and the employer-employee relationship must be established or the IRS will not allow the business expense deduction for the child's wages or salary. To establish a standard employer-employee relationship, the parent should assign regular duties and hours to the child, and the pay must be reasonable with the industry norm for the work. Too generous pay will be disallowed by the IRS.