This article is about some of the traps that lie in wait for unwary founders. Remember that any startup has numerous issues to deal with starting on day one of the formation of the new business. A new business owner who fails to be ready on day one proceeds at his or her own peril. Startup legal problems can take numerous forms and this article discusses some of the major issues such as failing to assign the IP to the new company, failing to reduce investor or partner agreements to writing, agreeing to a “standard” agreement, failing to observe corporate formalities, and failing to take into account that partners may die, get divorced or file for bankruptcy.
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.
Your startup attorney may suggest that you look at the S corporation and LLC as the two most attractive options for forming your new business. There are a number of considerations for you to keep in mind for your startup business and for you to decided on a LLC or S corporation. They generally fall into four major categories: Protecting personal assets: the business owner wants to assure that the new business’ creditors can only get at the assets of the business, not those of the individual owners; Transferring interests in the business: whatever form you have, you want to be able to transfer stock, or ownership interests in your business; Admitting new investors: you want to make sure that you have a mechanism to admit or restrict new investors in the business; Taxes: which corporate form allows you to pay the least amount of taxes. In this blog post, I am going to focus on two of the most common forms available for small businesses: S corporations named after subchapter S in the tax code, and limited liability companies (LLCs). New business owners generally like the flexibility of the limited liability companies over a corporation and they can still have their LLC taxed as a C corporation or S corporation if they want and can qualify.