Sole Proprietorship or Single-Member LLC:

Sole Proprietorship or Single-member LLC

Which is Right for Your Business?

With the internet at your fingertips, going into business for yourself has never been easier. Whether you are a freelancer, a consultant, or an entrepreneur, your web presence introduces you to potential clients around the world. There are unlimited possibilities to expand your business and reach new markets. However, choosing a business model  can be overwhelming. There are many different options for your corporate structure. The most common choices are Sole Proprietorship or a Single-member LLC. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks, but here are a few questions to help guide your decision.

What are the Differences Between Sole Proprietorship and an LLC?

Sole Proprietorship is the most basic structure and requires minimal paperwork. Essentially, when you begin doing business, you are operating as the sole proprietor. There is no legal separation between you and your business. However, it requires you to separate your personal and business assets. You must maintain separate accounts for each.

Single-member LLCs are limited liability companies  that are owned and operated by a single person. The owner must file paperwork with the state where they plan to do business and comply with all local regulations. For tax purposes, they are considered ‘disregarded entities.’ However, LLCs are separate legal entities when it comes to questions of liability. This business structure protects the owner’s and the company’s assets from any claims or lawsuits brought against the other. It requires more time and paperwork to set up, but can protect you and the future of your company.

What are the Tax Advantages and Disadvantages?

Both models can  file with personal income taxes using Schedule C. You simply list your company’s income and expenses on your return. However, accurate bookkeeping is crucial. If you don’t stay on top of your records, it could make the filing process more complicated than it needs to be.

The major responsibility for a sole proprietor is the self-employment tax. You are responsible for both the employer’s and the employee’s share of FICA taxes which is 15.3%. The taxation rates are higher, although the employer share can be deducted as a business expense.

Single-member LLCs also have the option to file as a C Corporation. Depending on the owner’s income, paying the corporate taxation rates may be more advantageous. The laws relating to corporate taxation vary between states. Filing as a corporation could get you a larger return depending where you live. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing how to file, but owning an LLC gives you options.

How Does it Affect Liability?

The greatest advantage of forming a Single-member LLC is liability protection. Since a sole proprietor and the business are considered one entity, you are left vulnerable. Since the LLC is a separate legal entity, there is no personal liability for the owner. All of your private assets are shielded under the umbrella of the LLC. This means that your home, vehicle, and accounts cannot be seized in the case of indebtedness or bankruptcy. Although financial contributions to the Single-member LLC may be at risk, your personal assets are off limits.

This protection also works both ways. Your business assets are safeguarded against personal liabilities, debts, or bankruptcy. If you suffer personal misfortunes, the LLC will protect your business from personal creditors. Keep in mind this separation can’t be maintained if you ‘pierce the corporate veil.’

Should I Choose Sole Proprietorship or Single-member LLC?

Every company’s needs and situations vary over time. As your company grows, these needs evolve as well. Both structures have their advantages and disadvantages, but you’ll need to choose one. Sole Proprietorships are easy to form and dissolve in addition to offering pass-through taxation. While it does require more paperwork, a Single-member LLC provides liability protection and flexibility when filing taxes.

If your business is operating with little or no liability, sole proprietorship is probably your best option. However, if you plan to expand your business, incorporate other LLCs, or convert to an S corporation down the line, you should consider a Single-member LLC. Remember, these are only general suggestions to lead you in the right direction. Make time to sit down with your financial advisor to decide which structure is best for your business.

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