How to Pay Yourself as a Business Owner

Sept 15,2022

Owner’s Draw or Salary: How to Pay Yourself

Some business owners pay themselves a salary, while others compensate themselves with an owner’s draw. But how do you know which one (or both) is an option for your business? Follow these steps.

Step #1: Understand the difference between salary vs. dra

Before you can decide which method is best for you, you need to understand the basics. Here’s a high-level look at the difference between a salary and an owner’s draw (or simply, a draw):

  • Owner’s Draw: The business owner takes funds out of the business for personal use. Draws can happen at regular intervals, or when needed.
  • Salary: The business owner determines a set wage or amount of money for themselves, and then cuts a paycheck for themselves every pay period.

Those are the nuts and bolts, but we’ll dig into even more details of salaries and draws in a later section.

Step #2: Understand how business classification impacts your decision

There are a lot of factors that will influence your choice between a salary, draw, or another payment method (like dividends), but your business classification is the biggest one. The main types of business entities include:

  • Sole Proprietor
  • Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC)
  • Public corporation
  • Corporation controlled by a public corporation

Why does this matter? Because different business structures have different rules for the business owner’s compensation. For example, if your business is a partnership, you can’t earn a salary because Revenue Canada says you can’t be both a partner and an employee.

Step #3: Understand how owner’s equity factors into your decision

“Owner’s equity” is a term you’ll hear frequently when considering whether to take a salary or a draw from your business. Accountants define equity as the remaining value invested into a business after all liabilities have been deducted.

When you contribute cash, equipment, and assets to your business, you’re given equity—another term for ownership—in your business entity, which means you’re able to take money out of the business each year.

It’s important to understand your equity, because if you choose to take a draw, your total draw can’t exceed your total owner’s equity.

Step #4: Understand tax and compliance implications

In addition to the different rules for how various business entities allow business owners to pay themselves, there are also various tax implications to consider.

Canada recognizes five broad categories of corporation. Each has advantages for certain types of businesses and tax rates, but none is perfect for everybody. Be sure to check in with a professional for advice before settling on one of these forms for your business.

Step #5: Determine how much to pay yourself

There’s a lot that goes into figuring out how to pay yourself. But here’s your next question: How much should you pay yourself?

There’s not one answer or formula that applies across the board. You’ll need to take the following factors into account:

  • Business structure
  • Business performance
  • Business growth
  • Reasonable compensation
  • Personal needs

Step #6: Choose salary vs. draw to pay yourself

Once you’ve considered all of the above factors, you’re ready to determine whether to pay yourself with a salary, draw, or a combination of both.

You’ll also have a better understanding of how much compensation you’re realistically able to take out of your business.

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