Choosing a Business Entity Type
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Incorporating as a Subchapter S Corporation, C Corporation, Limited Liability Corporation or Partnership
When looking at what type of entity your business should be, we strive to balance the legal protection issues vs. the tax savings. Over the years, we have developed the mindset that there is no perfect election but there are ones that are better than others. The information below and the assumptions we make are based upon the fact that my clients tell me that they want to pay as few tax dollars as legally possible. Below are some very specific rules, as well as some generalities. If you are considering incorporating in Georgia, we suggest that you sit down with a tax professional to see how these guidelines relate to you.
About S Corporations
Subchapter S Corporations can have no more than one hundred shareholders and they all need to be U.S. citizens or resident aliens. This corporation type almost always has to have a calendar year as the fiscal year. S Corporation rules have been around since the 1950s and were set up to simplify the rules and regulations of being a business owner.
Liability Protection and Subchapter S Corporations
A subchapter S Corporation, like a C Corporation, affords the business owner personal liability protection from business risks. Some of the keys to maximizing that protection is to treat the corporation like one by doing all your business in the corporate name, signing all of your documents listing your corporate title, not co-mingling any personal issues/bills in the corporation, and by having your annual Board of Directors and Annual Shareholder Minutes Meeting.
Tax Advantages of S Corporations
No income taxes are paid with the corporate return. The profits of the business are reported on the personal tax return of the S corporation’s shareholders. As long as you pay yourself a reasonable salary, you may also take shareholder distributions out of the business that are devoid of FICA/Medicaid taxes.
Another advantage of S Corporations is that if you have corporate losses, and you fund (you put the money in the business) those losses personally, then you can deduct those losses on your personal return. Any losses that are funded by the bank (a direct loan from the bank to the corporation) or by trade creditors are not deductible. Often you can set up a loan so that the bank lends to you personally and then you could do a personal loan to the company which will result in you having contributed basis/the dollars to the business, thus making any losses that you fund deductible.
How S Corporations are Taxed
There is no income tax paid by as S Corporation when the annual tax return is filed to the IRS. However, as a part of the corporate return which is prepared, a Form 1120S, there is an attached schedule which shows each owners respective ownership percentage and via a Form K-1 for which each shareholder should reflect on their personal return. K-1 profits, losses, and shareholder distributions are all required by tax law to be issued based upon the each shareholders ownership percentage. In order for losses to be deductible a shareholder has to have a positive tax basis which is a component of past profits, losses, and loans to and from the business. If a shareholder has no basis to cover losses reported on a K-1, they are by tax law considered to be “suspended losses” and can be rolled forward to future years when the shareholder has positive basis, which can be created by future years profits or the shareholder loaning money to the business.
An owner should report the K-1 profits which is based upon their share of the business and not the amount of their shareholder distributions. This is a common misnomer about S Corporations and often leads to confusion for the new business owner. To that end it is best to remember that you pay taxes on the profits when you make them and not when you take them. For example generally speaking if your business nets $100,000 and you are the sole owner, you will pay taxes on $100,0000 whether you take zero dollar of shareholder distributions, a $100,000 or any number in between. Thus if you were to have a $100,000 profit in any given year and take no distributions then you would be able, absent any other issues, to take shareholder distributions in subsequent years with no additional tax responsibility as these monies would have already been taxed. Although most states recognize and reflect the same tax treatment for S Corporations as the IRS and charge a relatively insignificant net worth tax such as Georgia, there are many states which charge a franchise tax as well.
About C Corporations
This type of corporation is perfectly set up for those to whom do not qualify to be an S Corporation, such as a public held company that has thousands of shareholders, lots of classes to stocks, and sells its stock to anyone (corporations, individuals, retirement plans, etc).
Taxation of C Corporations
A C Corporation pays taxes on all its profits first at the corporate level and then when the dollars are paid out to the owners in subsequent years, the owners pay tax again at the individual level. C Corporations, therefore, are exposed to a “double taxation” that none of the other entity types are exposed to. If you think taxes are bad enough paying them once, try paying them twice. OUCH!
Converting from a C to an S Corporation
A C Corporation can make a timely tax election to become an S Corporation and start taking advantage of tax advantages of being an S Corporation. Care should be taken to ensure that all shareholders understand and agree to become an S Corporation and that there are no or relatively insignificant net operating losses that might still be utilizable if you were to stay a C Corporation. Then after these are utilized/considered, we would effect the change.
About LLC’s, LLP’s and Forming a Partnership
Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and General Partnerships are all taxed in the same manner. Choosing one of these types as a business entity would be a poor selection for a business such as a print shop, as they will all result in higher taxes with no additional advantages for the printer. We have developed a mindset that if you do not need to be another entity type then you need to be an S Corporation. For example, generally speaking a printer that was an LLC, LLP, or Partnership will pay higher taxes with no additional advantages as opposed to being an S Corporation. A Limited Partnership is also an option that could be explored when certain partners want to limit their liability and exposure. Below are some of the reasons you might want select an LLC or LLP as your entity choice:
- If you were a lawyer or physician’s practice then all of the partners’ personal assets are at risk if one partner does something wrong, while if an LLC or an LLP, only the offending partners personal assets would be at risk. This is because of the professional service statutes for these type of professionals, but these rules do not relate to our printer.
- If you were an real estate developer and you had a piece of land that had dramatically increased in value, you can transfer that property to an LLC, LLP, or Partnership without having to pay any capital gains tax. Also with these entity types, you can take shareholder distributions that are not based upon ownership, whereas in an S or a C Corporation they have to be. Again, this does not relate to our printer client.
If you have set up as one of these entity types, it might be advantageous to consider a tax-free merger into an S Corporation which will allow you to retain all the legal contracts, etc. of your present entity while switching to the tax advantages of being an S Corporation.