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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!

LLC vs Corporation

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.