By Garrett Sutton, Esq.
A C-Corp has the widest range of deductions and expenses allowed by the IRS, especially in the area of employee fringe benefits. A C-Corp can set up medical reimbursement and other employee benefits, and deduct the costs of running these programs, including all premiums paid. The employees, including you as the owner/shareholder, will also not pay taxes on the value of those benefits.
This is not the case in a flow-through entity, such as an S-Corp, LLC or LP. In each of those cases the entity may write off the costs of the benefits, but any employee/shareholder who owns more than 2% of the entity will pay taxes on the value of their benefits received. So, if having the maximum deductions and all of the employee fringe benefits on a tax-free basis is important to you, a C-Corp may be your entity choice.
C-corporations are great for a business that sells products, has a storefront and employees, and may or may not have a warehouse where it keeps its inventory. C-Corps don’t work well with businesses that want to hold appreciating assets, such as real estate, because of the tax treatment on the sale of these assets.
Double Taxation Issues
The most often-cited disadvantage of using a C-Corp is the “double-taxation” issue. Double-taxation happens when a C-Corp has a profit left over at the end of the year and wants to distribute it to the shareholders as a dividend. The C-Corp has already paid taxes on that profit, but once it distributes the profit to its shareholders, those shareholders will have to declare the dividends they receive as income on their personal tax returns, and pay taxes again, at their own personal rates.
There are many things you can do to avoid the double-taxation scenario. Structure the C-Corp so that there are no profits left over – use all of the write-offs and deductions allowed by the IRS to reduce the C-Corp’s net income. Offer great benefit plans! Pay higher salaries to yourself and the other owner/employees than you would if you were using a flow-through entity such as an S-Corp. Yes, you will have to pay payroll taxes and personal income taxes on those monies, but you would pay personal taxes on dividends paid to you anyway. And it may be that in the big picture, the savings on one side outweigh the additional taxes paid on the other side.
The decision as to what entity is best for you really does, in so many cases, hinge on taxes, and that is why, with any corporate-related decision, you are wise to seek the advice and assistance of a good CPA.