In the United States, a limited liability company is a business entity type that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation, creating the best of both worlds for business owners. LLCs have rapidly become one of the most popular business structures for new and small businesses, largely because they are considered to be simpler and more flexible than a corporation.
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Limited liability companies are easy to maintain while remaining extremely flexible, so it's not surprising that it is a popular choice among businesses of all different shapes and sizes. Often, owners of an LLC are self employed or run smaller businesses, where the simplicity of pass through taxation and a lack of annual requirements makes a lot of sense. Since the profits and losses are reported directly on the owners personal tax returns, filing taxes is much easier.
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.
Minimal Compliance Requirements LLCs are subject to limited state mandated annual filing requirements and ongoing formalities. While corporations are typically required to have at least an annual meeting of directors and shareholders (and initial meeting of the same), adopt bylaws, and keep minutes of all meetings and all formal corporate resolutions, an LLC is not required to do any of those things (see the explanation of an operating agreement, above). The LLC members may have whatever meetings they wish and may document any such things as they wish, however they are not required to do so.
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Decide if your LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed. A "member" of an LLC is either an owner of or investor in that LLC. A member-managed LLC affords each member equal rights in deciding how the business will be run. A manager-managed LLC is where the members elect several from their number to be responsible for the company's business affairs.
File with the appropriate federal, state, and local governmental agencies. Depending on the business purpose of your LLC and the jurisdiction in which you organize, you may have to file additional forms relating to LLCs with certain governmental agencies. Each industry is regulated differently—as is each local jurisdiction—and so it is best to ask an attorney or accountant for assistance in this matter.
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The governing document of the LLC is called an operating agreement, and it is within this document that the members lay out all important provisions, such as standards for LLC governance, ownership parameters, and rules around member changes (adding or removing members, or what happens in case of death or incapacity of a member). The operating agreement is an internal document and is an agreement amongst the members or owners, which means it is not recorded with the state.
No Ownership Restrictions The LLC does not have any residency or citizenship restrictions, which allows foreign nationals to have ownership in an LLC, if desired. In addition, other corporate entities may be LLC members which means that other corporations or LLCs (or other entities) may be a member of the LLC, or may be the sole member (although an LLC with a sole member that is a corporation or LLC is treated for tax purposes as a partnership or multi-member LLC).