Additionally, while running and maintaining an LLC is more difficult than a simple sole-proprietorship, it’s far less complex and costly than full-blown incorporation so it’s idea for small to medium sized businesses. To understand more of why you may want to file your business as an LLC, consider the main features:
LLC Means Limited Personal Liability
As if they were shareholders in a corporation, owners of LLCs enjoy personal liability protection for any debt or claims against the business. Simply put, this means that if your business owes money for utilities or to a creditor or landlord and it cannot pay the obligation, your personal assets are protected. Should a lawsuit arise, only the assets belonging to the LLC would be at risk, hence the “limited” nature of the liability protection provided.
Exceptions to the Protection LLCs Provide
The protection that LLCs provide business owners is not 100% complete. This is true of S CORPs and C CORPs as well. Exceptions do exist. Specifically, the owner of an LLC can be found personally liable if:
- They personally guarantee a loan or debt and the LLC defaults on it
- They directly and personally cause bodily harm or injury to a third party
- They do not pay the taxes they withhold from employee wages.
- They intentionally commit an illegal, fraudulent, or reckless act that results in harm to a third party or the company.
- They do not properly separate the affairs of the LLC from their personal affairs as they should to receive separate legal status. This is extremely important to be careful about. There are a number of specific things you can and should do at all costs to protect you LLC from being found as non-existent by a judge in a court of law. These include:
- Keep all of your personal finances and accounts completely separate from your LLCs. If you have employees, make sure you get a federal ID# as well.
- In all your business matters, behave as legally, ethically, and fairly as you can. Never misrepresent or conceal information concerning your tax obligations, finances, business relationships, etc.
- Use a written operating agreement for your LLC to give its existence as a separate legal entity credibility.
- Keep your LLC adequately funded to ensure it continues to meets financial and tax obligations that you can foresee.
Because there are gaps in what LLC protection covers, a great way to improve your protection of your personal assets is to acquire business insurance designed to fill in the gaps of the coverage LLCs provide. This is essential for businesses where concerns like malpractice exist.
Additionally, if a court ignores your LLC protection, insurance will still cover you. However, it won’t protect you from unpaid debt. Therefore, once again, it’s important to keep your LLC as well funded as possible to ensure it is on top of its debt obligations.
Management Structure in an LLC
In a typical LLC, all owners participate equally in all aspect of the business. This structure is referred to as member management. On the other hand, manager management, is an LLC structure where one or more owners are non-managing and simply share in the profits. This happens in situations where perhaps a family business sees one partner retire, or where one partner is an investor.
The essential difference is that only those named as manager can vote in management decisions in a manager management LLC. Though this may be a convenient form of LLC, there are specific state and federal regulation concerning sales of securities to keep in mind.
LLC Tax Obligations
One of the most attractive features of an LLC is that it is not a separate tax entity from its owner. Meaning, unlike a corporation which pays taxes before the owner is paid and taxed again, taxing only happens one time. Instead, the profits and losses of an LLC pass directly on to the owner(s) who report and pay their tax obligations each quarter based upon their individual share of the LLCs P&Ls.
Even though an LLC has no tax obligations, LLCs that are co-owned have to file IRS FORM 1065 annually. This is the same form that partnerships must file and basically sets out each member’s share of the overall LLC profits (or if it is the case, losses). This form helps the IRS ensure LLC co-owners and partnerships correctly report income.
Creating an LLC
Forming an LLC requires two crucial steps:
- Filing an “Articles of Organization” with the LLC branch of your state government. This office is often within the corporations division of the secretary of the state, though it varies from state to state. The fee for this ranges depending on where you are from $100 - $800. Though you can form an LLC with co-owners, it is possible to file an Articles of Organization with a single individual. In most states, this is a simple one-page form that only calls for a few simple details about your LLC (address, name) as well as contact info for the person to receive legal papers for the LLC (typically referred to as the LLC’s registered agent).
- Additionally, your LLC needs an operating agreement that stipulates the rights, entitled percentages, responsibilities, and shares each owner will receive. This is not a document you file with the state. Rather it is the document you use to ensure you remain compliant and receive the full protection your LLC is designed to provide.
Dissolving an LLC
One of the crucial tasks of your LLC Operating Agreement is to protect your business from the abrupt ending it would face if a member decides they want to end the LLC. Without an agreement stipulating agreed to provisions for how to dissolve an LLC in the event on or more parties wants out, they can just leave and force remaining members to fulfill debts, divide assets, and either make a new LLC or move on. An agreement typically includes buy-sell clauses designed to prevent just this that include specific details on what to do in the event a co-owner retires, passes on, or decides to move in a different direction.
Still Have Questions?
An LLC is a great way to provide personal asset protection for all kinds of small and medium sized businesses. By providing the tax structure of a sole proprietorship/partnership with the liability protection of a corporation at only a fraction of the work, it may just be the right step for your business.
If you are considering incorporating or becoming and LLC and would like some sound legal advice from someone who knows the law and the concerns of small and medium sized business owners in Florida, look no further than the Law Offices of Yoel Molina. With years of experiences helping businesses owners throughout the state achieve peace of mind by finding the right protection for their personal assets, Yoel has the understanding, insight, and legal expertise needed to do the same for you. So give our office a call, we’d be glad to discuss your legal business needs and concerns.