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LLC members are not personally responsible for the company's debt or liability. S-Corp shareholders are not personally responsible for the company's debt or liability. C-Corp shareholders are not personally responsible for the company's debt or liability. Non-Profit directors are not personally responsible for organizational debt or liability. Sole Proprietors are personally responsible for debt and liability.
With the proper planning, limited liability companies can exist for generations. S-Corps continue to exist even if the owners or majority shareholders leave or pass away. C-Corps continue to exist even if the owners or majority shareholders leave or pass away. Non-Profit organizations and institutions survive after their directors leave. Sole Proprietorships do not exist when the owner quits or passes away.
Depending on how your business is structured, the amount of revenue your business earns, and several other factors, forming an LLC can provide potential tax benefits for business owners. LLCs are allowed to choose how they want to be taxed, either as an S corporation or C corporation. These options are not available when you are operating as a sole proprietorship. LLCs don't pay their own taxes directly, the income of the business its passed on to the members of the LLC through "pass through taxation." This means that a member is subject to self-employment taxes, but at higher levels of income, the LLC can often pay a lower base tax rate than a C Corporation. The best way to determine your potential tax benefits is to consult an accountant.
For businesses in industries like construction or real estate, where unforeseen circumstances and hazardous conditions may hold the owner responsible, consider starting an LLC. The protection gained means you will not be held personally liable, protecting you and your family from litigation or the debts of the business. An LLC may not be the best choice for business owners who plan on raising capital through outside investment. LLCs are not public structures and do not have shareholders, so taking a company public is not an option either. However, in the event that you'd like to take your business public you may switch to a public legal structure, like a C corporation, later on.
Depending on elections made by the LLC and the number of members, the IRS will treat an LLC as either a corporation, partnership, or as part of the LLC’s owner’s tax return (a “disregarded entity”). Specifically, a domestic LLC with at least two members is classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes unless it files Form 8832 and affirmatively elects to be treated as a corporation. For income tax purposes, an LLC with only one member is treated as an entity disregarded as separate from its owner, unless it files Form 8832 and elects to be treated as a corporation. However, for purposes of employment tax and certain excise taxes, an LLC with only one member is still considered a separate entity.