A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts incurred by the business.
Corporations are more complex than other business structures. Corporations tends to have costly administrative fees and complex tax and legal requirements. Because of these issues, corporations and generally suggested for established, larger companies with multiple employees.
For businesses in that position, corporations offer the ability to sell ownership shares in the business through stock offerings. Going public through an initial public offering (IPO) is a major selling point in attracting investment capital and high quality employees.
A corporation is formed under the laws of the state in which it is registered. To form a corporation you’ll need to establish your business name. For corporations, your legal name is the one you register with your state government. If you chose to operate under a name different than the officially registered name, you’ll most likely have to file a fictitious name (also known as an assumed name, trade name, or DBA name, short for “doing business as”). State laws vary, but generally corporations must include a corporate designation (Corporation, Incorporated, Limited) at the end of the business name.
To register your business as a corporation, you will need to file certain documents, typically articles of incorporation, with your state’s Secretary of State office. Some states require corporations to establish directors and issue stock certificates to initial shareholders in the registration process. If you are hiring employees, read more about federal and state regulations for employers.
Most businesses will need to register with the IRS and state and local revenue agencies, and receive a tax ID number or permit.
Corporations are required to pay federal, state, and in some cases, local taxes. Most businesses must register with the IRS and state and local revenue agencies, and receive a tax ID number or permit.
When you form a corporation, you create a separate tax-paying entity. Regular corporations are called “C corporations” because Subchapter C of Chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code is where you find general tax rules affecting corporations and their shareholders.
Unlike sole proprietors and partnerships, corporations pay income tax on their profits. In some cases, corporations are taxed twice – first, when the company makes a profit, and again when dividends are paid to shareholders on their personal tax returns.
Shareholders who are also employees pay income tax on their wages. The corporation and the employee each pay one half of the Social Security and Medicare taxes, but this is usually a deductible business expense.
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