All About Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
What You Need to Know about LLC Formation, Taxation, and More
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) have been available to business owners since the early 1980s, and they are an alternative form of business which offers some benefits. Learn about LLC taxation, some common myths about LLCs, and other information to help you make a decision about forming an LLC.
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business entity recognized in all U.S. states. An LLC combines benefits of a sole proprietorship or partnership and a corporation.
The LLC allows the owner to file a simple tax return like a sole proprietorship. It also has a simple business structure without the recordkeeping requirements of a corporation.
Sole proprietors and partners don't have the protection of limited liability that owners of a corporation have. The LLC allows corporate-like liability protection for members.
The LLC has tax advantages and disadvantages compared to other business types, particularly corporations.
Since the LLC owner pays taxes at the personal income tax rate, this might be either lower or higher than the corporate income tax rate (currently a flat 21 percent).
LLC owners must pay tax on the total amount of net income of the business, while corporations can keep retained earnings and only pay tax when income is distributed to owners as dividends.
Owners of an LLC are called "members," similar to the term "partners" for owners of a partnership. Members are like partners, but there are some differences. One person can own an LLC (called a single-member LLC), like a sole proprietor. Or, the LLC can be owned by two or more people, like a partnership.
The relationship between the LLC members is defined by an operating agreement, similar to a partnership agreement. There are no different types of members in an LLC, no "general" or "limited" members, like a partnership.
There is a lot of confusion out there about LLCs and corporations; in fact, sometimes LLCs are mistakenly referred to as "Limited Liability Corporations." But an LLC is not a corporation; the two business types have totally different ownership structures and forms.
An LLC is simpler to form than a corporation because no by-laws or corporate charter is required. But that doesn't mean that the LLC isn't carefully watched by state and federal agencies to make sure it is being operated separately from the owners' personal financial and tax lives.
If you form an LLC in a state, you are by default forming a domestic LLC. But what if your LLC does business in several states? Then you'll want to know about the foreign LLC.
After you register an LLC in one state and then register the same business in another state, the second registration is as a foreign LLC.
The IRS doesn't recognize an LLC as a taxable business type, so it allows LLC's to pay income taxes as standard business types.
If the LLC has only one owner, it pays income tax the same way as a sole proprietorship, using Schedule C on the owner's personal tax return to calculate income and expenses and find the business net income.
If the LLC has more than one member, it pays income tax like a partnership, using a partnership tax return (Form 1065) and giving the individual partners a Schedule K-1 to add partnership income to their personal tax return.
LLC's must pay the same taxes as other types of businesses, including income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. The LLC owners (members) must pay income taxes on the profits of the business. This article provides more details on all the types of taxes an LLC business must pay.
Since LLCs are fairly new in the business world, there is still a lot of confusion about them. Many business experts and attorneys shy away from the LLC form because of these mistaken beliefs.
For example, it's not true that a corporation is somehow "safer" from liability than an LLC, but it's true that LLC's are not tax entities (see above).
And it's certainly not true that LLC's are only for small businesses. Some of the largest businesses in the world are LLC's.