Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid legal entity having certain characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership or sole proprietorship. An LLC is a type of unincorporated association distinct from a corporation. The primary characteristic an LLC shares with a corporation is limited liability, and the primary characteristic it shares with a partnership is the availability of pass-through income taxation. As a business entity, an LLC is often more flexible than a corporation and may be well-suited for companies with a single owner.
LLCs are subject to fewer regulations than traditional corporations, and thus may allow members to create a more flexible management structure than is possible with other corporate forms. As long as the LLC remains within the confines of state law, the operating agreement is responsible for the flexibility the members of the LLC have in deciding how their LLC will be governed. State statutes typically provide automatic or "default" rules for how an LLC will be governed unless the operating agreement provides otherwise, as permitted by statute in the state where the LLC was organized.
Like a corporation, LLCs are required to register in the states they are "conducting business". Each state has different standards and rules defining what "transacting business" means, and as a consequence, navigating what is required can be quite confusing for small business owners. Simply forming a LLC in any state may not be enough to meet legal requirements, and specifically, if a LLC is formed in one state, but the owner are located in another state, or an employee is located in another state, or the LLC's base of operations is located in another state, the LLC may need to register as a foreign LLC in the other states it is "transacting business".
For U.S. federal income tax purposes, an LLC is treated by default as a pass-through entity. If there is only one member in the company, the LLC is treated as a "disregarded entity" for tax purposes, and an individual owner would report the LLC's income or loss on Schedule C of his or her individual tax return. Thus, income from the LLC is taxed at the individual tax rates. The default tax status for LLCs with multiple members is as a partnership, which is required to report income and loss on IRS Form 1065. Under partnership tax treatment, each member of the LLC, as is the case for all partners of a partnership, annually receives a Form K-1 reporting the member's distributive share of the LLC's income or loss that is then reported on the member's individual income tax return.
- An LLC can elect to be taxed as a sole proprietor, partnership, S corporation or C corporation, providing for a great deal of flexibility.
- The owners of the LLC, called members, are protected from some or all liability for acts and debts of the LLC, depending on state shield laws.
- In the United States, an S corporation is limited to 100 shareholders, and all of them must be U.S. tax residents. An LLC may have an unlimited number of members, and there is no citizenship restriction.
- Using default tax classification, profits are taxed personally at the member level, not at the LLC level.
- Much less administrative paperwork and record-keeping than a corporation.
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- Pros and Cons of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) - AllBusiness.com
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