Careful when electing LLC taxed as S Corp. Your startup business is organized as a LLC and you have consulted with your small business lawyer and tax adviser about whether you should elect to be taxed as a S corporation. Your startup lawyer has filed the papers to organize your LLC in Washington DC or elsewhere. You decided to make the S corp election to save self-employment taxes—a good reason for many small business owners. All is good and well, except that there are looming traps for the unwary. When you talk with your tax adviser or your startup attorney, you want to come prepared and understand that the S corp election may pose some financial risks for you. This article describes some of the looming risks for those business owners who have elected for their LLC to be taxed as a S corp. This article is not meant to provide tax or legal advice, rather to highlight some of the issues that you as the small business owner may face and will want to make an informed decision with you small business attorney or tax adviser. This article was not intended to provide an exhaustive list of differences between taxation of a partnership and taxation of a S corporation. Rather, this article was intended to highlight some of the differences. You may have a good idea of your exit strategy for your new business. If you think that you will be able to take it public in a few years, or that you will stand to benefit for minimizing self-employment taxes, then there may be good reason to make the election to be taxed as a corporation. This article intended to point out some of the countervailing considerations and you should discuss your particular needs with your small business attorney and tax adviser.
We have reviewed the considerations for choosing your business formation type between a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation. You have discussed the choices with your startup lawyer. The threshold question you want to ask is whether your small business would qualify for S corporation tax treatment. For many clients, that is the end of the story because their startup has something that would make it ineligible for S corporation tax treatment such as one of the partners is a corporation. If the business meets the S corporation criteria, then the next question is whether it is advantageous to the new business to elect to be treated as a S corporation. As we have discussed in this blog, the clear answer is “it depends.” There are advantages and disadvantages to both S corporation tax status and partnership tax status, but the primary driver for those who elect S corporation status is to try to save self-employment taxes. In the next blog, I will write that there are more dimensions to this decision. We will go over some of the rules regarding distributions, redemption of ownership interests, contributions of goods or services, among some other rules that you may want to talk about with your tax adviser. The rules governing taxation of LLCs are complex and a tax adviser is essential to help guide you through the tax maze.