Tax planning is an integral part of financial management One effective strategy to minimize your tax liability is income splitting. This process involves redistributing your earnings among family members in a way that leverages lower tax rates or takes advantage of tax credits available to certain individuals. In this blog you will learn about income splitting with a particular focus on earned income. We will explore its benefits, eligibility criteria, rules, tax brackets, and attribution rules.

The Basics of Income Splitting

Income splitting is a tax strategy that allows individuals or families to optimize their overall tax situation by reallocating their income among family members. The primary goal is to reduce the family’s collective tax liability by shifting income from higher-earning individuals to those in lower tax brackets or who may qualify for specific tax credits.

This is a complex but valuable tool for tax planning. It can be particularly advantageous for married couples filing jointly, families with dependent children, and those with varying income levels among family members.

Eligibility and Regulations

Before embarking on an income splitting strategy, it’s crucial to understand who is eligible and the applicable regulations. Eligibility primarily revolves around family relationships and specific tax provisions. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. Married Couples: Married couples, whether filing jointly or separately, have various opportunities for income splitting. Joint filers can take advantage of lower tax brackets and potential tax credits to reduce their overall tax liability.
  2. Dependents: Parents can often split income with their dependent children by allocating a portion of their earnings or investment income to their children’s tax returns. This can be an effective way to reduce the family’s overall tax burden.
  3. Gifts and Inheritances: Gifts and inheritances received by family members can also be subject to income splitting rules. Proper planning and documentation are essential in these scenarios.
  4. Spousal IRAs: Spousal Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) enable non-working or lower-earning spouses to contribute to retirement accounts in their name, utilizing the higher-earning spouse’s income.

Earned Income and Income Splitting

Earned income, which includes wages, salaries, and self-employment income, is a significant component of most families’ finances. When it comes to income splitting, earned income can be a critical focus due to its prevalence and potential for tax savings.

Benefits of Earned Income Splitting

  1. Progressive Tax System: The United States employs a progressive tax system, meaning that as your income increases, you enter higher tax brackets with higher tax rates. Income splitting can be advantageous when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. By redistributing income to the lower-earning spouse, you may collectively fall into a lower tax bracket. This results in overall tax savings.
  2. Tax Credits: Many tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, are based on earned income. Income splitting can help a family maximize these credits. It ensures that the lower-earning spouse or dependent children have sufficient earned income to qualify for the full credits.
  3. Retirement Planning: Income splitting can also be beneficial for retirement planning. Contributions to retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, are often based on earned income. By allocating some of the higher-earning spouse’s income to the lower-earning spouse, you can maximize retirement savings.

Tax Brackets and Income Splitting

To fully capitalize on earned income splitting, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the U.S. tax brackets. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the U.S. tax system consisted of seven tax brackets, each with its corresponding tax rate. Here are the brackets for married couples filing jointly, which can serve as a guideline:

  • 10% on income up to $22,000
  • 12% on income from $22,001 to $89,450
  • 22% on income from $89,451 to $190,750
  • 24% on income from $190,751 to $364,200
  • 32% on income from $364,201 to $462,500
  • 35% on income from $462,500 to $693,750
  • 37% on income over $693,751

To view the full 2023 tax brackets click here.

By redistributing earned income to the spouse or family member in a lower tax bracket, you may effectively reduce your overall tax liability. This can be particularly valuable when there is a significant income disparity between family members.

Attribution Rules

While this can offer substantial tax benefits, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has established attribution rules to prevent abuse and ensure that it is conducted legitimately. These rules are designed to attribute income back to the original earner in certain circumstances. Understanding and adhering to these rules is essential to avoid unintended tax consequences.

Some common attribution rules in the U.S. include:

  • Kiddie Tax: The Kiddie Tax applies to unearned income (e.g., interest, dividends) of dependent children under a certain age. This income may be taxed at the parents’ tax rate to prevent parents from shifting investment income to their children to take advantage of lower tax rates.
  • Spousal IRA Contributions: Spousal IRAs allow non-working or lower-earning spouses to contribute to an IRA based on the earned income of the higher-earning spouse. However, there are rules governing contributions and withdrawals to ensure fairness.

Documentation and Compliance

One of the most critical aspects of income splitting in the United States is documentation and compliance. To successfully implement income splitting strategies and avoid potential audits or penalties, it’s essential to maintain thorough records and adhere to IRS regulations. Here are some key tips:

  1. Maintain Clear Records: Keep detailed records of all income, deductions, and allocations related to your income splitting strategy. This includes records of income earned, transfers between family members, and any relevant tax forms.
  2. File Accurate Tax Returns: Ensure that all tax returns accurately reflect the income and deductions associated with your income splitting strategy. Be truthful and transparent in your filings to avoid potential issues with the IRS.
  3. Consult a Tax Professional: Given the complexity of income splitting and changing tax laws, it’s advisable to consult a qualified tax professional or accountant. They can help you navigate the intricacies of tax planning, ensure compliance, and identify opportunities for tax savings.
  4. Stay Informed: Tax laws and regulations in the United States can change over time. Stay informed about updates to the tax code that may impact your income splitting strategy.


Income splitting can be a powerful tool for minimizing your tax liability, especially when it comes to earned income. By strategically redistributing income among family members, you can potentially reduce your overall tax burden. You can also qualify for tax credits, and enhance your retirement savings. However, it’s essential to approach income splitting with a clear understanding of eligibility criteria, tax brackets, attribution rules, and the importance of documentation and compliance.

To make the most of income splitting, contact a tax professional. We can help you have the personalized experience that you deserve. By staying informed and making informed decisions, you can harness the full potential of income splitting to optimize your tax efficiency and secure your financial future.

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