CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- It's been another rough year for teen job-seekers. High schoolers have to compete with unemployed adults for retail positions at the mall, while local budget cuts mean fewer openings for traditional summer jobs such as lifeguards and camp counselors.Which makes it the perfect time for small-business owners to give the younger generation a chance. Whether it's your own kids, teenage relatives or the children of family friends, providing a summer job in your business will help them earn some extra money, learn skills and boost their confidence. "I'm a big believer in getting kids involved in your business whenever you can," says Peter Johnson, director of the Institute for Family Business at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. A 6- or 7-year-old can help stuff envelopes for a mailing; older children can unpack inventory or keep the company's Web site updated. "One of the biggest problems family businesses have is when a son or daughter graduates from college and is expected to come into the business," he says. "Many times they'll say no, because all they've heard are the negative things." It's natural to come home and complain about what went wrong at work, rather than celebrate what went right. But children who are never exposed to the day-to-day rhythms of your company might never understand its ups and downs. Giving them firsthand experience of what you do shows them the reality of your business and helps them visualize a possible future role there. "It's a great opportunity to give your child the tools to discover if the business is right for him or her," Johnson says. "Whether or not they end up choosing to work with you, they have an actual picture of what the business is like, good and bad." A bonus for business owners who hire their teenagers? They get a tax break. If your business is unincorporated and the child is younger than 18, you don't have to withhold FICA or federal unemployment taxes. To make sure the arrangement is aboveboard taxwise, treat your child as a regular employee, with the accompanying paperwork to back it up. First and most importantly, make sure your child is doing a well-defined job essential to the running of your business. Make-work projects don't do your child any good, and they won't withstand the scrutiny of an audit.
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