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November 10, 2023

Determining Which Business Entity is Most Tax-Favorable

Are you planning to start a business? Perhaps you have already and are now thinking about changing your business entity. In either circumstance, careful evaluation is needed to determine which business structure works best for you. From C-corporations to sole proprietorships, there are many issues to consider.

At present, individual federal income tax rates begin at 10% and range up to 37%. Meanwhile, corporate federal income tax is evaluated at a flat 21% rate. For some pass-through entity owners that are individuals (and some trusts and estates), the qualified business income (QBI) deduction may ease these differences in rates. 

Comparing corporate rates to individual rates

Unless Congress acts to extend it, the QBI deduction will end in 2026. By contrast, the 21% corporate rate isn’t scheduled to expire. It’s also worth considering that noncorporate taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes that exceed certain levels face an additional 3.8% tax on net investment income.

For some, opting to organize a business as a C-corporation rather than a pass-through entity could soften federal income tax impacts on the business’s income. Of course, the corporation will still pay interest on loans from shareholders, as well as reasonable compensation to those shareholders. Although that income will be taxed at higher individual rates, the corporation’s overall tax burden may be lowered in comparison to if the business was operated as a pass-through entity instead.

Other tax-related factors to take into consideration 

If most of the profits from the business will be distributed to the owners…

Structuring the business as a pass-through entity instead of a C-corporation may be preferable because shareholders will be taxed on dividend distributions from the corporation leading to double taxation.

Owners of a pass-through entity are only taxed once—at the personal level—on income from the business. Meanwhile, the true cost of double taxation must be evaluated based on projected income levels for both the owners and the business. 

If the value of the assets is likely to increase… 

Typically, conducting business as a pass-through entity can help owners avoid corporate tax in the event that assets are sold or the business is liquidated. When the corporation’s shares (rather than its assets) are sold, corporate tax may be avoided. 

However, the buyer may attempt to negotiate a lower price since the tax basis of appreciated business assets can’t be stepped up to reflect the purchase price. This can secure lower post-purchase depreciation and amortization deductions for the buyer.

If the business is a pass-through entity…

An owner’s basis in his or her interest in the entity is stepped up by the entity income that’s allocated to the owner. When his or her interests in the entity are sold, structuring the business as a pass-through entity could lead to less taxable gain for the owner.

If the business is expected to incur tax losses for a while…

Structuring the business as a pass-through entity may be favorable because it makes it possible to deduct the losses against other income.

On the other hand, it may be preferable for the business to operate as a C-corporation if you have insufficient other income or those losses aren’t usable. (For example, losses aren’t usable when they’re limited by passive loss rules.)

If the owner of a business is subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT)...

AMT rates can range from 26%-28%. Since corporations aren’t subject to AMT, it may be preferable to organize the business as a C-corporation in this situation. 

Questions? Smolin can help.

As you can tell, there is much nuance involved in choosing a business entity. This article covers some general information, but we recommend consulting with a knowledgeable accountant before making your final decision.

For more details about the best way to structure your business, consult with Smolin.

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