Deciding which type of entity is right for your business can be a tough decision. There are many factors to take into consideration such as costs, taxes, liability, and legal fees. With the different choices that are available to you, it can sometimes be daunting to try to figure out which entity type is ideal for your business.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. While entity specifics do vary from state to state, there are general similarities and differences between the states. This article will provide you with a brief description of some of the different entity types that are available to you. Although this article will give you a breakdown of the common characteristics of each type of entity, it is always best to consult a business or corporate attorney to help you decide on the best entity type to choose.
Regardless of the reasons that you may choose to go solo, a sole proprietorship is certainly the easiest business entity to set up in that you are the company. If you are operating your business using your last name, the process is even more simple. This is because you will only need to file a Doing Business As (DBA) of Ficticious Business Name with the county if you are using a name in which the owner is not easily identifiable. While the cost and ease of a sole proprietorship is alluring, one of the biggest downfalls is that there is no protection from personal liability. Since you are the company, there’s nothing to shield you from liability.
A partnership can come in several different forms but the most common is a general partnership. One thing that you may not know is that although a partnership agreement is highly recommended, there does not need to be any kind of agreement between the parties for a partnership to exist. Rather, partnerships can be implied based on the actions of the parties (such as the sharing of profits and losses). General partnerships do not provide protection from liability for the partners, however there are several types of partnerships which do offer such protection. Without going into too much detail, there are limited partnerships where there is a general partner who is subject to liability and the rest of the limited partners who are shielded from liability. Depending on the state, there are also limited liability partnerships, and limited liability limited partnerships. The important aspect of each type of partnership is that there are two or more parties who are working together and either dividing profits, losses, or workload in such a way that a partnership can be implied.
Another aspect of a partnership is the manner of taxation. Partnerships have a “pass-through” taxation structure in that they are treated as disregarded entities and you will only be taxed once. This is in comparison to some forms of corporations where there is a double taxation, which will be discussed more in the corporation section below.
Limited Liability Companies
Recently, one of the most common entity choices are limited liability companies (LLCs). LLCs are attractive entity types because they offer the protection that a corporation offers, but also offers more flexibility in the structure of the company than what is possible to do with a corporation. LLCs are also unique in that you are able to elect how the LLC is taxed. This means that you can either be subject to double taxation, like a corporation (see below) or you can be taxed as a partnership or disregarded entity would be taxed.
Other forms of flexibility that an LLC has is the structure of the company itself. LLCs can be structured or managed in a variety of ways which helps the business be controlled in a customized manner that is best for the company.
Corporations are generally divided into two different types of entities a C-corp and an S-corp (there are other types of corporations, such as a B-corp, but this article will focus on these general types). C-corps are generally used by larger corporations and do not have the certain limitations that an S-corp has. With an S-corp, you are limited to only 100 shareholders and can only have one class of stock. Whereas a C-corp does not have such restrictions. An S-corp further has some characteristics which are similar to LLCs. Such charecteristics include the option of being taxed as a partnership and therefore having single taxation. C-corps do not have the option of receiving pass-through taxation and are subject to double taxation. Double taxation means that those earning revenue from the corporation are taxed both at the corporate level and then at the personal level.
In addition to the taxation aspect, corporations are generally seen as the most favorable busines entity by investors and shareholders. One of the reasons for this is because of certain formalities that the corporation needs to follow in order for the corporation to retain its liability barrier.
There are many different charactersitics of each entity that is not discussed in this article and it is important to be aware of all of the nuisances of each before deciding on an entity. While the decision of which entity to form is certainly very important, choosing the wrong entity and figuring that out early enough can be a saving factor as many states allow conversions between entity types (for a fee).
For help with your business entity formation needs, give us a call at (424) 442-9243. All consultations are complimentary and confidential.