A limited liability company (LLC) is a business entity created under state law. Every state and the District of Columbia have LLC statutes that govern the formation and operation of LLCs.
The main advantage of an LLC is that in general its members are not personally liable for the debts of the business. Members of LLCs enjoy similar protections from personal liability for business obligations as shareholders in a corporation or limited partners in a limited partnership. Unlike the limited partnership form, which requires that there must be at least one general partner who is personally liable for all the debts of the business, no such requirement exists in an LLC.
A second significant advantage is the flexibility of an LLC to choose its federal tax treatment. Under IRS’s “check-the-box rules, an LLC can be taxed as a partnership, C corporation or S corporation for federal income tax purposes. A single-member LLC may elect to be disregarded for federal income tax purposes or taxed as an association (corporation).
LLCs are typically used for entrepreneurial enterprises with small numbers of active participants, family and other closely held businesses, real estate investments, joint ventures, and investment partnerships. However, almost any business that is not contemplating an initial public offering (IPO) in the near future might consider using an LLC as its entity of choice.
Deciding to convert an LLC to a corporation later generally has no federal tax consequences. This is rarely the case when converting a corporation to an LLC. Therefore, when in doubt between forming an LLC or a corporation at the time a business in starting up, it is often wise to opt to form an LLC. As always, exceptions apply. Another alternative from the tax side of planning is electing “S Corporation” tax status under the Internal Revenue Code.