It is no secret that tax laws are confusing and frustrating. However, one strategy that can offer significant tax savings is the “pass-through entity tax” election. This election can be particularly beneficial for owners of S corporations, partnerships, and LLCs. Understanding how this election works and how it can save you money is crucial for optimizing your tax situation.

Understanding Pass-Through Entities

A pass-through entity is a business structure where the income, deductions, credits, and other tax attributes pass through to the owners or shareholders, rather than being taxed at the entity level. Common examples include:

  • S Corporations
  • Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) taxed as partnerships or S corporations

In a pass-through entity, the business itself does not pay federal income tax. Instead, the income “passes through” to the individual owners, who then report it on their personal tax returns. This can result in tax savings due to the potential lower individual tax rates compared to corporate tax rates.

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The State-Level Pass-Through Entity Tax Election

The pass-through entity tax election is a state-level provision that allows pass-through entities to elect to be taxed at the entity level, rather than passing all the income directly to the owners. This election is available in several states as a response to the federal cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The SALT deduction cap limits the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted on individual federal income tax returns to $10,000.

By electing to pay state taxes at the entity level, the business can deduct the state taxes paid from its federal taxable income without being subject to the SALT deduction cap. This means the business income that passes through to the owners is effectively reduced by the amount of state taxes paid, leading to a lower federal tax burden for the owners.

Example Scenario

Let’s consider a practical example to illustrate the tax savings potential:

  1. Business Without Election:
    • Business Income: $500,000
    • State Tax Rate: 5%
    • State Taxes Paid: $25,000
    • SALT Deduction Limit: $10,000

    Without the election, the business income of $500,000 passes through to the owner’s individual tax return. The owner can only deduct $10,000 of the state taxes paid, leaving $490,000 subject to federal taxes.

  2. Business With Election:
    • Business Income: $500,000
    • State Tax Rate: 5%
    • State Taxes Paid: $25,000

    With the election, the business pays $25,000 in state taxes at the entity level and deducts this amount from its federal taxable income. The remaining $475,000 passes through to the owner, reducing the federal taxable income and thus the federal tax liability.

Key Considerations

While the pass-through entity tax election can provide significant tax benefits, there are several factors to consider:

  • Eligibility: Not all states offer this election, and eligibility requirements vary. Check your state’s specific provisions and consult with a tax professional to determine if your business qualifies.
  • State Tax Rates: The election may not be advantageous in states with low tax rates or where the entity-level tax rate is higher than the individual rate.
  • Administrative Complexity: Electing and complying with entity-level taxes can add administrative burden and complexity to your tax filings. Ensure that your business has the necessary resources to handle these requirements.


The pass-through entity tax election can be a powerful tool for reducing federal tax liability for business owners in eligible states. By allowing state taxes to be deducted at the entity level, it bypasses the SALT deduction cap and potentially results in significant tax savings. As always, it’s important to consult with a tax professional to understand how this election might benefit your specific situation and to navigate the complexities involved.