I just setup a new business, PT Money Conference, LLC. I thought I’d share my experience with you guys in case you are interested in setting up a new business, or formalizing the one you already have.
My first step, of course, was to have a successful business up and running. I doubt you need to go through any of the steps below before you’ve proven that you have a business that is going to make some money for at least a few years. I was fortunate enough to have some success with the Financial Blogger Conference last year, and I can see it being a business that turns a decent profit for years to come.
Last year I ran this business, along with this blog which is my primary business, under PT Money, LLC. This year, I decided that I needed a separate business structure to keep the two growing businesses, and all their endeavors in two different buckets. Thus, PT Money Conferences, LLC was born.
Selecting a Business Entity
As you can tell by my overuse of the term LLC above, I chose the limited liability company (LLC) as the entity type. The four primary entity types are sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and limited liability company. I like the LLC structure because it’s easy to form (versus a corporation), helps create some separation of my personal and business assets (versus the sole proprietorship), and it’s very flexible when it comes time to file your taxes.
If you are thinking of formalizing your business structure, take some time to study the entity types and determine which one will serve you best now, at tax time, when you grow significantly, and when you eventually sell your business. The majority of new business owners can make this decision on your own (or with the help of a mentor in your line of business), but I’m not going to knock the advice of a CPA or business attorney in this situation. I grew up with a CPA for a father and he’s drilled entity types into my head since I was a teenager, so I have a leg up here.
Entity Type and Taxes
One last thing about entity types: how they are taxed. The sole proprietorship is taxed on the Schedule C of your personal return (Form 1040) at your rate. The partnership is taxed on a separate Form 1065, where income passes down to the personal level and taxed at personal rates. The corporation is taxed on a separate Form 1120 at corporate tax rates. The tax code also allows for another tax entity called the s-corporation, which has a slightly more complex tax structure, and is reported on Form 1120s.
An important thing to note here is that the IRS doesn’t recognize the single member LLC as a tax entity by default. The income “passes through” to your own tax return and it reported on the Schedule C. Additionally, multi-member LLCs are by default taxed as a partnership (on a Form 1065). For a LLC to be taxed as a corporation, you need to file a Form 8832 and “elect” to be treated differently. Finally, for a LLC to be taxed as an s-corporation, you need to file a Form 2553.
I elected to be treated and taxed as an s-corp. Thus, I’m filing the Form 2553. Why the s-corp treatment? The s-corp is great in that it is not taxed like a regular corporation (at those high corporate tax rates), and it is not taxed like a LLC in that you don’t pay self-employment tax on 100% of your companies earnings. The s-corp allows you to pay self-employment tax only on a reasonable salary that you pay yourself, and then you pay personal tax rates on the rest of the money that is passed down to you from the company.
Form the Entity with a (Your) State
Once you’ve decided what type of entity you want to create, research the rules in your state regarding entity formation. The Secretary of State will usually have all of the information you need. I filed for the formation of my LLC with Texas using Form 205, the Certificate of Formation for a Limited Liability Company. I was required to pay a one time fee of $300. A couple of weeks later I received a copy of my Certificate of Filing.
Edit: As some of the comments have suggested, consider incorporating in other states’ that might be more advantageous for whatever reason.
How to Get an EIN
My next step was to request an employer identification number (EIN). This, along with the certificate of filing would allow me to open up a separate business bank account. Getting your EIN is very easy these days. It’s free and can be completed online in less than five minutes. I waited another two weeks for my official EIN letter to come in the mail.
Open Up a Separate Bank Account
Now that you have your business formed, you need to create a separate bank account to keep your business and personal funds separate (this is important whether you have a LLC or not). Reserve at least an hour of your time to go through the bank account opening process. Again, you’ll need your EIN and evidence of filing with the state.
I chose to open this checking account at Chase, where I have my PT Money, LLC account. They were able to put it all under my same personal login. So now when I log into my Chase account online I can view our personal Chase Freedom credit card account, plus my now two business checking, saving, and credit accounts. Additionally, with a separate account, I get separate checks and an attached credit card to use in the payment of expenses with this new business.
Elect to Be Treated as a S-Corp
In the final step of my setup process I’m filing a Form 2553 with the IRS to elect for my LLC to be treated as a s-corp. Be sure to do this timely. There is a deadline to elect once your entity is formed and ID created. If you are going to go the s-corp route, I would suggest hooking up with a CPA to help you with the increased tax filings that go along with it.
Be sure to consider any permits or licenses that may be needed in your line of business.
Lastly, remember that the formation of a business doesn’t create a good business. High sales and low expenses create a good business. So, while forming a business can be a huge undertaking of it’s own, keep it in perspective.
How is your small business structured, and why?
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