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Employer Identification Number (EIN)

EIN stands for Employer Identification Number. The IRS requires that you have such a number when you incorporate or form an LLC. Think of an EIN as a Social Security number for your business. You will file all your tax returns using this number and you will need this number to open a bank account for the business.

Once you’ve filed your incorporation papers and they’ve been approved by the Secretary of State, your corporation needs to file for an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. An EIN is a permanent number assigned to your business, which is used for official corporate business such as opening bank accounts and paying taxes.

How Do I Get an EIN?

You can apply for the EIN yourself on the IRS.gov website for free; however, some people find this confusing and/or do not wish to spend the time doing it themselves. If this is the case for you, Corporate Direct can obtain one for you for a small service fee. Whichever way you choose, know that it required for your business.

The IRS allows businesses to apply for an EIN either online, by phone, fax or mail. If applying online, the EIN is assigned immediately upon completion of the interview-style application that walks you through type of business, identity of business, authentication, addresses, details and confirmation of the new EIN number.

Even though receiving the number is immediate, it can take up to two weeks to be added into the IRS database and until it is added, the number can’t be used for filing returns. In order to avoid any issues, be sure to obtain your EIN as soon as possible. 

C Corporation

What is a C Corporation?

illustration of a storefrontCorporations have been used for over 500 years to limit owners’ liability and thus encourage business investment and risk taking. Their use for this purpose continues to this day. 

You will hear about both C Corporations and S Corporations. Both are corporations with charters granted by the state of organization. You can organize in Nevada for the best asset protection laws, for example, and qualify to do business in California. In that case, you will have one corporation paying annual fees in two states (which many people do). While we like and often use S Corporations, we keenly appreciate the advantages of C Corporations. They certainly have their merit and a place in your entity structure strategy.

The C and the S refer to IRS Code Sections. C corps feature a double taxation – one tax at the company level and another tax on profits distributed to shareholders. This double tax is why many people consider S corps, which has only one level of tax. But there are restrictions on ownership of S corps, where as there are no such limits on C corps.

Here is a quick list of C Corporation advantages:

  • They can have an unlimited amount of shareholders, from anywhere in the world.
  • For Nevada and Wyoming corporations, officers and directors can reside anywhere in the world. This can be a boon for foreign investors. 
  • They can have several different classes of shares.
  • They have the widest range of deductions and expenses allowed by the IRS (more on this below).
  • They are the most widely recognized business entity in the world, and are the premier entity for going public.
  • In Nevada and Wyoming, nominee (or stand-in) officers and directors can be utilized, adding extra levels of privacy.
Image Link to download full c-corporation guide pdf

Tax Advantage: Wide Range of Deductions and Expenses

A C Corporation has the widest range of deductions and expenses allowed by the IRS, especially in the area of employee fringe benefits. A C Corporation can set up medical reimbursement and other employee benefits, and deduct the costs of running these programs, including all premiums paid. The employees, including you as the owner/shareholder, will also not pay taxes on the value of those benefits.

This is not the case in a flow-through entity, such as an S Corporation, LLC or LP. In each of those cases the entity may write off the costs of the benefits, but any employee/shareholder who owns more than 2% of the entity will pay taxes on the value of their benefits received. So, if having the maximum deductions and all of the employee fringe benefits on a tax-free basis is important to you, a C-Corp may be your entity choice.

Which type of business works well as a C Corp?

C Corporations are great for a business that sells products, has a storefront and employees, and may or may not have a warehouse where it keeps its inventory. C-Corps don’t work well with businesses that want to hold appreciating assets, such as real estate, because of the tax treatment on the sale of these assets.

Tax Disadvantage: Double Taxation Issues

The most often-cited disadvantage of using a C-Corp is the “double-taxation” issue. Double-taxation happens when a C-Corp has a profit left over at the end of the year and wants to distribute it to the shareholders as a dividend. The C-Corp has already paid taxes on that profit, but once it distributes the profit to its shareholders, those shareholders will have to declare the dividends they receive as income on their personal tax returns, and pay taxes again, at their own personal rates.

How to Avoid the Double-Taxation Scenario

There are many things you can do to avoid the double-taxation scenario:

  • Structure the C-Corp so that there are no profits left over – use all of the write-offs and deductions allowed by the IRS to reduce the C-Corp’s net income.
  • Offer great benefit plans!
  • Pay higher salaries to yourself and the other owner/employees than you would if you were using a flow-through entity such as an S-Corp. Yes, you will have to pay payroll taxes and personal income taxes on those monies, but you would pay personal taxes on dividends paid to you anyway. And it may be that in the big picture, the savings on one side outweigh the additional taxes paid on the other side.

The decision as to what entity is best for you really does, in so many cases, hinge on taxes, and that is why, with any corporate-related decision, you are wise to seek the advice and assistance of a good CPA.

Corporate Direct along with your CPA can help you decide which corporation is best for you.

S Corporation

Is an S Corporation the right entity type for you?

This is a great question to explore when starting a business, or changing your existing business from a Sole Proprietor or General Partnership. It can make a difference in asset protection as well as in taxes. An S Corporation is one of the three popular choices for those incorporating their business. Other choices include Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and C Corporations.

Business owners can select how they wish to be taxed, and an S Corporation is one of those tax designations that can make a big difference in how much you pay in taxes, and how to handle profits and distribute shares. There are pros and cons to every entity type and it’s important to understand which business model is best for you.

An S Corporation is a corporation that has elected to be taxed as a flow-through entity (similar to an LLC or Limited Partnership). The “S” also refers to an IRS code section. This type of taxation, the S election, allows the shareholders to be taxed only at the individual level only instead of at both the corporate and individual level, thus avoiding the double taxation like the C Corporation.

Of all of the entities, the S Corporation has the tightest restrictions on ownership. There can only be 100 or fewer shareholders (owners), which all must be individuals or their living trusts. Corporations, multi-member LLCs, and non-US residents cannot be S Corporation owners. If the restrictions aren’t followed, the IRS will decide the corporation is C Corp and will double tax it accordingly.

S Corporations can help some service-oriented businesses to avoid being characterized as a Personal Service Corporation, or “PSC” by the IRS. PSCs are C Corporations that are classified by the IRS as providing a service, such as consulting, to the general public.

Now, as you may know, the IRS assesses C Corporations with a pretty low initial rate — 15% on earnings up to $50,000. That’s quite a bit lower than you would pay personally if you were receiving that same $50,000 as salary. And, that 15% rate is also lower than you would pay if your business was an S Corporation. So, to head off the anticipated revenue drain, the IRS closed the loophole by designating C Corporations that provide services as PSCs.

The tax rate for PSC earnings? 35%! That’s probably higher than you would pay through your S Corporation if you took a reasonable salary and the rest as passive income. And, it’s enough, in many cases, to make the difference between going “S” or going “C.” Again, you will work with your CPA, tax and/or legal advisors to determine the best entity for your specific situation.

Advantages Of S Corporations:

  • Limited liability for management and shareholders.
  • An unlimited number of management, no state residency requirements.
  • Distinct, court-recognized existence, which helps protect you from personal liability that can cause you to lose your personal wealth in assets like your home, car, or nest egg.
  • Flow-through taxation: Profits are distributed to the shareholders, who are taxed on profits at their personal level.
  • Good privacy protection, especially in Nevada and Wyoming.
  • Great income-splitting potential for owner/employees. Can take a smaller salary and pay income taxes and regular payroll deductions, then take the remainder of profit as a distribution subject to income tax only.
  • S Corporations are great for businesses that:
              • will provide a service (i.e. consultants);
              • will not have significant start-up costs;
              • will not need to make major equipment purchases before beginning operations; and
              • will make a sizable amount of money without a great deal of expense.

Disadvantages Of S Corporations:

  • At shareholder level, shares are subject to seizure and sale in court proceedings.
    Maximum of 100 shareholders, all of whom must be U.S. residents or resident aliens. Shares must be held directly, except in special circumstances.
  • Owner/employees holding 2% or more of the company’s shares cannot receive tax-free benefits.
  • Because flow-through taxes will be paid at the personal rate, high-income shareholders will pay more taxes on their distributions.
  • Not suitable for estate planning vehicle, as control is ultimately in the hands of the stockholders. In a planned gifting scenario, once majority control passes to children from parents, children can take full control of the company.
  • If tax status is compromised by either non-resident stockholder or stock being placed in corporate entity name, the IRS will revoke status, charge back-taxes for 3 years and impose a further 5-year waiting period to regain tax status.
  • Not suitable to hold appreciating investments. Capital gain on sale of assets will incur higher taxes than with other pass-through entities such as LLCs and Limited Partnerships.
  • Limited to one class of stock only.

What is needed to form a corporation? How does it protect me?

Essentially, you file a document that creates an independent legal entity with a life of its own. It has its own name, business purpose, and tax identity with the IRS. As such, it — the corporation — is responsible for the activities of the business. In this way, the owners, or shareholders, are protected. The owners’ liability is limited to the monies they used to start the corporation, not all of their other personal assets. In the event of a lawsuit it is the company, not the individuals, being sued.

A corporation is organized by one or more shareholders. Depending upon each state’s law, it may allow one person to serve as all officers and directors. In certain states, to protect the owners’ privacy, nominee officers and directors may be utilized. A corporation’s first filing, the articles of incorporation, is signed by the incorporator. The incorporator may be any individual involved in the company, including frequently, the company’s attorney.

The articles of incorporation set out the company’s name, the initial board of directors, the authorized number of shares, and other major items. Because it is a matter of public record, specific, detailed, or confidential information about the corporation should not be included in the articles of incorporation. The corporation is governed by rules found in its bylaws. Its decisions are recorded in meeting minutes, which are kept in the corporate minute book.

Can I change entity types?

Yes, if you think you may want to go public at some point in the future, but want initial losses to flow through, consider starting with an S Corporation or a Limited Liability Company. You can always convert to a C Corporation at a later date, after you have taken advantage of flowing through losses. Corporations can make the election at the beginning of its existence or at the beginning of a new tax year.

More benefits to business owners: No self-employment tax!

The big benefit of S Corporation taxation is that S Corporation shareholders do not have to pay self-employment tax on their share of the business’s profits. But they will be taxed on the salary they pay themselves. This is the catch. Before there can be any profits, each owner who also works as an employee must be paid a “reasonable” amount of compensation (e.g., salary) that is subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes to be paid half by the employee and half by the corporation. As such, the savings from paying no self-employment tax on the profits only kick in once the S Corporation is earning enough that there are still profits to be paid out after paying the mandatory “reasonable compensation.”

More Questions? An Incorporating Specialist can help!

Limited Partnerships – Advantages and Case Study

Advantages of Limited Partnerships

  • LPs allow for pass-through taxation for both the limited partner and the general partner.
  • Limited partners are not held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business, although the GP, if an individual, may be personally responsible.
  • The general partner(s) have full control over all business decisions, which can be useful in family situations where ownership – but not control – has been gifted to children.
  • Estate planning strategies can be achieved with LPs.
  • Limited partners are not responsible for the partnership’s debts beyond the amount of their capital contribution or contribution obligation. So, unless they become actively involved, the limited partners are protected.
  • As a general rule, general partners are personally liable for all partnership debts. But as was mentioned above, there is a way to protect the general partner of a limited partnership. To reduce liability exposure, corporations or LLCs are formed to serve as general partners of the limited partnership. In this way, the liability of the general partner is encapsulated in a limited liability entity.
  • Because by definition limited partners may not participate in management, the general partner maintains complete control. In many cases, the general partner will hold only 2% of the partnership interest but will be able to assert 100% control over the partnership. This feature is valuable in estate planning situations where a parent is gifting or has gifted limited partnership interests to his children. Until such family members are old enough or trusted enough to act responsibly, the senior family members may continue to manage the LP even though only a very small general partnership interest is retained.
  • The ability to restrict the transfer of limited or general partnership interests to outside persons is a valuable feature of the limited partnership. Through a written limited partnership agreement, rights of first refusal, prohibited transfers, and conditions to permitted transfers are instituted to restrict the free transferability of partnership interests. It should be noted that LLCs can also afford beneficial restrictions on transfer. These restrictions are crucial for achieving the creditor protection and estate and gift tax advantages afforded by limited partnerships.
  • Creditors of a partnership can only reach the partnership assets and the assets of the general partner, which is limited by using a corporate general partner which does not hold a lot of assets.
  • The limited partnership provides a great deal of flexibility. A written partnership agreement can be drafted to tailor the business and family planning requirements of any situation. And there are very few statutory requirements that cannot be changed or eliminated through a well-drafted partnership agreement.
  • Limited partnerships, like general partnerships, are flow-through tax entities.

For more information on this topic, get the book!

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Case Study:

When a Limited Partnership is Best

Jim is the proud father of three boys. Aaron, Bob, and Chris are active, athletic, and creative boys almost ready to embark upon their own careers. The problem was that they were sometimes too active, too athletic, and too creative.

At the time Jim came to see me, Aaron was seventeen years old and every one of the seemingly unlimited hormones he had was shouting for attention. He loved the girls, the girls loved him, and his social life was frenetic and chaotic.

Bob was sixteen years old and sports were all that mattered. He played sports, watched sports, and lived and breathed sports.

Chris was fifteen years old and the lead guitarist in a heavy metal band. When they practiced in Jim’s garage the neighbors did not confuse them with the Beatles.

Jim has five valuable real estate holdings that he wants to go to the boys. His wife had passed on several years before and he needed to make some estate planning decisions. But given the boys’ energy level and lack of direction he did not want them controlling or managing the real estate.

Jim knew that if he left the assets in his own name, when he died the IRS would take 55% of his estate, which was valued at over $10 million. And while estate taxes were supposed to be gradually eliminated, Jim knew that Congress played politics in this arena and no certainty was guaranteed. Jim had worked too hard, and had paid income taxes once already before buying the properties, to let the IRS’s estate taxes take away half his assets. But again, he could not let his boys have any sort of control over the assets. While the government could squander 55% of his assets, he knew that his boys could easily top that with a 100% effort.

I suggested that Jim place the five real estate holdings into five separate limited partnerships.

I further explained to Jim that the beauty of a limited partnership was that all management control was in the hands of the general partner. The limited partners were not allowed to get involved in the business. Their activity was “limited” to being passive owners.

It was explained that the general partner can own as little as 2% of the limited partnership, with the limited partners owning the other 98% of it, and yet the general partner can have 100% control in how the entity was managed. The limited partners, even though they own 98%, cannot be involved. This was a major and unique difference between the limited partnership and the limited liability company or a corporation. If the boys owned 98% of an LLC or a corporation they could vote out their dad, sell the assets, and have a party for the ages. Not so with a limited partnership.

The limited partnership was perfect for Jim. He could not imagine his boys performing any sort of responsible management. At least not then. And at the same time he wanted to get the assets out of his name so he would not pay a huge estate tax. The limited partnership was the best entity for this. The IRS allows discounts when you use a limited partnership for gifting. So instead of annually gifting $14,000 tax free to each boy he could gift $16,000 or more to each boy. Over a period of years, his limited partnership interest in each of the limited partnerships would be reduced and the boys’ interest would be increased. When Jim passes on, his estate tax will be based only on the amount of interest he had left in each limited partnership. If he lives long enough he can gift away his entire interest in all five limited partnerships.

Except for his general partnership interest. By retaining his 2% general partnership interest, Jim can control the entities until the day he dies. While he is hopeful his boys will straighten out, the limited partnership format allows him total control in the event that does not happen.

Jim also liked my advice that each of the five properties be put into five separate limited partnerships. I explained to him that the strategy today is to segregate assets. If someone gets injured at one property and sues, it is better to only have one property exposed. If all five properties were in the same limited partnership, the person suing could go after all five properties to satisfy his claim. By segregating assets into separate entities the person suing can only go after the one property where they were injured.

Jim liked the control and protections afforded by the limited partnership entity and proceeded to form five of them.

Is a Limited Partnership right for you? Get your free 15-minute consultation today!

How to Set Up Single Member LLCs

You must be very careful when you are the only owner of your LLC. Single member LLCs require extra planning and special language in the operating agreement.

One example: What happens when the single owner/member passes? Who takes over? It may be months before that is sorted out, and your business will falter without a clear leader.

Difficulties of Owning a Single Member LLC

You want the asset protection benefits of a limited liability company. But what if you don’t want any partners? What if you want to be the sole owner of your own LLC?

You can do that with a single owner LLC (sometimes known as a single member LLC).

But you have to be careful.

Before we discuss how to properly set up and use a single owner LLC we must acknowledge a nationwide trend. Courts are starting to deny sole owner LLCs the same protection as multiple member LLCs. The reason has to do with the charging order.

The charging order is a court order providing a judgment creditor (someone who has already won in court and is now trying to collect) a lien on distributions. A chart helps to illustrate:

Illustration showing typical multi-member LLC structure

John was in a car wreck. Moe does not have a claim against XYZ, LLC itself. The wreck had nothing to do with the duplex. Instead, Moe wants to collect against John’s assets, which is a 50% interest in XYZ, LLC. Courts have said it is not fair to Mary, the other 50% owner of XYZ, to let Moe come crashing into the LLC as a new partner. Instead, the courts give Moe a charging order, meaning that if any distributions (think profits) flow from XYZ, LLC to John then Moe is charged with receiving them.

Moe is not a partner, can’t make decisions or demands, and has to wait until John gets paid. If John never gets paid, neither does Moe. The charging order not only protects Mary but is a useful deterrent to frivolous litigation brought against John. Attorneys don’t like to wait around to get paid.

But what if there is only a single owner?

Illustration that shows a single member LLC structure

In this illustration there is no Mary to protect. It’s just John. Is it fair to Moe to only offer the charging order remedy? Or should other remedies be allowed?

How the Court Has Ruled Against LLCs With One Member

In June of 2010, the Florida Supreme Court decided the Olmstead vs. FTC case on these grounds. In a single owner LLC there are no other members to protect. The court allowed the FTC to seize Mr. Olmstead’s membership interests in order to collect. Other states have followed the trend.

Interestingly, even two of the strongest LLC states have denied charging order protection to single owner LLCs in limited circumstances.

In September of 2014, the US District Court in Nevada decided the bankruptcy case of In re: Cleveland.

The court held that the charging order did not protect a single member LLC owner in bankruptcy. Instead, the bankruptcy trustee could step into the shoes of the single owner and manage the LLC. This is not surprising since bankruptcy trustees have unique and far reaching powers, which are routinely upheld by the courts. (But know that, incredibly enough, a bankruptcy trustee can’t get control of the shares of a Nevada corporation. This is a special planning opportunity available to Nevada residents – or those who may become Nevada residents.)

In November of 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court rendered a surprising verdict in the Greenhunter case.

The court held that the veil of a single owner LLC could be pierced. The issue centered on a Texas company’s use of a Wyoming LLC it solely owned. The LLC was undercapitalized (meaning not enough money was put into it) and it incurred all sorts of obligations. It wasn’t fair for the Texas company for the single owner to hide behind the LLC. The fact that a single owner LLC was involved was a material issue. The court pierced through the LLC and held the Texas company liable for the LLC’s debts.

Even though these are fairly narrow cases, both Nevada and Wyoming have held against single member LLCs. Again, this is the trend.

Luckily there are some things you can do to protect your assets as a single member LLC…

Strategies for Protecting Your Assets

One strategy is to set up a multi-member LLC structured in a way that gives the intended single member all of the decision making power. For example, parents can have adult children over 18 become member(s) or for those under 18 you can use a Uniform Gift to Minors Act designation. You may want to use an irrevocable spendthrift trust for children or others. A local estate planning attorney can help you set these up correctly.

But what is the smallest percentage you have to give up for the second member? Could you give up just 1/100th of 1 percent? Most practitioners feel that the percentage should not be inordinately low and that 5% is a suitable second member holding. So the ideal structure would be that John owns 95% of the LLC and the other 5% is owned by a child (or other family member) and/or an irrevocable trust.

Accordingly, in a state that doesn’t protect single owner LLCs, you have an excellent argument for charging order protection. There is a legitimate second member to protect. To further that legitimacy it is useful to have the second member participate in the affairs of the LLC. Attending meetings and making suggestions recorded into the meeting minutes is a good way to show such involvement.

But what if you don’t want to bring in a second member?

There are plenty of good reasons to set up a sole owner LLC. Other owners can bring a loss of privacy and protection. And if you paid 100% for the whole asset, why should you bring in another member anyway? Or, what if you don’t have any children or other family members that you want to bring in?

If a single member LLC is truly the best fit for you, there are three key factors to know and deal with.

1. The Corporate Veil

Many states’ LLC laws do not require annual meetings or written documents. Some see this as a benefit but it is actually a curse.

If you don’t follow the corporate formalities (which now apply to LLCs) a creditor can pierce the veil of protection and reach your personal assts. With a single owner LLC this is especially problematic. Because you are in complete management control it may appear that you aren’t respecting the entity’s separate existence or that you are comingling the LLC’s assets with your own personal assets. Without a clear distinction of the LLC’s separate identity, a creditor could successfully hold you personally responsible for the debts of the LLC (as they did in Wyoming’s Greenhunter case above.) Maintaining proper financial books and records and keeping LLC minutes can help demonstrate a definitive and separate identity for your single owner LLC. You must work with a company which appreciates the importance of this for single owner LLCs.

2. Different State Laws

LLC laws vary from state to state. Some states offer single owner LLCs very little protection. The states of California, Georgia, Florida, Utah, New York, Oregon, Colorado and Kansas, among others, deny the charging order protection to single owner LLCs.

Other states offer single owner LLCs a very high level of protection in traditional circumstances. So we have to pick our state of formation very carefully. In order to deal with this trend against protection, we use the states that do protect single member LLCs.

Wyoming, Nevada, Delaware, South Dakota and Alaska (collectively “the strong states”), have amended their LLC laws to state that the charging order in standard collection matters is the exclusive remedy for judgment creditors – even against single owner LLCs.

So how do we use these state laws to our advantage? Let’s consider an example:

A chart showing a properly structured single member LLC

In this example, John owns a fourplex in Georgia and a duplex in Utah. Each property is held in an in-state LLC (as required to operate in the state). The Georgia and Utah LLCs are in turn held by one Wyoming LLC. (This structure works in every state except California, which requires extra planning. Be sure to take advantage of our free 15-minute consultation if you are operating or residing in California).

I break down potential lawsuits into two different types of attacks: Attack #1, the inside attack and Attack #2, the outside attack.

In Attack #1, the inside attack, a tenant sues over a problem at the fourplex owned by GEORGIA, LLC. They have a claim against the equity inside that LLC. Whether GEORGIA, LLC is a single owner or multi-owner LLC doesn’t matter. The tenant’s claim is against GEORGIA, LLC itself. Importantly, the tenant can’t get at the assets inside UTAH, LLC or WYOMING, LLC. They are shielded since the tenants only claim is against GEORGIA, LLC.

The benefit of this structure comes in Attack #2, the outside attack. If John gets in a car wreck, it has nothing to do with GEORGIA, LLC or UTAH, LLC. But, the car wreck victim would like to get at those properties to collect on the judgment. If John held GEORGIA, LLC and UTAH, LLC directly in his name, the judgment creditor could force a sale of the fourplex and duplex since neither state protects single owner LLCs.

However, since John is the sole owner of WYOMING, LLC he is protected by Wyoming’s strong laws. The attacker can only get at WYOMING, LLC and gets a charging order, which means they have to wait until John gets a distribution and therefore could possibly never get paid. If John doesn’t take any distributions, there’s no way for the attacker (or his attorney) to collect. A strong state LLC offers a real deterrent to litigation, even for single owner LLCs.

3. Operating Agreement

Like bylaws for a corporation, the Operating Agreement is the road map for the LLC. While some states don’t require them, they are an absolute must for proper governance and protection. A single owner LLC operating agreement is very different than a multi-member operating agreement. 

For example, if a single owner transfers their interest in the LLC, inadvertent dissolution of the entire LLC can occur. This is not good. Or, again, what if the sole owner passes? Who takes over? Our Single Member Operating Agreement provides for a Successor Manager (a person you pick ahead of time) to step in.

The best way to deal with these issues, as well as others, is to have a specially drafted operating agreement to properly govern your Single Member LLC. Corporate Direct provides such a tailored document for our clients. When it comes to business and investments, you must do it the right way.

LLC vs Corporation

Which is Best?

Choosing the right entity can be one of the most important decisions a business makes. Business owners and investors may find themselves asking which to pick, LLC vs Corporation. To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of helpful comparisons that will teach you the basic differences among entity types.

Who should use which entity?

LLC

LLCs are great for people who want an entity to hold real estate or other appreciating assets. They are a popular choice for investors and entrepreneurs because of the flexible taxation and great asset protection.

Corporation

C Corporations are great for businesses that sell products, have a storefront and have employees. Businesses that offer services may find the taxes of a C Corp to be too high because of specific tax laws applied to Personal Service Corporations (PSC). It’s also advised not to hold appreciating assets in a C Corp because of the tax treatment of asset sales.

S Corporations are a good choice for people who would like the protection and structure of a corporation, but would be classified as a PSC by the IRS. They are also great for businesses that have significant start-up costs because of their flow-through taxation.

Taxes

LLC

LLCs can choose how to be taxed – either as a disregarded single member entity (where the tax reporting flows directly onto the sole owner’s personal return) or as a multiple member partnership. LLCs can also be taxed as an S Corporation or C Corporation. No other entity has this flexibility.

Corporation

C Corporations

A C Corporation has the widest range of deductions and expenses out of all the various entity types. This is especially true in the case of employee fringe benefits. If you own a C Corporation, you can set up medical reimbursement and other employee benefits and deduct the costs associated with running these programs from your corporate taxes. It’s also worth noting that as a C Corporation you pay an initial rate of 15% on earnings up to $50,000.

While you have access to a wide range of deductions and the ability to set up fringe benefits without taxation, the biggest tax disadvantage of C Corporation is the “double-taxation” issue. Double-taxation can occur when a C Corp has a profit at the end of the year that it would like to distribute to its shareholders. The C Corp has paid taxes on the profit, but once it gets distributed to the shareholders, they also have to declare the dividends they receive on their personal tax returns at their own tax rate.

You may also want to consider an S Corporation if your company’s primary product is services to the public, as you will be taxed as a PSC with an initial rate of 35% instead of the 15%. The IRS does this to stop people from using a corporation to pay less in taxes for what is essentially a salary.

S Corporations

S Corporations are what is called a flow-through entity (similar to an LLC). Unlike a C Corporation, an S Corporation pays no tax on the corporate level. The shareholders only have to pay taxes on the individual level. This can be beneficial in some cases, but shareholders who make a high income from distributions will pay higher taxes. As far as benefits are concerned, S Corps may still write off the cost of benefits, but shareholders who control more than 2% of the entity must pay taxes on the benefits they receive.

S Corporations are commonly used to avoid the PSC tax rate set by the IRS. A corporation is considered to be a Personal Service Corporations (PSC) by the IRS if more than 20% of the corporation’s compensation cost for its activities of performing personal services is for personal services performed by employee-owners and the employee-owner owns 10% or more of the stock. Personal services include any activity performed in the fields of accounting, actuarial science, architecture, consulting, engineering, health (including veterinary services), law, and the performing arts.

Since an S Corporation is a flow-through entity and shareholders pay taxes on the individual level, a modest salary with passive income may mean lower taxation. To determine what’s best for you and your business, you should always talk with your CPA or legal advisor.

Shareholders and Owners

LLC

An LLC does not issue shares, but it can have multiple owners (called members) who all share a percentage of the company.

Corporation

C Corporations

C Corporations allow for an unlimited number of shareholders, there is no limitation on who can hold shares and no restrictions on what types of shares can be held (such as preferred vs. common). A C Corp is perfect for a company looking to go public.

S Corporations

S Corporations are a bit more restricting. All shareholders of an S Corp must be Individuals (not entities) and they must be U.S. citizens. The company can only have 100 shares issued, and the shares can only be of one type.

Asset Protection

LLC

A key feature of the LLC is charging order protection. In strong states like Nevada or Wyoming, if the owner of a business gets sued, an attacker can only get a charging order (a lien to the distributions of the LLC). If there are no distributions, the attacker gets nothing. The charging order in most cases is contingent on the entity having at least two owners, but Nevada and Wyoming have protections for the single member LLC.

It should be noted that in some states, like California, Georgia and New York, the court may still order a sale of the businesses assets.

Corporation

A Corporation is an entirely separate and independent legal entity from its owners (or shareholders) and there is a separation between ownership and management. As such, the management and shareholders of a Corporation generally are protected from personal liability for the Corporation’s liabilities and obligations. Although shareholders of a Corporation may be liable for the amount they have invested in the Corporation, their own personal assets usually are protected. This limited liability feature also applies to directors, officers, and employees of a C Corporation.

However, there is an issue in the asset protection of a Corporation. If you own shares in a corporation and are sued personally (i.e. after a car wreck), a judgment creditor can reach your shares in the corporation. If you are the majority owner, the attacker now controls your business by virtue of share control. Nevada is the only state that extends charging order protection (as in an LLC) to corporate shares.

Foreign Investors

LLC

In general, whether you’re a foreign real estate investor or one in the U.S., the limited liability company is the best entity. The LLC is great for both asset protection and has flow-through taxation, and they are affordable to set up and maintain. Since they have flexible taxation, they can be set up for easier taxation management too. Often Canadians will use an LLC taxed as a C Corporation for ease of use, and Australians use them as-is for real estate investment of their retirement monies. It’s always best to consult your accountant about which taxation system would best fit your business.

Corporation

C Corporations

C Corporations are a good to foreign owners for the same reasons stated in the sections above, but It may be more popular with countries that have similar taxation. For example, most Canadians prefer to use a C Corporation because the taxation of a C Corporation most closely resembles that of their home country. When the systems are closely related, it makes them easier to manage.

S Corporations

S Corporations are the only U.S. entity that cannot be used by a foreign investor.

 

Questions?

Determining which entity is right for you can be challenging. You want to ensure that you are getting set up properly right from the start.

If you need help figuring out what entity is right for your business, set up a free 15-minute consultation with an Incorporating Specialist.