It is important to take a very close look at the finances of a self-employed party in a support case. Generally, actual earnings will be utilized to accurately measure the income available for support and ability to pay. However, in a few circumstances, including at times the case of a self-employed party, earning capacity may be used instead to effectuate economic justice. For example, a self-employed party may reduce the salary they pay themselves in order to try to reduce the support obligation. Additionally, many self-employed parties claim a lot of deductions on their tax returns before reporting their net income. A portion of these deductions may be added back when the court is trying to determine a more accurate figure for income.
Specifically, the courts may consider all the personal perks provided at the expense of the company such as cell phone, car payments, entertainment, meal, or travel expenses, country club dues, and other comparable expenses that primarily benefit the individual. These expenses may be still be permissible deductions for tax purposes but the court should consider the amount and nature of these expenses in a support case. In Commonwealth v. Gutzeit, the Defendant owned his own business and claimed entertaining, maintenance and repairs of automobiles, life insurance for himself, and even gas for his Wife’s car as business expenses (180 A.2d 324 at 327). The court acknowledged that while the total sum of these deductions should not necessarily be added back in at least a part of them should be as determined from all the circumstances of the specific case to arrive at a reasonable earning capacity.