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LLC Big Tax Consequences Many Unaware Of

LLC Big Tax Consequences Many Unaware Of

As a Miami CPA new clients will often say I want to start an LLC for my new small business venture. My response almost always is LLC Big Tax Consequences Many Unaware Of? Most people do not understand that an LLC is not a corporation, its a partnership. As such, the net profits of the partnership will be distributed to the members (owners) via form K-1. If you actively participate in the business, the net profits will flow through to your personal tax return as active income and you’ll have to pay income tax. That much I think everyone is aware of. Where people get sticker shock is they also have to pay self-employment tax which amounts to an additional 15.3% of the net profits.

How Partnership Income Is Taxed

Generally, the IRS does not consider partnerships to be separate from their owners for tax purposes; instead, they are considered pass-through tax entities. This means that all of the profits and losses of the partnership pass through the business to the partners, who pay taxes on their share of the profits (or deduct their share of the losses) on their individual income tax returns. Each partner’s share of profits and losses is usually set out in a written partnership agreement.

Filing Tax Returns

Even though the partnership itself does not pay income taxes, it must file Form 1065 with the IRS. This form is an informational return the IRS reviews to determine whether the partners are reporting their income correctly. The partnership must also provide a Schedule K-1 to the IRS and to each partner, which breaks down each partner’s share of the business’s profits and losses. In turn, each partner reports this profit and loss information on his or her individual tax return (Form 1040), with Schedule E attached.

Estimating and Paying Taxes

Because there is no employer to compute and withhold income taxes, each partner must set aside enough money to pay taxes on his share of annual profits. Partners must estimate the amount of tax they will owe for the year and make payments to the IRS (and usually to the appropriate state tax agency) each quarter in April, July, October, and January.

Profits Are Taxed Whether Partners Receive Them or Not

The IRS requires each partner to pay income taxes on his distributive share. This is the portion of profits to which the partner is entitled under a partnership agreement or under state law, if the partners didn’t make an agreement. The IRS treats each partner as though he or she received his distributive share each year. This means that you must pay taxes on your share of the partnership’s profits total sales minus expenses regardless of how much money you actually withdraw from the business.

The practical significance of the IRS rule about distributive shares is that even if partners need to leave profits in the partnership for instance, to cover future expenses or expand the business each partner will owe income tax on his or her rightful share of that money. (If your business will regularly need to retain profits, you should consider incorporating, corporations offer some relief from this particular tax bite. To learn more, see Incorporating Your Business May Cut Your Tax Bill, below.)

Establishing the Partners’ Distributive Shares

Unless business partners make a written partnership agreement that says otherwise, state law usually allocates profits and losses to the partners according to their ownership interests in the business. This allocation determines each partner’s distributive share. For instance, if Andre owns 60% of a partnership and Jenya owns the other 40%, Andre will be entitled to 60% of the partnership’s profits and losses and Jenya will be entitled to 40%. (In addition, state law assumes that each partner’s interest in the business is in proportion to the value of his or her initial contribution to the partnership.)

If you’d like to split up profits and losses in a way that is not proportionate to the partners’ percentage interests in the business, it’s called a special allocation, and you must carefully follow IRS rules.

Self-Employment Taxes

If you are actively involved in running a partnership, in addition to income taxes, the IRS requires you to pay self-employment taxes on all partnership profits allocated to you. Self-employment taxes consist of contributions to the Social Security and Medicare programs, similar to the payroll taxes employees must pay.

There are some differences between the contributions regular employees make and the contributions partners must make. First, because no employer withholds these taxes from partners’ paychecks, partners must pay them with their regular income taxes. Also, partners must pay twice as much as regular employees, because employees’ contributions are matched by their employers. However, partners can deduct half of their self-employment tax contribution from their taxable income, which lowers their tax bill a bit.

The self-employment tax rate for 2009 is 15.3% of the first $106,800 of income and 2.9% of everything over that amount. Partners report their self-employment taxes on Schedule SE, which they submit annually with their personal income tax returns.

Expenses and Deductions

You may be wondering how you will survive financially, after paying income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes on your share of business income, even if you don’t withdraw it from your business. Luckily, you don’t have to pay taxes on most of the money your business spends to make a buck.

You and your partners can deduct your legitimate business expenses from your business income, which will greatly lower the profits you have to report to the IRS. Deductible expenses include start-up costs, operating expenses, travel costs, and product and advertising outlays, as well as a portion of the money you spend on business-related meals and entertainment.

Incorporating Your Business May Cut Your Tax Bill

Unlike a partnership, a corporation pays its own taxes on all corporate profits left in the business. Owners of corporations pay income taxes only on money they receive as compensation for services (salaries and bonuses) or as dividends.

While many small businesses would rather not file a corporate tax return, incorporating can offer business owners a tax advantage over a partnership’s pass through taxation. This is especially true for businesses that expect to retain profits in the business from year to year.

If you need to keep profits (called retained earnings) in your business, you may benefit from lower corporate tax rates, at least for the first $50,000 – $75,000 of profits per year. For example, if your retail outfit needs to stock up on expensive inventory, you might decide to leave $30,000 in your business at the end of a year. If you operate as a partnership, these retained profits will likely be taxed at your marginal individual tax rate, which is probably more than 25%. But if you incorporate, that $30,000 will be taxed at a lower 15% corporate rate.

About 

Gustavo A Viera is the managing partner of Gustavo A Viera, PA. His experience spans more than 25 years. He started his career in public accounting at PriceWaterHouseCoopers where reached the level senior audit manager. His Fortune 500 experience includes positions as CFO – Latin America Region for both Hewlett Packard and Telefonica of Spain. Gustavo also writes a blog twice a week that addresses trending accounting and tax issues. He is an SBA Advisor and teaches workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs. His office is located at One Alhambra Plaza Floor PH Coral Gables FL 33134, and is admitted to practice in the State of Florida as a licensed Certified Public Accountant. Gus welcomes questions and he can be reached at 786-250-4450.

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