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  • Writer's pictureJulia Winnicki

Choosing the Right Business Structure: LLC vs. S-Corporation for Small Business Owners

Starting a new business is an exciting venture, but one of the crucial decisions entrepreneurs face is choosing the right business structure. Among the myriad options, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and S-Corporations stand out as popular choices for small businesses, and there often needs to be more clarity when deciding which one to choose. You may even get conflicting advice from your lawyer and accountant, so knowing the differences between each structure is sound. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of these two structures from the perspectives of a lawyer and a tax accountant. We'll also discuss why a sole proprietorship, while a simple option, may not be the best choice for your new venture.

Understanding the Basics

Before delving into the intricacies of LLCs and S-Corporations, let's briefly understand the fundamental differences between the two.

Limited Liability Company (LLC):

Formation: LLCs are relatively easy to form, requiring less paperwork compared to corporations. Owners, known as members, enjoy flexibility in management and structure.

Liability: Members' personal assets are generally protected from business debts and liabilities, offering a limited liability shield.

Taxation: LLCs have a pass-through taxation structure, meaning profits and losses are passed through to the members, who report them on their individual tax returns.


Formation: Like LLCs, S-Corporations provide limited liability protection, but the process of formation is more complex. It involves creating a corporation first and then electing S-Corporation status with the IRS.

Liability: Shareholders in an S-Corporation are not typically personally responsible for business debts and liabilities.

Taxation: S-Corporations also follow a pass-through taxation model, with profits and losses passed through to shareholders who report them on their individual tax returns. However, S-Corporations must follow strict IRS regulations regarding ownership and other criteria.

Now, let's examine the advantages and disadvantages of each structure.

Pros and Cons of LLCs

From a Lawyer's Perspective:


1. Flexible Structure: LLCs offer a versatile management structure, allowing members to choose a management style that suits their business needs. Whether member-managed or manager-managed, this adaptability is a significant advantage.

2. Limited Liability: The primary advantage of an LLC is the limited liability it provides. Members are generally protected from personal liability for business debts and legal actions against the company.

3. Less Formality: Compared to corporations, LLCs have fewer formalities, making it easier to manage and operate the business.


1. State-Specific Regulations: LLC regulations vary by state, requiring careful consideration of the legal requirements in the chosen jurisdiction. Entrepreneurs must carefully navigate the specific requirements of the state where they choose to establish their LLC.

2. Ownership Transfer Restrictions: Transferring ownership in an LLC can be more complex than in a corporation, as it often requires the unanimous consent of all members, making the process potentially cumbersome.

3. Limited Capital Structure: If you plan to attract investors by selling shares, an LLC might not be the best choice, as it lacks the structure for issuing stock.

From a Tax Accountant's Perspective:


1. Pass-Through Taxation: LLCs enjoy pass-through taxation, meaning business profits and losses flow through to the individual members' tax returns, preventing double taxation.

2. Tax Flexibility: Members can choose how they want the business to be taxed, either as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, depending on their specific tax situation. Ask your accountant for more details on which way is best for you.


1. Self-Employment Taxes: Members are subject to self-employment taxes on their share of the business income, potentially leading to a higher overall tax burden compared to other structures. While this is a common characteristic of pass-through entities, members must know its impact on their overall tax liability.

2. Franchise Taxes: In some states, LLCs are subject to franchise taxes, which can add an additional financial burden. Entrepreneurs must consider this when choosing their business structure.

Pros and Cons of S-Corporations

From a Lawyer's Perspective:


1. Limited Liability: Shareholders are generally shielded from personal liability for business debts and legal actions.

2. Capital Structure: S-Corporations can attract investors by issuing stock, providing a pathway for business expansion.

3. Transferability of Shares: Shares in an S-Corporation can be more easily transferred than ownership in an LLC.


1. Complex Formation: The process of creating a corporation and electing S-Corporation status is more complex than forming an LLC, requiring careful adherence to IRS regulations and preparing more paperwork like Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, etc. More about this process in future blogs.

2. Strict Ownership Criteria: S-Corporations have strict ownership criteria, limiting the number and types of shareholders.

From a Tax Accountant's Perspective:


1. Pass-Through Taxation: Like LLCs, S-Corporations benefit from pass-through taxation, avoiding double taxation of corporate profits.

2. Salary and Dividend Split: Shareholders can receive a combination of salary and dividends, potentially leading to tax savings.


1. Limited Flexibility: S-Corporations are subject to strict IRS regulations regarding the number and types of shareholders, potentially limiting flexibility.

2. Formal Record Keeping: S-Corporations must maintain detailed records and adhere to formalities, adding to administrative burdens.

3. Separate Tax Returns: Despite the Pass-through Taxation, S-Corporations are required to submit a separate tax return in addition to an individual tax return, which is not always a requirement for LLCs. While I strongly believe in keeping your personal and business finances separate, preparing separate tax returns may result in additional time and costs.

Why Sole Proprietorship is Not the Ideal Option

While a sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business structure, it comes with significant drawbacks that may outweigh its simplicity.

From a Lawyer's Perspective:

1. Unlimited Personal Liability: In a sole proprietorship, there is no legal distinction between the business and the owner, exposing personal assets to business debts and legal actions.

2. Lack of Formal Structure: Sole proprietorships lack the formal structure of LLCs or corporations, making it challenging to attract investors or plan for long-term growth.

From a Tax Accountant's Perspective:

1. No Pass-Through Taxation: Sole proprietors are subject to self-employment taxes and do not benefit from pass-through taxation.

2. Limited Tax Planning Options: Sole proprietors have fewer options for tax planning and may face a higher overall tax burden.

Registered Agent for an LLC and S-Corp: Navigating Legal Compliance

A crucial aspect of establishing and maintaining both LLCs and S-Corporations involves designating a registered agent, an individual or entity responsible for receiving legal documents, such as lawsuits or official notices, on behalf of the business. The registered agent's role is pivotal for ensuring compliance with state regulations and maintaining a reliable point of contact. While business owners can opt to be their own registered agents, there are practical reasons to consider third-party services. Choosing a third-party registered agent offers privacy, as the agent's address is listed publicly instead of the owner's home or office. It also ensures a consistent presence during business hours, reducing the risk of missing critical documents. However, some entrepreneurs prefer to act as their own registered agents to maintain control and cut costs. The decision hinges on individual circumstances, but regardless of the choice, having a registered agent is indispensable for maintaining legal compliance and promptly addressing any official communications.

In conclusion, the choice between an LLC and an S-Corporation depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, the desired level of formality, and the preferences of the business owner. While both structures offer limited liability, they differ in terms of complexity, flexibility, and taxation.

For new small business owners, carefully evaluating the pros and cons of each structure, considering legal, tax, and operational aspects, is crucial. Seeking professional advice from lawyers and tax accountants can provide valuable insights and ensure that the chosen business structure aligns with the long-term goals of the business.

Ultimately, the decision should be made with a clear understanding of the potential advantages and disadvantages, considering the specific needs and aspirations of the business and its owner.

How Inoptia Can Help

Inoptia is an invaluable partner for new small business owners embarking on setting up their LLC or S-Corporation. For new businesses and start-ups, we provide assistance with:

Contact us to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

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