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Question added to topic Legal Basics For StartupsJuly 17, 2008

Can I get in trouble for doing jobs under the table, even though I'm underage?

I cut lawns, sell split and dried wood, make maple syrup and sell it, and do other assorted jobs. I pocket all the money. Can I get into trouble for it? Also, what could I do to turn one of these into a legitimate business, even though im 17?
Just because you're a teenager, don't assume your income isn't taxable. And the IRS doesn’t look kindly upon people who don't pay their taxes and don't file properly.

"Teenage taxation" is a complicated area. Depending on the kind of work you're doing, you could be considered either a household employee (in which case you should receive W-2 income) or an independent contractor, in which case you are obligated to pay self-employment taxes.

It all depends on a number of factors, including the amount you earn, the work you are doing to earn the money and the extent to which you are advertising your services.

To start your own business, you'll need the permission of a parent or guardian, who will (at least nominally) need to be in charge of the business, as teenagers are not, by law, able to form businesses or enter into contracts. Speak first with your family accountant about your tax situation and to get guidance on whether a separate business entity is really needed from a tax and financial perspective.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.

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