We meet again, you tax-paying rascals! Penny here, and I’m back atcha with another installment of Penny Taxwise. As you loyal readers out there know, your ol’ pal Penny is rocking the whole work-at-home mom gig like crazy this year. At the end of 2012, my little freelance writing biz exploded and I’ve been struggling to catch up with the success.
To compound things further, I’ve branched out from the freelance writing to a variety of other endeavors – a blog, websites, and an upcoming info product line to be exact. I expect to earn a significant amount of income from these things over the next couple of years, and it dawned on me that I should think about taking the plunge and becoming an actual business.
Naturally, I’ve been researching the heck out of the idea this week. I was spurred by a question that was posted recently right here on TaxConnections:
Oh man. That’s my biggest fear realized. I try to do everything by the book, but I fear the wrath of Uncle Sam when it comes to incorrect self-employment tax records – I think all freelancers feel the same way. Patrick O’Hara, Tax Pro and Owner/Enrolled Agent of CHR Associates in New York, jumped at the chance to respond:
Well, wow. His reply was the final push over the edge I needed to finally make a real effort with my business structure search. Off I went to learn about business entities, and boy… did I learn a lot!
Why I’m Thinking LLC
Since Mr. Taxwise and I have our own property to protect, I want to form a legal structure for my business that will shelter us from any potential lawsuits against our personal assets down the road. If you’re wondering why I’m so worried about that with nothing but a teensy Internet biz to show for myself, allow me to enlighten you.
My ultimate goal is to eventually purchase rental properties. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the better part of ten years, and my online adventures may just allow me to build up enough savings to break into the game. However, if I choose to file as a sole proprietor, my personal assets won’t be protected.
That’s why I decided to go for incorporation. I learned that there are three basic types of legal entities freelancers could form if they choose to incorporate: an S Corporation, a C Corporation, or an LLC (Limited Liability Company). Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks for freelancers, so picking the right one is vital for protecting your bottom line.
According to an awesome SBA writeup I found, S Corporations, if owned by one single shareholder (the freelancer), allow only the earnings to be subject to employment tax. If the S Corp freelancer makes quite a bit one year, he or she can take a fraction of that year’s earnings as a paycheck and the rest as “profit through distribution to shareholders.”
The S Corp does have a major downside, of course. It demands yearly legal hoop-jumping, including accomplishing compelling tasks throughout the year – requirements such as holding regular shareholder meetings, filing minutes from them, extensive record-keeping, and reporting bylaw updates. Sounds like a blast, right?
On the other hand, a C Corporation is great for people who have small startups that may seek future venture capital to finance expansion. Although there’s flexibility to spread profits around to plan for taxes. However, at the end of the day, a freelancer who chooses this corporate structure will almost always end up with a hefty tax bill due to the whole double taxation thing. Not very fun, either.
That brings us to the newest corporation type around – the Limited Liability Company (LLC). Owners of LLC companies deal with taxes like sole proprietors. They’re taxed on the LLC’s net income, and those taxes are reported on the owner’s personal tax return. The LLC simply acts as a “pass-though entity.”
That was all fine with me since the biggest selling point was the part about an LLC protecting me from legal attacks once I begin dealing with real estate. Plus, if my company doesn’t make much or operates on a loss at first, I can report that on my income taxes. Bonus!
Yup, I’ve definitely made my choice.
Evaluating Your Own Biz
Enough about me… let’s talk about you! If you’re the proud owner of a small biz or a freelancer yourself, it’s important to evaluate your own business needs before choosing a structure. Moreover, you should talk to a tax professional before making any big decisions.
In addition, don’t forget to check with your state for laws concerning your new filing status. Many require different kinds of things from you depending upon the entity you choose.
That’s it for me this week, my taxalicious buddies!
Until next time.
Making Cents Count,