Corporations offer the most protection to their owners against personal liability, but the cost of forming a corporation is higher than that of other structures. Companies also require more thorough record keeping, operational processes, and reporting. If you want sole or principal control of the company and its activities, the best option might be a sole proprietorship or an LLC. You can also negotiate such control in a partnership agreement.
An S corporation has one class of stock and no more than 100 shareholders, none of whom can be another for-profit company or a person without a green card who does not meet the IRS residency requirements. Profits are taxed on shareholder tax returns and shareholders have limited liability. A corporation whose profits are taxed once at the business level and a second time at the individual level when the profits are distributed to shareholders, who have limited liability for the company's debts. C corporations can have multiple classes of shares and an unlimited number of shareholders.
In a sole proprietorship, if your company is sued and loses, your personal assets, real estate, cars, and bank accounts may be the objective of the parties seeking to collect damages. The same can be said, in some cases, if you don't pay back a business loan and sign a personal guarantee, or if the lender places a lien on your assets. The lender may try to recover your investment in your personal property. In a general partnership, creditors can pursue any of the partners' personal assets to recover the entire debt.
It's different in a limited partnership, where only general partners are personally responsible for the company's debts, while limited partners are responsible for the company's debts only up to the amount of their investment. More common among lawyers are limited liability companies, which limit the liability of partners for the firm's debts, but still hold them individually responsible for their professional activities. There are also limited liability companies, a kind of limited partnership that extends limited liability to general partners, not just limited partners. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations are transfer entities, as are some LLCs.
In a transfer entity, profits are transferred directly to the owners of the company. When it's time to pay taxes, it's reported on individual homeowners' returns. C corporations are separate entities from their owners, so their profits are taxed at the corporate level. If a corporation pays dividends, which come from its after-tax income, shareholders must also pay taxes on their profits.
Partnerships are generally governed by agreements that specify how the company's profits are divided between the parties and what happens when a partner retires, becomes disabled, files for bankruptcy or dies. An S corporation or C corporation is required by law to have a board of directors to oversee the management of the company on behalf of shareholders. For S and C corporations, administrative complexity increases and you'll almost certainly need an attorney and an accountant. In every state, there are tax and legal obstacles to overcome in order for companies to comply and continue to comply with regulations.
Failure to meet deadlines, payment of certain fees, and submission of appropriate forms may result in penalties. If you are looking for fast, cash-requiring growth, C corporations allow multiple classes of shares and do not restrict the number or type of shareholders. They are the best option if you are looking for venture capitalist investments or if you are planning to become a publicly traded company, rather than a privately owned one, in the short or medium term. Sole proprietorships are the easiest business structure to form.
And they have the least amount of government regulation. Managing a corporation may require the help of an attorney or accountant, which can increase the company's overall costs. The best business structure for a small business will depend on the particular characteristics and needs of that business. Depending on the business structure you choose, your personal assets could be at risk if your company is unable to pay debts.
If you expect to make a profit or if there are any potential risks when operating your business, you must operate under a formal legal structure to protect your personal assets. If you're hoping to reinvest most of the profits back into your small business and don't need to attract investors, it would make sense to form an LLC. Under an LLC, members are protected from personal liability for the company's debts if it cannot be proven that they acted in a negligent or unlawful manner that harmed another person while carrying out the company's activities. In the case of non-corporate business structures, paperwork and initial fees are relatively light and simple enough for landlords to manage without special knowledge (although it's a good idea to consult a lawyer or accountant for help).
Informal business structures, such as sole proprietorships and partnerships, offer no protection because there is no separation between the company and the owner. We'll explore business legal structures and how to choose the right structure for your organization. Typically, anticipated expenses will include state and federal rates, taxes, commercial equipment leasing, office space, bank fees, and any professional services your company contracts out to. The sole proprietor files taxes in their name and is personally responsible for any action taken against the company.
Structuring your company is one of the first and most impactful decisions you'll make when starting your business. An LLC structure may be the best option for some companies, while a corporation or association may work better for others. The biggest advantage of starting a sole proprietorship or partnership is simplicity; it couldn't be easier or less expensive to start a business. An LLC is the easiest way to structure your business to protect your personal assets in the event that your business suffers a loss.