Understanding the tax implications of an LLC can help business owners decide if this formation is the best option for their companies. An LLC offers personal liability protection for its owners, called members. This means that if the owners' personal assets aren't at risk of being seized for business debts unless an agreement or guarantee was signed as part of the business financing process.

The Structure of an LLC

The LLC business structure protects the personal assets of the owners, similar to the protection offered by a corporation while offering more flexibility for management and taxation that is less complex. In order to form an LLC, the first step is filing the necessary documents with the agency in your state. With the documents, you will need to pay the required filing fee. When outlining the interests of the LLC on the filing document, you can include more than a single class.

An LLC is a flexible business structure that makes it easier to divide up different sections, each with its own preferences and rights. It is also more flexible in terms of profit sharing among the owners. LLCs don't limit who can own interests in the business. Although an LLC comes with a number of advantages, it's important to consider the pros and cons before you decide on how to structure your business. The tax implications of forming an LLC are worth considering.

The IRS doesn't have a separate tax classification for an LLC. Therefore, the IRS treats LLCs as sole proprietorships, partnerships, C corporations, or S corporations. The taxing agencies in some states require LLC owners to fill out and file separate forms.

A corporation is a separate tax entity, which means it exists separately from its owners. An LLC is not; instead, the IRS refers to it as a pass-through entity similar to a sole proprietorship or partnership. This means that all business losses and profits are passed through the LLC to its members. The members then report the amounts on their personal income tax returns. The business doesn't have to pay any federal income tax, eliminating the double taxation that impacts corporations. However, some states do require LLCs to pay an annual tax.

In a corporation, double taxation refers to the taxation of the business profits at the corporate level and again at the shareholder level when profits are shared among owners through the payment of dividends. Since LLCs have members instead of shareholders, they have different structures for taxes. For example, if a corporation's profits for the year were less than $50,000, the applicable tax rate is 15 percent.

The owner of an LLC would be responsible for a higher tax rate on the business profits. The taxes could be as much as $4,386 plus 25 percent of any amount over $31,850. This rate would apply to the same amount of income as the corporation earned in a year. Since a corporation's profits are double-taxed, the shareholders would have to pay the 15 percent corporate tax rate on any dividends they receive.

Choosing your business entity isn't something to decide overnight or rush into; make sure to discuss the pros and cons of each with a tax professional or business lawyer. Although you might be tempted to search for information online, you could end up on a website with incorrect information that won't help you make an informed decision. Misinformation about business structures could also impact your business tax filings, which could get you into trouble with the IRS.

Overview of Tax Implications of LLCs

An LLC is a business structure option that is flexible regarding:

  • Business ownership
  • Taxes
  • Operations
  • Asset protection
  • Management structure
  • Formalities required

As you make a decision on which business entity to form, consider these important tax issues:

  • Federal income tax liability
  • Fringe benefits
  • State income tax liability
  • Retirement plans
  • Self-employment taxes

Many entrepreneurs don't fully understand the relationship between limited liability and taxation. They might believe that when an LLC is taxed as a general partnership or sole proprietorship, the business is subject to the same liability as these business formations. Similar confusion comes up when a corporation elects for taxation under subchapter S. However, these concepts are not related.

If you need help with the tax implications of an LLC, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.