Questions to Help Determine if an LLC or Corporation is Best.

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Which entity is best for your new business, an LLC or Corporation? When you form a new LLC or corporation, the process is so easy, with so many online websites. Filing the articles with a registered agent is the easiest part of the process. The challenging part is to determine how your corporation or LLC should be taxed at a federal and state level and to make sure you have a complete formation, one that has real liability protection, not just filing the articles, which has ZERO protection.

Ask these Questions to Help You Determine is an LLC or Corporation Best?

Ask these Questions to Help You Determine is an LLC or Corporation Best?

Here are some of the key questions we recommend you evaluate before you form an LLC (which may be taxed in four different ways) or a corporation that may be taxed as a C corporation or an S corporation.

  • What is your business and how does this affect your choice?
    • A personal service corporation, in the past, was a flat 35%; but since the 2018 tax cuts, that has now been reduced to 21%
    • 20% deduction for pass-through income, with some restrictions
    • Are you investing in real estate or do you flip real estate?
    • Are you an e-commerce seller with potential sales and state income tax requirements?
    • Do you own real estate? If so, are you a dealer or investor? How many properties do you own? How much total equity and what percentage of your total net worth is all the properties?
  • Do you have partners?
    • Is it a domestic partner in a community property state (there are 9)? This comes into play with a single or multi-member LLC. 
    • Is it a foreign partner in another country? If so, is there a tax treaty with your partner’s country?
    • Do you plan to have a buy-sell agreement?
    • Is one partner an investor? This has a big impact on how your LLC is managed. 
    • Do your partners have an SSN or ITIN (this is important for banking, U.S. merchant account, and sales tax registration in a few states).
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Distributions from an LLC

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Know how your distributions from an LLC are taxed are critical to your LLC formation strategy. After your LLC is formed and your business is up and running and revenue is flowing in it will come to that important point where you will distribute money to the partners. That may be just you, your spouse or other outside partners.

Most simply think about writing a check from the LLC to themselves as the owner and really do not consider the tax ramifications of their actions. This is especially important any time you have a partner, whether that is a spouse, outside partner, separate legal entity.

LLC Distributions

LLC Distributions are a critical part of your LLC taxation options.

Let’s address some basic fundamentals first then get into more details:

The first step is to be aware of how your LLC is taxed. Are you a single member LLC taxed as an S corporation, or disregarded for tax purposes? If you have earned income and a single member LLC that will flow through to schedule C (basically you are operating as a sole proprietorship, but have the liability protection of an LLC). Test question: Is there any payroll for a single member LLC? The answer: depends. If the LLC is disregarded for tax purposes there is NO payroll to the owner. Is it possible for a single member LLC to have employees? Yes. If the single member LLC is taxed as an S corporation, the active member (owner) would have payroll and distributions. If you have a single member LLC taxed as an S corporation, of course, the only member is active. If you have a two-member LLC taxed as an S corporation, it is possible that the second member could be passive (this could be a spouse or silent partner). Would the passive member be the manager of an LLC managed by managers? No. By definition, if passive they would not be running day to day operations. Keep that in mind.

A single member LLC taxed as a C Corporation; there would be at some point some type of payroll to the owner of the C Corporation. Is it possible that there was only enough revenue in the LLC taxed as a Corporation to pay business expenses only and not enough profits left over for any type of payroll? That is possible. You may take dividends out of the LLC taxed as a C Corporation, but keep in mind dividends are NOT deductible to the LLC taxed as a C Corporation’s profits.

An LLC taxed as a partnership is a very common structure. The big mistake you want to avoid is doing payroll for partners. There is NO payroll to partners in an LLC taxed as a partnership. There is something called, “guaranteed payments” to the manager of the LLC for their role in the day to day operations of the LLC which is subject to employment taxes, but it is not payroll. The members (or partners) of the LLC will receive distributions in profits. If the member or partner is actively involved in operating the business those distributions will be subject to employment taxes.

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Your LLC and Corporate Responsibilities as a Manager or Officer

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The manager of an LLC or officer of a corporation have important responsibilities they must execute properly to give them personal liability protection.

Forming a separate legal entity is a huge step in separating your personal and business liability. You obtain liability protection with a separate legal entity the day you file the LLC or Corporation.

What most people do not realize is that after day 1 and beyond you are not protected unless you operate the entity as a separate legal entity.

That involves avoiding commingling of funds, proper capitalization and proper minutes and resolutions as your role as the director, officer, shareholder or manager, member or member of an entity.

Typically as a director of a corporation or a manager of an LLC, your liability is limited personally. As long as you operate within your role as the manager of an LLC or director of a corporation. Nevada will protect you as long as you do not commit fraud. Other states have a minimum fiduciary duty or duty of care.

Your LLC and Corporate Responsibilities is Vital for Compliance and Protection.

Your LLC and Corporate Responsibilities is Vital for Compliance and Protection.

Let me cover for you the biggest mistakes we have seen over the years that have caused unnecessary liability to directors, officers and managers:

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The Series LLC, a Closer Look

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There is a lot of discussion about forming a series LLC instead of multiple LLCs to help save on filing costs. A series LLC is a form of a LLC that provides liability protection across multiple “series” each of which is THEORETICALLY protected from liabilities arising from other series or units. Some have described this structure as a master LLC that has separate divisions (another way to look at it). Series LLCs are now permitted in 8 states, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Each series or unit also called a sub-LLC will have to create a separate Series Agreement. Each sub-LLC will have its own asset name, bank account and a separate EIN (Federal Tax ID) number. While the Operating Agreement will be amended as series are added or deleted, the Certificate of Formation (also called Articled of Organization) filed with the state does not require amendment.

The Series LLC members must sign an Addendum to the Operating Agreement and then separate accounts must be established and records maintained for the new cell or unit that is added.

Concerns and Issues with a Series LLC

Currently, governing bodies have not resolved the problems surrounding tax and creditor issues related to the Series LLC.

There is some conflict between the Federal Bankruptcy Code and the State Series LLC law. Some current owners have expressed concerns about their inability to file one tax return for all of the sub-LLCs. Many attorneys are reviewing the tax laws to determine the best way to resolve tax issues. The resolution will also determine whether or not they will endorse the Series LLC nationwide. However, a pending IRS regulation may solve at least the federal taxation questions related to this topic. It is expected to be enacted in the near future.

CAUTION: We do NOT currently recommend the series LLC if you are planning to invest in real estate in California.

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Doing Business in Multiple States -When Does Your Company have to Register? Part II

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Division of Tax Base
Now, that you understand nexus and the difference between soliciting business and promoting it, it is critical to understand the background of how the states divide up the tax base. The Commerce Clause requires that a state may tax only that part of a corporation’s income that is fairly attributable to its income-producing activities in the state. There are three general approaches in handling this division of tax base. There are:

  • Separate accounting
  • Specific allocation
  • Formulary apportionment

Separate accounting is based on the premise that it is both possible and practical to isolate the taxable income of portions of a business that a corporation carries on within a state. Based on practical and theoretical flaws, separate accounting is rarely used.

Specific allocation assigns certain types of income to particular states using nonformulary rules. It is generally applied to income not related to the operational or unitary business of the taxpayer.

Formulary apportionment divides a taxpayer’s business income among the states in which it does business. A formula is used to generate an apportionment percentage that is based on the relative amount of a taxpayer’s in-state activities.

So Which Approach do the States Use?
There is an act called the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act (UDITPA). UDITPA is a state tax model for allocating and apportioning income among states. Nearly half of the states with a corporate income tax have adopted UDITPA.

UDITPA has created three tests for determining the allocation and apportionment of income among states. They are:

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Costly Mistakes Made with Your Business Entity

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Investing in a powerful tool and not using the tool properly does not make a lot of sense. I know when it comes to running a business it requires multiple hats to wear and very often you are off and running on 10 different projects, calls, appointments, presentations…and perhaps the very foundation of your business may be in jeopardy. Here are the top costly mistakes I have seen made over the past 20 years:

1. Not completing the transition from a sole proprietorship to a separate legal entity. If you started a business in your own name for a few months before you formed an entity odds are part of what you did you completed as an individual and you need to connect the dots to the new entity. If you filed a DBA (doing business as) with yourself as the applicant that needs to be canceled and re-linked to the entity. That means your entity needs to be the applicant, not you! If you don’t do this you still are exposed to unlimited liability and filing a Schedule C with a
higher audit potential. Next point is to open a bank account in the name of the business, not just keep the account in your personal name. Use a business credit card in the name of the entity, not just your personal credit card and keep track of expenses. You will want to minimize the amount of debt that shows up in your personal name. Update all affiliate programs, vendors with your new entity information so any income is going to your business entity, not to your name personally. Update your websites, business cards, letterhead with the new name of your business. Another important tip make sure your website is in compliance, most are not, I would recommend www.autoweblaw.com simple software that has all the legal agreements you need on your website or blog.

2. Funding concerns. 95% of businesses fail within 5 years and undercapitalization is the #1 reason. The pattern I have seen is that small business owners are hoping for revenue to come in as the primary source of money to grow their business. What happens if your revenues are off or don’t come in at all? You may be working on that great new product and all your e-mails go out and no one converts. That is a real problem. The key is to model success. Almost all successful companies do not use only their own money to grow. I know you know the concept, “OPM”, other people’s money, yet are you doing that? Are you only self-funding your business on your personal credit? Did you know that once the entity was filed the business credit bureaus will start creating a file. They scan the Secretary of State’s records to create a file with any new filings. They look for the name of the business, the start date, and name of the officers/managers the address…If you are not paying attention to how you fill out forms with the business address, business license, state forms you can create disconnects in the database. In one business credit bureau, NCP is spelled four different ways. The NCP part is the same, but one way has “Inc.”, one has “,Inc.” other has “, Inc” and the last one is “Inc”.

Did you notice the differences between the comma and period? That created four different files! Don’t make that same mistake. Unlike personal credit bureaus, business credit bureaus are very difficult to fix any mistakes. They have their own set of rules and are not set up for changes after mistakes happen. This creates a problem when it comes to developing credit for your entity because you basically have one shot at the apple to get it right the first time. Banks and vendors are very interested in the financial strength of your company. Now joint venture partners can check you out for free to determine who is stable in your operation. You may be losing business and not knowing it. It is really a must to be financially solid in your business and your developing business credit is a must for your long-term success.

3. Safe and risk assets. Mixing asset classes is a major risk to your wealth that is unnecessary. A risk asset is an asset that would cause liability to your entity. That may be a business, real estate, equipment, again, anything that may cause liability to an entity. A safe asset is one that does not cause liability to an entity, like cash, ownership of another company, investments…If your business falters and you need to rely upon your safe assets to recover short term, why unnecessarily put your safe assets at risk? It happens all the time. There are two reasons this may be happening to you, first, you have thought that your amount of safe assets are not large enough to protect. Imagine having $25K in a brokerage account in

4. Not clear on who does what? A partner can help you grow a business quickly and destroy it even faster if you are not on the same page. Very similar to being married. I have been married for 21 years with three girls and it is a lot of work and requires meetings, and discussions to do the best to be on the same page. Business like marriage can be very exciting at first and you really need to be able to communicate well as to what you are looking to accomplish. The fun part of the business is discussing how you will bring in revenue and all the possibilities that can happen with profits. The part that isn’t fun is the expense side of the ledger. First, you must agree upon what is actually considered an expense, does that include things like cell phones, travel, meals…? What happens if revenues are way off and there is not enough money to pay each partner and you need more capital from each partner to keep it going? This can be a very uncomfortable problem. It is best to presuppose the challenges ahead of time and see if you can calmly discuss them and come up with solutions that make sense. If you can’t get to first base on the uncomfortable parts before you get started that is a bad sign and perhaps you should NOT be a partner. In fact, odds are the business is doomed to fail if you can’t get through some of these basic uncomfortable discussions from the start. Now, that does not mean your partner is telling their spouse the same story. That can and often does create more issues. Having as much in writing from the start and a business plan in place makes the most sense. Almost ALL, not all, but close, partnerships that refuse to take the time to put things in writing fail. It is like clockwork. If anyone wants to start a business with you and they refuse to put things in writing, run! Most of the time the only one that makes money in that situation is the attorney’s after the partners sue each other! Take the time to be clear and put it in writing!

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