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The Downside to the S Corporation

A downside to S Corps is the limitation on who can be a shareholder, and what kind of shares it can issue. There can be no more than 100 shareholders in total, and no one may take their shares...

Written By: Garret Sutton

A downside to S Corps is the limitation on who can be a shareholder, and what kind of shares it can issue. There can be no more than 100 shareholders in total, and no one may take their shares in anything other than their personal names (or in their living trust’s name). So, forget transferring your S Corp shares into an irrevocable trust, limited partnership or children's trust. And, you can't have any non-U.S. resident shareholders, either. Everyone who holds shares in an S Corp must file a U.S. resident tax return. And, you can only have one class of shares, which can be confining, especially if your plans include taking your company public or looking for outside investors. If you breach any of these requirements the IRS will strip your company of its S Corp status, and automatically turn it into a C Corporation, which may have a negative tax consequence.

Another downside is asset treatment. Both C and S Corps are not great vehicles if your business will hold appreciating assets, such as land, buildings, stocks, bonds, etc. The tax on them upon sale or upon distribution will be much greater if held in a corporation than if held in a limited liability company or a limited partnership. This is further explained in the book How to Use Limited Liability Companies & Limited Partnerships, written by Garrett Sutton and available at

The steps to create a C or S corporation are the same. Articles of Incorporation are prepared and filed, Bylaws are prepared, directors are elected by the shareholders, officers are elected by the directors, and shares are issued to the shareholders. This may sound difficult but we will be there to guide you through it all.

The S Corp Declaration, the IRS Form 2553, should be filed within 75 days of the incorporation date, so don't delay if this is how you see your company proceeding. If you don't file within that 75 day period, the IRS can deny you S Corp status for a full year, meaning that your first year of operations will be conducted at C Corporation tax rates.
The shareholders, directors and officers of the company must remember to follow corporate formalities. They must treat the corporation as a separate and independent legal entity, which includes holding regularly scheduled meetings, conducting banking through a separate corporate bank account, filing a separate corporate tax return, signing all documents related to the business in their official capacity and filing corporate papers with the state on a timely basis. If these steps are not followed, a business creditor may be allowed to “pierce the corporate veil” and seek personal liability against the officers, directors and shareholders. Adhering to corporate formalities is not at all difficult or particularly time consuming. In fact, if you have our affiliate handle the corporate filings and preparation of annual minutes and direct your accountant to prepare the corporate tax return, you should spend no extra time at it with only a very slight increase in cost. The point is that if you spend the extra money to form a corporation in order to gain limited liability it makes sense to spend the extra, and minimal, time and money to insure that protection.

And remember, while there are some downsides to the S corporation there are some significant benefits as well. Work with your advisor to see if the S corporation is right for you.

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