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What Is an LLC? Your Guide to LLC Meaning

What is an LLC
(Last Updated On: December 6, 2023)

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Before jumping into entrepreneurship and building a successful business, deciding on the appropriate legal structure for your business is essential. One popular option is the Limited Liability Company (LLC). Here’s your ultimate guide to knowing what is an LLC and how you can start an LLC of your own. 

Are you wondering what LLC means and how it can benefit your entrepreneurial aspirations? Look no further as this blog post delves into the advantages of creating an LLC, why it has become a popular choice among savvy business owners, and how it can provide a strong foundation for your goals.

Join us on this informative journey to discover LLCs’ exciting potential and protective legal business structure.

What Is an LLC?

LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. It’s a type of business structure that merges a corporation’s and a partnership’s benefits. 

Registering your business as an LLC, the company offers limited liability protection to its owners, who are called members. This means that if the business faces financial or legal issues, the member’s personal assets are usually not at risk. In other words, the limited liability feature is similar to the protection given to shareholders in a corporation.

One benefit of forming an LLC is that it enables pass-through taxation, meaning the members include their share of profits and losses on their personal tax returns. This eliminates the double taxation issue that corporations may encounter when the company and its shareholders are taxed on profits. 

Understanding LLC meaning is essential as it eliminates the double taxation issue that corporations may face when the company and its shareholders are taxed on profits. LLCs have a straightforward setup process and fewer regulations than corporations, making them popular among business owners. 

Additionally, they can be run by either the members or designated managers, giving flexibility in management. An operating agreement for an LLC can outline various roles, duties, and decision-making procedures to provide structure and clarity.

What Are the Benefits of an LLC?

Every competent business proprietor understands the importance of evaluating the advantages and disadvantages before deciding and understanding what an LLC is. 

This comprehensive approach ensures that you select the best option for your business and proactively mitigate any challenges that may arise. Let’s look at the benefits of LLCs.

Asset Protection

The primary benefit of having and understanding an LLC is its protection from personal liability. 

A limited liability company (LLC) is a legal entity that protects business owners’ personal assets from legal actions and debts incurred by their business. This makes it ideal for entrepreneurs looking to safeguard their assets. 

LLCs can have a single owner, also called a member, or multiple members, including individuals and businesses. In simpler terms, an LLC is a type of company structure that protects its owners against personal liability.

Taxation Options

LLCs are automatically taxed as a sole proprietorship or partnership, depending on the number of members involved. This means that each member has to report their share of business income and expenses on their personal tax return and pay personal income tax on their portion of profits.

Additionally, members employed in the business are classified as self-employed and responsible for paying self-employment taxes, including Medicare and Social Security, on their portion of profits. 

If you’re wondering what an LLC is, it’s a type of business structure that can choose between S-corp or C-corp taxation. This choice can help avoid being taxed as a sole proprietorship or partnership.

By opting for corporate taxation, LLC owners can enjoy the benefits of becoming salaried employees and participating in company benefit programs. Additionally, this move could lead to a reduction in their tax burden. 

It’s worth noting that a C-corp is subject to corporate tax, and its owners must pay taxes on the distributions they receive. An S-corp is a pass-through entity, meaning it doesn’t pay corporate tax, but each owner must pay personal income tax on their share of the company’s profits. 

However, not all LLCs are eligible for S-corp taxation, as they must meet the IRS’s requirements.

Versatility

If you’re wondering what an LLC is, it’s a type of business structure that offers more flexibility than corporations. One of the advantages of LLCs is that they aren’t required to hold annual meetings with shareholders or have a board of directors. 

Unlike corporations, they are also not bound by specific administrative regulations.

This means that members of an LLC have the freedom to structure their business as they see fit, and can choose whether they want members or managers to oversee operations. An LLC is a versatile business entity allowing more control and customization.

In most states, regulations prohibit the establishment of a new enterprise under an existing name. However, creating a limited liability company (LLC) grants you the exclusive privilege to use that name for your business within your state and make it a public record. 

Moreover, adding “LLC” to the end of your company’s name can enhance the credibility of your small business.

Profit Sharing Flexibility

Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure that offers flexibility regarding profit sharing among its members. 

Unlike corporations that distribute dividends based on stock ownership, and partnerships, which usually divide profits among partners, a multi-member LLC allows its members to decide how to divide profits. In other words, LLC means a business structure providing more options for profit distribution.

It’s important to note that the IRS may require profit sharing to align with ownership percentages or legitimate economic needs and circumstances, rather than being a means of evading taxes.

Minimal Compliance Requirements

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are generally perceived as more straightforward and adaptable than corporations because they aren’t obliged to adhere to the same state statutes and rules.

What Are the Disadvantages of an LLC?

Entrepreneurs must also consider the potential disadvantages associated with its formation. Despite the benefits outlined earlier, weighing the pros and cons before deciding if forming an LLC is the right choice for your business is essential.

Self-Employment Taxes

Although personal income taxes typically result in higher tax payments than corporations, it’s essential to understand the advantages of forming a limited liability company. 

An LLC combines the flexibility and tax benefits of a partnership with the limited liability protection of a corporation. It provides personal asset protection while allowing for pass-through taxation. This means that LLC owners only pay taxes on their share of profits, avoiding double taxation. 

Careful Personal Records

It’s crucial to differentiate expenses from personal finances; no record-keeping detail should be omitted.

LLC Termination 

If any member leaves an LLC, the LLC is dissolved and no longer exists. Still, if the company is a corporation, it will continue to exist even if its shareholders change.

Banking

Keeping business and personal finances separate can be a daunting task. Banks usually charge different fees and monthly expenses to maintain business accounts.

Cost

LLC can be costly for small businesses due to the expenses involved in the formation and registration process at the state level. The LLC meaning remains the same across all states. Depending on your location, the expenses associated with setting up an LLC can vary and may cost several hundred dollars.

Moreover, it’s important to note that various states impose annual reporting requirements, along with annual fees and taxes ranging from $10 to $800 or more for LLCs. Read more about LLC costs.

Best LLC Formation Services

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness - What is an LLC

ZenBusiness, a top-notch web-based LLC formation service, can help you establish and expand your startup or small business. 

It offers affordable and comprehensive LLC formation bundles with a registered agent service, annual report submission, and other functionalities. With continuous guidance and valuable tools, ZenBusiness helps businesses stay compliant while achieving success.

Northwest Registered Agent

NWA - ZenBusiness - What is an LLC

Northwest Registered Agent offers customized assistance and a variety of commercial offerings, including registered agent services, compliance management, and document submission. 

Their expertise lies in assisting with the establishment of LLCs, providing continuous support and guidance to ensure compliance and expansion of businesses. As a dependable collaborator for LLC establishment services, Northwest Registered Agent is the go-to choice for those seeking top-notch assistance.

Bizee (Previously Incfile)

Bizee is a company that offers quick and cost-effective LLC formation solutions. Their packages cover registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. 

The platform of bizee is designed to be easy to use and efficient, simplifying the process of forming an LLC. They provide continuous assistance and tools to support businesses in staying compliant and achieving success. bizee prioritizes affordability and convenience, making it an excellent choice for those seeking LLC formation services.

Swyft Filings

Looking for information on a limited liability company? Look no further than Swyft Filings. Our specialized service focuses on forming LLCs, making the process quick and simple for businesses.

Swyft Filings offers various services related to LLCs, including ensuring compliance with regulations and serving as a registered agent. With personalized assistance, they help businesses navigate forming an LLC and staying compliant with state and federal laws. 

Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is a web-based branding and design solution, which assists enterprises in establishing a consistent and professional brand image. They propose various branding plans, comprising logo design, social media branding, and business card design. 

Furthermore, Tailor Brands provides a set of design utilities and materials to support businesses in generating and adapting their individualized branded elements.

What Are Some Examples of LLCs?

LLC is a more prevalent business structure than most people know. Even large corporations like Alphabet, PepsiCo Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., and Johnson & Johnson are registered as LLCs. 

For those wondering “what is an LLC,” it’s worth noting that various types of LLCs exist. These include sole proprietorship LLCs, family LLCs, and member-managed LLCs. Furthermore, many physician groups register as LLCs to protect individual doctors from personal liability in the event of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Is Starting an LLC Right for You?

Selecting the appropriate entity for your business is crucial when you start a business. It can determine the regulations and tax structures you must adhere to. 

For those who want to safeguard personal assets and reduce tax payments, ideal business organizations are limited liability companies, which can be single or multiple-member firms.

If you’re wondering what an LLC is, you’ll be interested to know that at ZenBusiness and Bizee, we’ve observed a trend in various businesses of different sizes and kinds preferring to form LLCs. 

This includes real estate agents, financial consultants, coffee shops, food trucks, personal trainers, bloggers, authors, influencers, and even those in the marijuana industry. Moreover, home-based businesses have become increasingly popular for LLCs in recent years.

Who Shouldn’t Form an LLC?

It’s worth noting that financial institutions such as banks, financial trusts, or insurance companies cannot form an LLC due to federal regulations. It’s also important to note that industry-specific limitations may apply in certain states. 

For example, healthcare providers, accountants, and architects are prohibited from forming an LLC in California. To learn more about the specifics of LLC formation in your area, check out state-specific LLC information.

Apart from state laws that prohibit the formation of LLCs for certain businesses, some enterprises may not be suitable for this entity type. Such businesses include:

Startups

If you’re wondering what a limited liability company is and if startups should establish one, there are a few things to consider. 

While LLCs provide liability protection for business owners, they can also lead to tax-related issues. This is because some investors are restricted from investing in pass-through entities due to specific regulations, which may limit your funding options.

Furthermore, merging personal taxes with business taxes is a requirement for LLCs. However, some investors may not be willing to take this step, which could further restrict your investment opportunities. 

So before forming an LLC, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully and consult with a tax professional or lawyer.

Nonprofits

It’s worth noting that while a nonprofit organization can form a limited liability company, it may not be advisable due to the complex formation process involved.

If you’re wondering if it’s the right business structure for you, it’s important to note that some states may not allow the creation of nonprofit LLCs. 

Fulfilling specific requirements mandated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is crucial. To help determine if an LLC or another type of entity is best suited for your needs, you can take a business entity quiz or refer to an overview of the different business structures available.

How to Form an LLC?

It’s important to note that while the requirements may vary depending on the state, there are specific common steps and responsibilities that most LLCs are required to follow. This includes a general outline of the usual obligations for establishing and managing an LLC in the United States.

Choose a name

One crucial aspect of forming an LLC is selecting a name that adheres to your state’s naming regulations and is unique. 

It’s essential to include an LLC identifier, such as “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.” in the name. This ensures your company is recognized as a limited liability company and enjoys the benefits that come with it.

Registered Agent 

It’s important to know that one of the essential requirements for an LLC business entity is to have a registered agent with a physical address in the state of formation. 

This designated individual will receive and manage all legal documents and official correspondence related to your LLC. So, choose a reliable and trustworthy registered agent to handle these critical communications.

File Articles of Organization

If you’re wondering what an LLC is and how to establish one, the first step is to file the Articles of Organization, also known as a Certificate of Formation or Certificate of Organization in some states, with the relevant state agency such as the Secretary of State’s office. 

When establishing a limited liability company, it’s essential to understand it and provide all pertinent details when submitting the necessary paperwork. 

This documentation should include vital information about your business, such as its name, objective, registered agent, and primary office address. Provide all necessary details to ensure your LLC is properly established.

Create an Operating Agreement

It’s a business structure that offers liability protection to its owners. Although not mandatory, drafting an operating agreement for your LLC is strongly advised. 

It’s a legal entity that provides limited liability protection to its members. By having such an agreement in place, potential conflicts can be prevented, and the business can be run more effectively.

Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

It’s important to note that your business may need to obtain various licenses, permits, or registrations depending on its location and local, state, or federal activities. These can include a wide range of requirements, such as professional licenses, zoning, land-use permits, and sales tax permits.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

If you’re wondering what is an LLC and your LLC employs individuals, or you opt for taxation as a corporation, it’s essential to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. 

Getting an EIN isn’t mandatory, but it can be beneficial in opening a business bank account or obtaining credit.

Types of LLCs

It’s a business structure with a uniform fundamental framework. However, different categories of LLCs serve diverse business requirements and circumstances. Some well-known types of LLCs include:

Single-Member LLCs

A single-member LLC, as the name suggests, has only one owner or member responsible for making all the decisions. Despite its solitary ownership, a single-member LLC still provides limited liability protection and benefits from pass-through taxation.

Multi-Member LLC

LLC offers protection against personal liability for its owners. A multi-member LLC with multiple owners or members provides the same level of protection as a single-member LLC. In addition, it also offers tax benefits.

However, since multiple owners are involved in a multi-member LLC, it requires a more detailed operating agreement to outline their roles, responsibilities, and profit-sharing arrangements.

Member-Managed LLC

In an LLC managed by its members, all members take an active role in the day-to-day operations and management of the company. This type of LLC is more prevalent among small businesses and startups, where the owners prefer a hands-on approach to running the business.

Manager-Managed LLC

It’s a type of business structure where management duties can be assigned to one or more managers who may or may not be members of the LLC. 

This manager-managed LLC structure is particularly advantageous for businesses whose members prefer a less hands-on approach to management or wish to bring in outside professionals to handle such responsibilities. Read more about: Member-managed VS Manager-managed LLC.

Professional LLC (PLLC)

A PLLC is a particular kind of LLC intended for licensed professionals, including doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants. State laws mandate that such professionals establish a PLLC instead of a standard LLC. 

Although a PLLC provides limited liability protection, members could face personal liability for professional misconduct or malpractice.

Series LLC

One unique framework that allows creation of multiple LLCs under a single primary LLC is the Series LLC. Each “series” in this type of LLC operates independently, with its members, assets, and liabilities. 

This structure is particularly advantageous for businesses with various branches or endeavors that must be separated for legal liability purposes. So essentially, this is an LLC, but with the added benefit of branching out into different series within that same LLC.

L3C (Low-profit Limited Liability Company)

The L3C is a unique form of an LLC that blends the characteristics of a conventional LLC with the philanthropic and environmental objectives of a non-profit entity. The primary aim of L3Cs is to achieve social benefits rather than focusing solely on profit maximization. They can draw investments from both private and charitable sources.

Anonymous LLC

An anonymous LLC is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) organized without the owners’ names being disclosed in public records. This type of LLC is often used for financial privacy, asset protection, and anonymity. Anonymous LLC owners aren’t listed publicly, creating a layer of protection.

LLC vs Partnership

It’s important to note that LLCs stand apart from partnerships because they offer a crucial distinction: separating the business assets of the company from the personal assets of the owners. 

This separation protects owners from the LLC’s debts and liabilities, which isn’t always true in partnerships. It’s a business structure that allows for distributing profits and tax responsibilities to owners, much like partnerships. 

However, LLCs can only offset losses against other income up to their investment amount. If structured as a partnership, LLCs must file Form 1065. A business continuation agreement can be implemented for LLCs to ensure a smooth transfer of interests in case of an owner’s departure or death. 

With such an agreement in place, the remaining partners may be able to dissolve the LLC and create a new one.

Understanding LLC Requirements

It’s important to note that, unlike corporations, LLCs aren’t required to hold annual meetings or keep records. However, there are specific filing responsibilities that LLCs must fulfill and take into account. Here are the legal requirements for starting your business as an LLC.

  1. It’s essential for all Limited Liability Companies to possess an LLC Operating Agreement.
  2. It’s mandatory for Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) to submit reports every year or every two years to their respective Secretary of State.
  3. When creating an LLC, multiple charges are involved in the filing process.
  4. If you’re naming your new company as an LLC, it’s essential to adhere to the naming regulations set by the state.

What is an LLC – Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Register an LLC?

Hiring an attorney for filing and registering an LLC with a state is unnecessary. However, for more complex business structures or to avoid errors. It may be recommended to seek legal advice if you don’t understand what an LLC is. 

Creating an LLC doesn’t mandate the need for a lawyer. If you require affordable legal assistance, you can explore utilizing the services of the top LLC providers.

Is an LLC Different From Having Liability Insurance?

It’s a business structure that offers protection from personal liability for most business debts. 

If you’re wondering what a limited liability company is, it’s important to note that while it provides some liability protection, it doesn’t offer the same advantages as commercial liability insurance. 

Liability insurance can cover situations where your business is accused of causing injury or property damage. This is a level of protection that an LLC cannot provide. Even with an LLC business structure, obtaining liability insurance for your business is still advisable. Doing so can offer additional legal protections for personal assets.

What Kind of Tax Flexibility Does an LLC Provide?

It’s a business entity that offers great flexibility in terms of taxation. As an LLC, you can be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation, or S corporation. This means that members of the LLC can take advantage of various tax benefits and reduce their overall tax liabilities.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to form a business, it’s essential to know what an LLC is and the significant legal benefits they provide. The most crucial aspect of LLCs is their limited liability feature. This separates the company’s assets and debts from the personal assets and debts of the owners.

It’s a business structure that offers multiple benefits. One of the main advantages is that it ensures separation between personal and business assets. This means that creditors cannot go after the owners’ assets in case of bankruptcy. 

Limited Liability Companies are a popular business structure in the United States, owing to their simplified taxation and easy setup process. 

About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. O'Neill guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.

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