LLCs are popular business structures utilized by both small and large businesses alike. But businesses run by single individuals may be more interested in single-member LLCs: variations of the standard LLC structure that offer many of the same benefits, plus a few extra tax-related advantages that regular LLCs do not provide.
What is an LLC?
A limited liability company or LLC is a type of business structure often adopted by United States companies. This structure protects business owners by keeping them from being personally liable for any company debts or other liabilities.
Due to their structure, LLCs combine many of the advantages and benefits of corporations and partnerships or sole proprietorships, making them a flexible and popular choice for businesses of all sizes.
What is a Single Member LLC?
A single-member LLC is, as the name suggests, a type of limited liability company. Unlike the majority of LLCs, which have at least two members and more often have multiple members, single-member LLCs or SMLLCs only have a single member or chief owner. Note that this does not mean the SMLLC can't have employees.
Individuals with small or niche businesses may choose to become SMLLCs due to the inherent benefits that this structure provides.
Potential Tax Savings
For starters, SMLLCs can result in significant tax savings, especially compared to business structures like sole proprietorships. For instance, the IRS rules currently indicate that SMLLCs are disregarded for federal income tax purposes unless they decide to be treated as corporations, gaining additional benefits for more limitations.
Since SMLLCs, like LLCs, are treated as distinct business entities, owners are not taxed at the same rate as their companies. This can help them save money with every tax year, even if their business makes high profits that can be cycled back into the business to help it grow the following year.
A "softer" benefit is the added professionalism and legitimacy that an SMLLC tag adds to a business. Once fully recognized, SMLLCs must add either LLC or limited liability company to the end of their business name. This may allow them to negotiate differently with vendors and other businesses, offering greater and more legitimate business power in the long run.
Limited Liability Protections
As indicated by the name, SMLLCs also protect their owners from liability, such as increased business debt. For instance, if an SMLLC goes under due to market conditions and no fault of the owner, the owner may not necessarily go bankrupt as well, or may avoid certain financial hardships.
If the SMLLC is formed privately or anonymously, owners can also enjoy a level of anonymity that they wouldn't get with a sole proprietorship or other types of business structures. This can be useful if the business owner in question is an entrepreneur trying to succeed where they failed before and don't want their reputation to hamper their options.
One last benefit is the uniqueness associated with an SMLLC. Every SMLLC must decide on and register a unique business name with their state's business department. Thus, no other business in the state can use the same name, helping a given business dominate over their competition or keep their customers after the transition, particularly in crowded or competitive industries.
How to Form a Single Member LLC
Single-member LLCs are popular business structures since they are formed very similarly to LLCs – the major difference is, of course, that there's only a single owner instead of multiple partners working together.
For example, an operating agreement or document outlining how the company will be run should mention that there's only a single owner instead of multiple.
Beyond this, anyone looking to form an SMLLC must go through largely the same process as they would if they wanted to start a regular LLC. You'll need to file for your SMLLC by:
- Coming up with a unique business name and adding LLC at the end
- Acquiring a registered agent who can serve as the official point of contact for any legal documents. You (or the business owner) can serve as this, of course, or the owner can hire a registered agent service to do this for them
- Filing the Articles of Organization. This is a legal document that has to be filed with the state's business department. Key information must be included, such as the name and address of the LLC, the name and signature of the owner, and more
- Paying any applicable filing fees, some of which are recurring
- Acquiring business licenses and permits
- Paying for any required public notices
How is a Single Member LLC Taxed?
SMLLCs are considered disregarded entities, meaning the IRS disregards the business for any tax purposes. Instead, the IRS collects taxes for the SMLLC to the business owner's personal income tax information at the end of the year.
SMLLCs require lots of paperwork compared to other types of company structures, but this can be very worthwhile in the long run. Keep in mind that SMLLCs must pay multiple types of federal and state taxes.
What Taxes do Single Member LLCs Have to Pay?
- Self-employment tax – this applies to any single-member LLC owners since those business owners are considered self-employed rather than employees of their business. This tax is based on the net income from business activities
- Federal income tax – since the LLC isn't a taxable entity, any SMLLC is taxed similarly to a sole proprietorship. Therefore, SMLLCs must report their business income taxes on Schedule C forms so that any net income from the business is duly combined with other net income from the business owner
Employer Identification Numbers
One last key thing to note is that single-member LLCs require EINs or employer identification numbers. This is true even if the business doesn't have any employees aside from the business owner.
The good news is that most SMLLCs will want to acquire EINs anyway since the majority of banks require businesses to have EINs if they want to open a business bank account.
All in all, single-member LLCs are versatile business structures that small businesses with one owner or executive may benefit from becoming. Be sure to consider forming an SMLLC with the assistance of a lawyer who can look over all your official paperwork and make sure that any necessary documents are filed on time.