You and some friends have come up with a great business idea. You are excited that the idea has huge potential to disrupt the market and become a smashing success. Your first steps will include a business plan and setting up your business entity. You ask yourself: What kind of business entity should I form? Your options may include: Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporation, S-Corp, or Partnership.
You are on the right track to consider these various options, because each carry certain advantages that may be of benefit to your business. Corporations were originally formed to provide liability protection to investors; you could lose what you put in, but that was the extent of your exposure. Corporations were treated in law as “persons” and held to have an existence separate from their shareholders which justified this treatment. Corporations were the first tool to protect personal assets and shield the business owner from personal liability.
However, if corporations were persons, they could be taxed. This led to the issue of “double taxation”: as a shareholder of a corporation, you were not only taxed on the income (dividends, etc.) that you earned from the corporation, but the corporation itself was also taxed on such income.
Naturally, savvy businesspeople – and their accountants and tax lawyers – sought a way around this double tax treatment. They fastened on the partnership, which is a group of individuals bound by contract but not an entity separate in itself. Therefore, the partnership itself was not subject to tax; only the partners were taxed on the income.
The partnership idea seemed great! Less taxation, brilliant! From a legal standpoint, the partnership is not separate from the partners, and therefore, when something happens (as it always does)… each partner is liable for his or her share of the damages. A partnership offered potentially better tax treatment but sacrificed personal liability protection.
Then some clever lawyers had an idea: what about an entity that was taxed like a partnership… but treated like a corporation when it came to liability? The best of both worlds, right?
In response, the following hybrids were created in an ongoing effort to realize this dream:
There are a number of considerations that go into the selection of one form of business entity versus another. The trend in the law and in the business community is toward the LLC because it provides liability protection, single-taxation, and maximal flexibility in administration. If you want more information on LLCs then take a look at our detailed blog and video on the Limited Liability Company (Five Reasons to Choose a Limited Liability Company) to describe how the LLC structure can benefit you and your business.
If you are starting a new business and not sure where to start, check out our video and blog post entitled: 6 Key Steps to Starting a Business
McCormick Law, PC d/b/a McCormick Law & Consulting is a boutique business and real estate law firm located in Norfolk, Virginia, that seamlessly serves clients throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Whether you are a new or existing client of the firm, McCormick Law, PC, cannot represent you on any new matter until the firm has made a determination that there is no conflict of interest and that it is willing to accept the new engagement. The testimonials on this website reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of our clients. However, the experiences are personal to those particular clients, and may not necessarily be representative of all clients. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all clients will have the same experience. Your outcome may vary.
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