A Survey of Business Entities


The standard corporation, also called a C Corporation, is the most common corporate structure. Companies must file certain documents with the state in order to become incorporated. The corporation is a separate legal entity that is owned by shareholders. The standard corporation is allowed to have an unlimited number of shareholders, who are typically protected from the debts and liabilities of the corporation. A shareholder’s personal liability is typically limited only to the amount the shareholder invested in the company.

Corporations do experience double-taxation. Corporations are considered a separate legal, taxable entity from the owners for income tax purposes. Therefore, corporations pay tax on their earnings. If corporate earnings are then distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends, dividend income is taxed as regular income to the shareholders. By distributing corporate income in the form of dividends, the corporation does not receive the reasonable business expense deduction. The double taxation occurs at (1) the corporate level and (2) at the individual level. S Corporations and Limited Liability Companies are “pass-through” entities that are not subject to double taxation.

Some advantages of a corporation include:

Some disadvantages of a corporation include:

S Corporations

An S Corporation is a standard corporation that has elected a special tax status with the Internal Revenue Service. S Corporations have the same limited liability protection of standard corporations. The S Corporation’s special tax status eliminates the possibility of the double taxation that occurs with a standard corporation. The standard corporation pays a federal corporation income tax on its profits. Double taxation then occurs if the corporation distributes profits in the form of dividends to the shareholders, because the shareholder must then report the dividend as personal income and pay taxes on it.

The S Corporation election is quite beneficial when profits from the company will be distributed to the owners each year. By taking the S Corporation election, the income and/or loss of the corporation is reported directly on the shareholders’ individual tax returns.

To be classified as an S Corporation, a corporation must make a timely filing of Form 2553 with the IRS. In order for this election to take effect in the current calendar year, the election must be made by March 15, if the corporation is a calendar year taxpayer. A corporation can decide later to elect S Corporation status, but this election would not take effect until the following calendar year.

Some advantages of an S Corporation include:

Some disadvantages of an S Corporation include:

Limited Liability Company

The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a distinct business entity that offers an alternative to partnerships and corporations by combining the corporate advantage of limited liability protection with “pass-through” taxation. The LLC is taxed like a partnership or S Corporation. The LLC’s income is not taxed at the entity level; however, the LLC does complete a tax return. The income or loss of the LLC as shown on this return is “passed through” the LLC and is reported on the owners’ individual tax returns.

The LLC is owned by its members and does not have any restrictions on the number of members it can have. Members are analogous to partners in a partnership or shareholders in a corporation, depending on how the LLC is structured. A member will more closely resemble shareholders if the LLC utilizes a manager or managers, because the members will not participate in the management of the LLC. If the LLC does not utilize managers, then the members will more closely resemble partners, because they will have a direct say in the decision-making of the company. A member’s ownership of the LLC is represented by “membership interest”, just like a partner’s interest in a partnership or a shareholder’s interest in a corporation.

Some advantages of LLCs include:

Some disadvantages of LLCs include: