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Shareholder Distributions for Sole S Corp Owners
Shareholder Distributions for Sole S Corp Owners
Updated over a week ago

What to know

A shareholder distribution is a way to take funds out of your business without incurring payroll taxes. For a solely owned S Corporation, this is achieved by transferring funds from your business checking account to your personal bank account. However, it's essential to be mindful of certain restrictions and considerations, as outlined below.

Shareholder Distributions vs. Wages

Shareholder distributions are different than wages. While wages are processed via your payroll system (Gusto), shareholder distributions are simple transfers of money from your business checking account to your personal account. As the sole shareholder-employee of an S Corp, you are required to pay yourself a reasonable wage, which is something you should prioritize before taking any shareholder distributions.


If your company is operating at a loss or the company has taken loans out, it's possible for distributions to result in negative shareholder basis, which can trigger capital gains tax. For more information on shareholder basis, click here.

When to Take a Shareholder Distribution

Before taking a shareholder distribution, prioritize the following:

  1. Confirm that you already submitted payroll for the current month.

  2. Confirm that you already transferred funds for the accountable plan expenses for the prior month.

  3. Confirm that your distribution will not cause your business checking account to dip below your reasonable minimum business checking balance. For many of our members, a good balance to aim for is $5,000-10,000 depending on the monthly salary amount.

  4. Confirm that you have sufficient shareholder basis for the desired distribution amount.

As long as you have completed/prioritized the items above, you can take shareholder distributions whenever desired, as often as you want.

How to Take a Shareholder Distribution

Simply transfer funds from your business checking account to your personal checking account. You can use any method you would like for transferring the funds (except for Gusto, which should only be used for monthly payroll). When you go to initiate the transfer, your bank may include a memo option. If possible, use the memo to indicate that the transfer is a shareholder distribution. In some cases, this memo will be included as part of the bank detail that is passed through to the accounting system.


Why Are My Shareholder Distributions on the Balance Sheet More Than What I Transferred To Myself?

It is important to understand that, from an accounting perspective, a shareholder distribution may be created when a customer payment is received in a personal account as opposed to a business account. Shareholder distributions are also increased when you accidentally make a personal purchase on a business account.

If you notice that the total shareholder distributions shown on your balance sheet seems higher than expected, consider whether you had business transactions in a personal account after your S Corp books start date (if you are unsure of your S Corp books start date, you can request this information by emailing [email protected]).

For example, when building your books, your onboarding accountant may have worked with you to include business activity from a personal account - by either uploading a spreadsheet or temporarily connecting your personal account to the accounting software. In these cases, your onboarding accountant eventually closed out the temporary personal accounts used during the book rebuild, and as a result, a shareholder distribution (or contribution) was created on the balance sheet of the S Corp.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining accounting or other financial advice from an appropriate financial adviser or for the purpose of avoiding U.S. Federal, state or local tax payments and penalties.

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