What’s the Difference Between a C-Corp and an S-Corp?
Deciding what kind of entity you want to be is one of the first steps when creating a new business. If you’ve already decided that your business should be a corporation, rather than a limited liability company or something else, you still have to decide whether you want to be a C corporation (C-Corp) or an S corporation (S-Corp).
The Differences Between a C-Corp and an S-Corp
A C-Corp is probably what you think of when you think of corporations; the big ones, like GM and ExxonMobil, are C-Corps. They can have an unlimited number of shareholders, and anyone may buy shares, including other companies and people in foreign countries.
An S-Corp, however, has limits on how many people may be shareholders (currently 100) and who may hold shares, since corporations, partnerships and non-resident aliens may not be shareholders. (There are other differences between the two, and you can read more on the IRS website about C corporations and S corporations.)
The main difference is in taxation. A C-Corp is taxed at the corporate level and if dividends are distributed to shareholders, those shareholders are taxed on those distributions. S-Corps seek to avoid this “double taxation” by being taxed differently. Instead, the S-Corp’s income “passes through” to the shareholders, who pay taxes on the income only once. (Same for losses.)
How to Become an S-Corp
First you need to incorporate in your state as a corporation, which by default is a C-Corp. You don’t need to file anything with the IRS or the federal government to become a corporation. But you do need to file a Form 2553 with the IRS if you want to change your status to an S-Corp. What you’re really doing is asking the IRS to tax you under a different section of the code. (The C in C-Corp is because those corporations are taxed under Chapter 1, subsection C of the IRS code; S-Corps are taxed under Chapter 1, subsection S.)
Pros and Cons of Becoming an S-Corp
Assuming that you’re deciding between being a C-Corp and an S-Corp (and not an LLC or other business entity), the two main things to consider are taxation and shareholders. Electing S-Corp status will let you avoid corporate-level taxes but may also restrict the growth of your company by putting limits on who and how many may become shareholders. You will also have to be sure to follow the IRS’s guidelines so that you don’t do anything to lose your S-Corp status.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, so it’s a good idea to speak with the other shareholders, a business attorney and an accountant to decide if becoming an S-Corp is the best option for your company.
Learn More About Becoming an S-Corp
Call 843-284-1021 to speak with business attorney Gem McDowell and his associates at the Law Office of Gem McDowell in Charleston. They can advise you on the pros and cons of becoming an S-Corp and provide legal advice on a variety of other issues in business law.