Unfortunately, owning a small business does not exempt you from paying personal income taxes. Many business owners pay themselves a set salary from their business profits, which is considered taxable income. Other business owners (normally smaller businesses) just invest what is necessary to keep the business running and then keep the remainder of the profits as their pay. The type of business entity you chose when you formed your company determines exactly how your money is taxed. If your company is growing rapidly, you may want to reevaluate your business structure and change it if necessary. Here’s a quick overview of business structures and the tax implications of each one:
- Sole Proprietors: A sole proprietor owns and operates a business on their own, which means they are personally responsible for all profits, losses, and debts for the company. Even if you haven’t established a formal business structure yet, if you’re making money working for yourself, you’ve got a sole proprietorship on your hands. Sole proprietors file their income taxes as individuals with a 1040, and use an additional Schedule C form to report their income and deductions. Sole proprietors are accountable for withholding and paying taxes, including self-employment and estimated quarterly taxes.
- LLC: An LLC offers additional liability protection that a Sole Proprietorship does not. If your business is sued or runs into financial trouble, the business will be responsible (and not you personally). In addition, forming a corporation or LLC may lower your tax bill. For a single owned LLC, taxes are filed just like a sole proprietor (aka an individual). An LLC with multiple members would file a Form 1065 to establish a partnership.
- S. Corporation: An S Corp is similar to an LLC in that it is treated as its own entity separate from the individual. Members of an S Corporation are paid just like employees and must file personal income taxes on the wages they receive. An S Corporation files a tax return but the profit or loss passes through a Schedule K-1 to the individual income tax return. Each shareholder who receives a K-1 must factor in the profit or loss in determining the amount of estimated tax payments to be paid.
- C Corp: A C Corp is taxed on its income rather than a pass through entity. Profits are taxed when earned and taxed again when distributed, often called “double taxation.” Owners must pay estimated tax payments based on the profit. Using this structure, the entity files a standalone tax return and pays taxes at the corporate level.