Incorporating your small business the right way can bring tax benefits and protect your personal assets. Read on to learn more about what incorporation is, why you might want to incorporate, and how an accountant can help you navigate the questions that come with selecting the right business structure.
What is Incorporation?
When discussing “incorporation” in terms of a business, the term denotes how the business is organized or structured.
Regardless of the structure you choose for your business, incorporation is a legal process that brings your business into existence. The following are business structures commonly used in a small business.
If you conduct business as an individual and do not register as any other type of business, you are a sole proprietor. With this business structure, your personal and business assets and liabilities are not separate. Sole proprietorships are relatively simple structures and a good choice for low-risk businesses or entrepreneurs testing a business idea. However, this business structure does not offer liability protection, so the owner is personally responsible for business debts and obligations. Another drawback is that it can be more challenging to get bank financing and business credit with this structure.
When two or more individuals own a business together, the simplest structure is the partnership. There are limited partnerships (LP) and limited liability partnerships (LLP). LPs consist of a general partner with unlimited liability; the remaining partners have limited liability and limited control in the business. The partner without limited liability pays self-employment taxes. In LLPs, every owner has limited liability, protecting them from business debts and the actions of the other partners.
Partnerships can be a good choice for multiple-owned businesses and professional groups like physicians, attorneys, and veterinarians.
Sometimes called a C-corp, a corporation is a separate legal entity from the business owner(s). The benefit of a corporation is that they offer the most robust protection for owners from personal liability; however, it costs more to form a corporation than it does to establish other business structures, and business profits are taxed at the personal and corporate level. Further, the record-keeping, operations, and reporting are more involved for a corporation. This structure is usually best for higher-risk businesses or those that raise money or plan to become publicly traded in the stock market.
An S-corporation, or S-corp, is designed to avoid the double-taxation of a C-corp. This avoidance is possible because, in an S-corp, profits and some losses go through the owner’s personal income to avoid corporate taxes. S-corps are taxed differently in different states, so it is essential to have your accountant help you understand the guidelines and laws in your state.
A limited liability company (LLC) has the benefits of a corporation and a partnership. The owner is protected from personal liability in situations like bankruptcy or lawsuits and can avoid corporate taxes because profits and losses can pass through their personal income. However, there are self-employment taxes and Medicare and Social Security contributions since LLC members are considered self-employed.
An LLC is an option for owners with significant assets that need protection and who want the benefit of a lower tax rate than a corporation pays.
How to Incorporate
When you’re ready to incorporate your business, consult your trusted CPA or accountant so that you have a full view of what incorporating will mean for you and your business initially and for years to come.