When you start a new business or start-up in New York, there are some major legal hurdles you’re going to encounter. It’s important to examine these issues carefully because they’re often confusing. Each issue should be discussed with an attorney because they can affect your business costs, tax structure, business organization, and liability. In forming a new business you need to choose a business entity type. There are four general types of business entities in New York: sole proprietorships, partnerships, S-corporations, and LLCs.
- Sole Proprietorship: This is a type of business where one person owns all the assets of that business. In a sole proprietorship those assets that belong to you as an individual and not a single shareholder or a corporate parent. With this type of business entity there are low start up costs, there’s less paperwork involved, and there are no corporate taxes. The big problem with sole proprietorships is that you are personally liable for all your debts. Creditors can go after your personal bank account or even your house to absolve your debts.
- Partnerships: A partnership is where two or more people jointly own and carry a business for profit. Under this type of entity, those entered in the partnership agree to share the business’s profits and/or losses. Unlike corporations, the company does not itself pay any tax, but the partners pay through their income or losses on their individual tax returns. In a partnership both partners are jointly and severely liable for business debts. Creditors can go after you for the debts of your partnership.
- S-Corporations must make sure there are no more than 100 stockholders, and each must have consent. S-corporations are taxed through the owner’s income without taxing the entity itself, much like in a partnership. All profits pass on to the owner without any tax from the shareholder to the owner, unlike in a corporation. The stockholders must be a U.S. citizen or a resident and can only have one class of stock. The owner of an S-Corporation can potentially use this structure to pay himself a smaller salary and pay less in taxes, however this can pose significant problems with the IRS. In a case in Iowa the head of an S-Corporation paid himself far less than his qualifications suggested. The IRS filed a case and succeeded in their suit.
- Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) are a hybrid business entity where its members are treated as shareholders of a corporation but for tax purposes the members are treated as if they’re in a partnership. In LLC’s the owners are not personally responsible for the debts as they are in sole proprietorships and partnerships. Under certain circumstances an individual may be liable: if a member personally guarantees a debt, if the personal funds are intertwined with the funds of the LLC, if there is little capitalization or insurance, or if it fails to pay taxes or violates a state law. A major issue with LLCs is their cost that include formation fees, filing fees, and annual state fees. There are, however, lower insurance costs.
The Law Office of Frederic R. Abramson represents start-up businesses in New York State. If you have any questions about choosing a business entity in New York, contact me at 212-233-0666