Why would a shareholder of a closely held construction company owe the company money and have it show as a debit loan/receivable on the company books? Let’s consider some possible explanations:
- The shareholder is using the corporate checkbook for personal expenses that are reflected as a loan;
- The shareholder needs to borrow funds for acquisition of property and is using the company for the down payment. It may be business-related: For example, the down payment could be needed to purchase an owner-occupied property in which the construction company is located and is now paying rent; or
- At the end of the year, distributions are reclassified to a receivable to ensure there were not distributions in excess of basis taxable to the shareholder.
Regardless of the reason, money has left the company and a debit shareholder loan must now be addressed. This article will cover the tax issues associated with such loans, focusing on implications to S corporations and their shareholders.
Determine If the Receivable Is a Loan
The main issue to consider is whether the shareholder receivable is truly a loan, which has several tax implications. If it’s not truly a loan, the IRS could argue one of the following:
- Are the amounts actually additional taxable compensation? This would result in an increased deduction to the company and increased ordinary taxable income to the owner-shareholder subject to employment taxes.
- Are the amounts actually a constructive dividend? Here, the result is potential taxability as ordinary income or capital gain.
If the debit loan account is in fact a loan for tax purposes, then the IRS could still argue that the interest that has yet to be charged (or paid) for below-market rate loans should be subject to additional taxable income.