What Is an Owner's Draw?

Definition & Examples of Owner's Draws

An Owner Taking a Draw From His Company Illustrated as a Man Hauling Away Fruit From a Tree
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An owner's draw is an amount of money taken out from a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or S corporation by the owner for their personal use. It's a way for them to pay themselves instead of taking a salary.

Small business owners should learn about the circumstances under which they could pay themselves with an owner's draw and the tax and legal consequences, if any, of doing so.

What Is an Owner's Draw?

A sole owner or co-owner can take money out of their business through an owner's draw. Owner's draws can be taken out at regular intervals or as needed.

The draw comes from owner's equity—the accumulated funds the owner has put into the business plus their shares of profits and losses. An owner can take all of their owner's equity out of the company as a draw. But they should first carefully evaluate whether doing so would prevent the business from having enough capital to continue operating.

Owner's draws are not tax-deductible expenses and should not be listed on your business's Schedule C. Salaries, however, are deductible.

Alternate names: Draw or personal draw

How Does an Owner's Draw Work?

Business owners generally take draws by writing a check to themselves from their business bank accounts. After they have deposited the funds in their own personal account, they can pay for personal expenses with it.

Draws are pretty straightforward when 1) your company is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an LLC that is structured for tax purposes as either of the previous kinds of business entities and 2) the money is coming out of your owner's equity. The money you take out reduces your owner's equity balance—and so do business losses. Your owner's equity balance can be increased by additional capital you invest and by business profits.

Alternatives to an Owner's Draw

Instead of an owner's draw, partners in a partnership may receive guaranteed payments that are not subject to income tax withholding. They are treated as distributions of ordinary partnership income and are typically deductible by the business as a business expense.

The IRS does not permit owners of a sole proprietorship or partnership to pay themselves a salary as an employee of the business.

If your business is structured as an S corporation, you receive a salary and may take an owner's draw and get paid dividends. Like a sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC that is treated for tax purposes like either of those two other kinds of business structures, under an S corporation, profits and losses generally flow through to the owner or owners and are reported on individual (not business) tax returns. 

Relatively few small business owners choose to structure their company as a C corporation. This type of business is subject to both corporate taxes and taxes on dividends—a phenomenon referred to as double taxation—and it is also more complicated to run in terms of legal and financial issues.

Owners of corporations are typically shareholders in the company—meaning their ownership stakes are held through shares of stock in the company that can pay dividends if they are approved by the board of directors.

Owners/shareholders of S and C corporations who also act as officers or employees of the company are required by the Internal Revenue Service to pay themselves reasonable compensation.

Owners/shareholders of C corporations do not take draws from the business. They may be paid dividends on their shares as well as a bonus in addition to their required salary.

A single-owner LLC is treated by default as a sole proprietorship for federal tax purposes, and a multiple-owner LLC is treated by default as a partnership. However, the owner or owners of an LLC may choose to have it treated as an S corporation or a C corporation.

How Does a Draw Affect Taxes?

Owner's draws (as well as dividends and other types of distributions) are generally not subject to payroll taxes when they're paid, but you will need to pay income and self-employment taxes—for Social Security and Medicare—on them quarterly, on an estimated basis, and when you file your individual federal tax return.

Other Considerations

You cannot contribute money from a draw toward a retirement savings plan. The IRS enables you to do that only from earned income: salary or wages.

Taking a draw and lowering your amount of capital in the business could decrease your ownership stake in the business and the value of the company as a whole. Be sure you completely understand the terms of your business agreement with any other owners before taking a draw.

You may want to consult with financial and legal professionals before taking an owner's draw.

Key Takeaways

  • An owner's draw is an amount of money an owner takes out of a business, usually by writing a check.
  • A draw lowers the owner's equity in the business.
  • An owner of a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S corporation may take an owner's draw; an owner of a C corporation may not.

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.

Article Sources

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  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Deducting Business Expenses." Accessed July 30, 2020.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 541 (02/2019), Partnerships." Accessed July 30, 2020.

  6. Microsoft. "How to Pay Yourself as a Business Owner." Accessed July 30, 2020.

  7. Nolo. "S Corporations and Salaries: An IRS Hot Button Issue." Accessed July 30, 2020.

  8. Butterfield Schechter LLP. "Differences in Filing as an LLC, Partnership, S Corp, Sole Proprietorship and Independent Contractor." Accessed July 30, 2020.

  9. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Choose a Business Structure." Accessed July 30, 2020.

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  11. Zacks. "Can I Invest in a Roth With Just Dividend Income?" Accessed July 30, 2020.