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What Is an LLC? A Comprehensive Guide

Last updated 02/28/2023 by

SuperMoney Team

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Summary:
An LLC is a business structure that combines the protection of limited liability from a corporation with the simplicity and tax flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship. Forming an LLC is typically easier and less expensive than forming a corporation, and offers tax flexibility and ease of formation. Make sure to research the specific laws and regulations in your state and consult with a professional before making a decision.
Whether you’re part of a small group of entrepreneurs or looking to start a business on your own, you’ll need to decide on your new business’s structure. Though this isn’t a fun part of the process, deciding on a business structure is vital for the future operations of a business.
But what business structure is best for you? How do you decide between a corporation, partnership, or LLC? Keep reading to learn more about limited liability companies, what they offer business owners, and how you can start one of your own.

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What is an LLC?

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a business structure that combines the limited liability protection of a corporation with the simplicity and tax flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship. This type of business structure is a popular choice for small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to limit their personal liability for the debts and obligations of the company.

How does an LLC work?

You can form an LLC by filing articles of organization with the state in which the company will operate. The structure of an LLC typically consists of one or more owners, known as members, who have a personal financial stake in the company. These members manage the day-to-day operations of the business and share in the profits and losses.
An LLC operates much like a partnership or sole proprietorship, where the members have control over the business and make decisions on its operations. However, unlike a partnership or sole proprietorship, members of an LLC have limited personal liability for the debts and obligations of the company. This means that their personal assets cannot be seized to pay the company’s debts.

How is an LLC taxed?

Depending on the number of members in an LLC, the entity may be taxed as a partnership, corporation, or a “disregarded entity.” A disregarded entity means the LLC’s owner included the company’s profits on their tax return.
Though the exact rules will differ by state, LLCs with two or more members are typically taxed as a partnership unless the members elect to be treated as a corporation. While single-member LLCs are often treated as a disregarded entity, the single member can also elect to be taxed as a corporation for income tax purposes.

Pros and cons of an LLC

The limited liability protection an LLC offers is a key benefit and major reason why many business owners choose this type of business structure. However, that doesn’t mean LLCs don’t have a few downsides to consider as well.
WEIGH THE RISKS AND BENEFITS
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
Pros
  • Limited personal liability. As an owner of an LLC, your personal assets are protected from the company’s debts and obligations.
  • Flexibility. Unlike a corporation, an LLC can have any number of owners and can be structured in a variety of ways to suit the needs of the business.
  • Pass-through taxation. Profits and losses can be passed through to the owners and reported on their personal tax returns. This helps avoid the double taxation that can occur with a corporation.
  • Ease of formation. Forming an LLC is generally easier and less expensive than forming a corporation.
  • Regulatory compliance. Depending on the state where you form your LLC, there may be fewer regulatory requirements than for a corporation.
Cons
  • Complexity. LLCs can be more complex to set up and manage than other business structures, such as sole proprietorships or partnerships.
  • Increased costs. Forming an LLC often involves additional costs, such as filing fees and the cost of drafting and filing the necessary legal documents.
  • Formality. LLCs must maintain more formal business practices and keep accurate records of their financial transactions. This can be time-consuming and require the help of an accountant or attorney.
  • Taxation. LLCs are often taxed as a partnership, which means that the company itself does not pay taxes on its profits. Instead, the profits and losses are passed through to the individual owners, who report them on their personal tax returns, which can lead to double taxation.
  • Limited life. Unlike a corporation, which has an indefinite life, an LLC is typically a less permanent business structure. Howerver, the life of an LLC is determined by the terms outlined in the operating agreement, and an LLC can continue even if a member dies, retires, or withdraws.
  • Less flexibility in management structure. Unlike corporations, which have a well-defined management structure with a board of directors, an LLC’s management structure is less formal, which can lead to conflicts among members.

Differences between LLC vs. LLP

It’s easy to confuse an LLC with an LLP, or limited liability partnership, but there are some key differences between the two. While both LLCs and LLPs offer limited liability protection to their owners or partners, they differ in the way they provide this protection and the types of businesses they’re available for.
Before choosing a business structure, make sure you research and consider your choices to ensure that you select the best option for your business.
  • LLC. An LLC is a hybrid business structure that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the simplicity and tax flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship. Members of an LLC have limited personal liability for the company’s debts and obligations. This allows the LLC’s profits and losses of the company to be passed through to the members and reported on their personal tax returns.
  • LLP. This is a type of partnership that offers limited liability protection to its partners. In an LLP, only some partners have limited liability protection, while the other partners have unlimited personal liability for the company’s debts and obligations. Similar to an LLC, the partners report their share of the company’s profits and losses on their personal tax returns. However, unlike LLCs, an LLP is typically only available for certain types of businesses, such as professional services firms.

Benefits and disadvantages of an LLP

WEIGH THE RISKS AND BENEFITS
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
Pros
  • Limited liability protection for some partners
  • Flexible management structure
  • Pass-through taxation
Cons
  • Limited availability for certain types of businesses
  • Unlimited personal liability for some partners
  • Potential for conflicts among partners

FAQs

Is forming an LLC expensive?

The cost of forming an LLC varies depending on the state, but it is typically less expensive than forming a corporation. It is important to research the specific laws and regulations in your state and consult with a professional to determine the exact cost.

What is the difference between an LLC and a corporation?

The main difference between an LLC and a corporation is the limited liability protection provided to the members. While a corporation provides this protection to shareholders, an LLC provides it to all members. Additionally, forming an LLC is typically easier and less expensive than forming a corporation.

Can I form an LLC online?

Yes, you can form an LLC online in many states by filing the necessary paperwork and paying the required fees. It’s important to research the specific laws and regulations in your state and consult with a professional to ensure that you complete the process correctly.

Who can be a member of an LLC?

An LLC can have one or more members, and these members can be individuals, other businesses, or a combination of both. It’s important to note that members can be from different countries.

Key Takeaways

  • An LLC is a business structure that combines limited liability protection with simplicity and tax flexibility.
  • Members of an LLC have limited personal liability for the company’s debts and obligations.
  • Profits and losses are passed through to the members and reported on their personal tax returns.
  • Forming an LLC is typically easier and less expensive than forming a corporation.
  • It’s important to research specific laws and regulations and consult with a professional before making a decision.

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