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What Is a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

The LLC is an alternative type of business entity. An LLC is like a corporation regarding limited liability, and it’s like a partnership regarding the flexibility of dividing profit among the owners. An LLC can elect to be treated either as a partnership or as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. Consult a tax expert if you’re facing this choice.

The key advantage of the LLC legal form is its flexibility, especially regarding how profit and management authority are determined. For example, an LLC permits the founders of the business to put up, say, only 10 or 20 percent of the money to start a business venture but to keep all management authority in their hands. The other investors share in profit but not necessarily in proportion to their invested capital.

LLCs have a lot more flexibility than corporations, but this flexibility can have a downside. The owners must enter into a very detailed agreement that spells out the division of profit, the division of management authority and responsibility, their rights to withdraw capital, and their responsibilities to contribute new capital as needed.

These schemes can get very complicated and difficult to understand, and they may end up requiring a lawyer to untangle them. If the legal structure of an LLC is too complicated and too far off the beaten path, the business may have difficulty explaining itself to a lender when applying for a loan, and it may have difficulty convincing new shareholders to put capital into the business.

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