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Small Business 101: An Overview of Different Business Structures
Posted by Kanika Sinha
November 8, 2023
How you incorporate your business depends on your personal and commercial needs.
Selecting how you structure your business is a crucial step in your entrepreneurial journey. But you need to take this step very cautiously. Your ownership choice determines how your company is organized, taxed, and held legally accountable — making it a cornerstone of your business’s success.
There are several famous business structures, and learning about each can help you make informed decisions that will help you build your business’s future.
Here are five types of business structures to consider.
1. Sole proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of a small business. In this structure, a single individual owns and operates the business. That person is personally responsible for all aspects of the company, including decision-making, finances, and management.
This structure has pass-through taxation — that is, the taxes pass through the business and onto the owner and are taxed only once. Examples of sole proprietors include artists, freelance writers, and consultants.
Easy and inexpensive to set up.
Complete control over the business.
Direct access to profits.
Limited access to capital.
Potential for long work hours.
Partnerships involve two or more individuals or entities co-owning and managing a business. The partners each own a percentage of the entire industry and receive profits in that proportion from the company.
Partnerships can be structured in multiple ways — general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships (LLPs). Each is unique and has its own liability rules. Partnerships are a common feature of professional services, such as law firms and medical practices.
LLCs are a flexible and popular choice for small businesses. They combine the liability protection feature of a corporation with the tax benefits of sole proprietorships. LLCs are common among small businesses like restaurants, retail stores, and tech startups.
Easy to establish.
Limited personal liability.
Flexible management structure.
Additional tax filing requirements.
4. C corporation
A C corporation is the most complex business structure. It will provide you with the highest level of liability protection, but setting one up entails substantial paperwork and administrative work.
Besides, they are taxed twice — first on a business level and then individually when owners receive profits. As a result, this can be a good choice for medium- or higher-risk businesses seeking sustained capital infusions. Firms with long-term exit plans that include going public or an eventual sale may also start as C corps.
Limited liability for owners.
Easier access to capital.
Multiple classes of stock.
An unlimited number of investors.
Expensive to set up.
Complex legal and tax requirements.
Additional administrative tasks.
5. S corporation
These are similar to C corporations but may only consist of up to 100 shareholders and one class of stock. They are pass-through entities like partnerships, so profits pass directly to the owner/shareholder, where they are taxed (only once).
Limited liability for management and shareholders.
No double taxation.
Cumbersome and complex incorporation process.
Ongoing fee requirement.
The final word
There is no one entity or way to incorporate your business. Depending on your requirements, use the guide above to weigh the pros and cons of various business structures to find the one that gives you the right balance of legal protections and benefits.
Want to know more about starting your small business? Since 2006, Escalon has helped thousands of startups get off the ground with our back-office solutions for accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, HR, payroll, insurance, and recruiting — and we can help yours, too. Talk to an expert today.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact ushere.
Kanika is an enthusiastic content writer who craves to push the boundaries and explore uncharted territories. With her exceptional writing skills and in-depth knowledge of business-to-business dynamics, she creates compelling narratives that help businesses achieve tangible ROI. When not hunched over the keyboard, you can find her sweating it out in the gym, or indulging in a marathon of adorable movies with her young son.