Choosing the Best Ownership Structure for Your Business

One of the most important decisions to make when you are starting a business is the structure. The right structure depends on who will own your business and what its activities will be. When you start a business, you must decide whether it will be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or other structure.

Experienced legal guidance at startup can help you avoid legal problems down the line. Contact The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A, for help determining which structure is right for your business. We are dedicated to helping small businesses in South Florida succeed.

Which Classification Is Right For Your Business?

The right form for your business will depend on the type of business you run, how many owners it has and its financial situation. No one choice suits every business: Business owners have to pick the structure that best meets their needs. This article introduces several of the most important factors to consider, including the potential risks and liabilities of your business, the formalities and expenses involved in establishing and maintaining the various business structures, your income tax situation and your investment needs.

Risks and Liabilities

In large part, the best ownership structure for your business depends on the type of services or products it will provide. If your business will engage in risky activities — for example, trading stocks or repairing roofs — you'll almost surely want to form a business entity that provides personal liability protection ("limited liability"), which shields your personal assets from business debts and claims. A corporation or a limited liability company (LLC) is probably the best choice for you.

Formalities and Expenses

Sole proprietorships and partnerships are easy to set up — you don't have to file any special forms or pay any fees to start your business and you don't have to follow any special operating rules. On the other hand, LLCs and corporations are almost always more expensive to create and more difficult to maintain. To form an LLC or corporation, you must file a document with the state and pay a fee, which ranges from about $40 to $800, depending on the state where you first build your business. In addition, owners of corporations and LLCs must elect officers (usually, a president, vice president, and secretary) to run the company. They also have to keep records of important business decisions and follow other formalities.

If you're starting your business on a shoestring, it might make the sense to form the simplest type of business — a sole proprietorship (for one-owner businesses) or a partnership (for businesses with more than one owner). Unless yours will be a particularly risky business, the limited personal liability provided by an LLC or a corporation may not be worth the cost and paperwork required to create and run one.

Income Taxes

Owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLCs all pay taxes on business profits in the same way. These three business types are "pass-through" tax entities, which means that all of the profits and losses pass through the business to the owners, who report their share of the profits (or deduct their share of the losses) on their personal income tax returns. Therefore, sole proprietors, partners, and LLC owners can count on about the same amount of tax complexity, paperwork, and costs.

Get Legal Guidance To Help Your Business Succeed

Call The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A, at 954-573-1444 or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced business attorney. With an office in Fort Lauderdale, we offer affordable legal services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout South Florida.