A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure that protects its owner(s) from being personally liable for the business’ debts. Whether you currently operate an LLC or are thinking of turning your freelance operation into an LLC, it’s important to know the tax basics and benefits of running one. Understanding all your obligations for declaring income and paying taxes at the federal and state levels is the best way to avoid being audited by the IRS.
While LLCs offer members (owners) a large degree of the same protection that corporations enjoy, they sometimes utilize a different system for tax payment. With an LLC, profits and losses pass through the entity itself and onto the owner(s), who must then report them on their individual tax returns. For this reason, LLCs are considered “pass-through” entities, and for tax purposes, considered similar to a sole proprietorships or partnerships, based on the number of LLC “members,” or owners.
It’s important to note that LLCs are sanctioned according to state laws, not by the IRS. Furthermore, based on your state’s laws, you may have a choice in electing to have your LLC designated and taxed as a corporation. If your LLC is not classified from the onset as a corporation, you can elect to have it taxed as one using IRS Form 8832. Visit the IRS website for more information about limited liability company tax obligations.
Single and multi-member LLCs
While sole-proprietorships have just one owner by definition, LLCs can be either single- or multi-member organizations. The structure of your company can affect your tax obligations, as the IRS treats single-member LLCs as sole-proprietorships and multi-member LLCs as partnerships. In some cases, LLCs can opt to be treated like corporations and taxed as such.
Like freelancers or self-employed persons, members of an LLC do not have taxes automatically withheld from their incomes. While traditional employees can send tax returns just once a year, LLC members, like self-employed persons, may have to make quarterly payments to the IRS.
As an owner or partner in an LLC, it’s important to save money for these estimated payments, which are due in April, June, September and January. Additionally, like any other business or individual, the LLC must send the IRS an annual informational tax return.
Along with federal taxes, LLC owners are responsible for paying taxes at the state level. It’s important to stay up to date on your state’s specific guidelines to avoid penalties.
Along with state and federal tax requirements, LLCs may be responsible for collecting sales tax on the products and services they sell. In the case of an LLC, its members must collect any required sales taxes and deliver them to the required parties. Because sales tax rates and policies vary by state, business owners need to keep up to date on the latest tax developments and rate changes.
Additionally, LLCs should note that different sales tax collection laws may apply if the LLC sells to customers who are out of state. If you’re unsure of your responsibilities, don’t hesitate to contact a CPA in your area.
Tax benefits and deductions of LLCs
As an LLC member, your tax obligations will depend on the nature of your “membership” in the LLC. If you are the only owner—”single member”— of the LLC, you will be taxed like a sole proprietor. If you are one member of an LLC with two or more members, you will be taxed like a member of a general partnership.
If your LLC has opted to be taxed like a corporation, then any profits will likely be taxed twice, akin to a C corporation. The only substantial difference is, as previously mentioned, an extra LLC tax may be imposed on your business depending on the state.
Just as tax obligations will mirror your role in the LLC, so too will the deductions you will be able to make. As a single member, you will make any business-related deductions on Schedule C, including deductions for home office space, mileage or travel. In a partnership, deductions are reported as part of Form 1065, but individual partners will pay their taxes on any profits made, which pass through the partnership. If you have any questions regarding your particular tax situation regarding a transition to an LLC, you should contact a tax lawyer or an accountant.
In addition to tax obligations, LLC formation also requires annual form filing with your state. To learn more or get started with forming an LLC, get our free articles of organization template here.
Nonetheless, whatever you or your business partners decide, LLC owners need to stay abreast of the latest tax and filing developments at both the federal and state levels. By keeping up to date on the latest rules and guidelines, LLC members can avoid tax audits and protect their personal liability.