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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘Limited liability company’

Limited Liability Companies: A New Best Friend

Posted by William Byrnes on August 5, 2013


Why is this Topic Important to Financial Professionals?  Look in most local business journals that report on the formation of new business entities and you will see 95% of new businesses are formed as an “L.L.C.”  This company structure is the primary one for entrepreneurs, professionals, and small businesses.  However, after twenty years of significant usage, many questions about this form of entity are still novel.  The financial professional should be able to explain to a client the basics of the Limited Liability Company.

What is an LLC?

Limited Liability Companies (commonly called “LLCs”) are state statute sanctioned legal business entities.  The business entity is similar to a limited liability partnership except that it has members and not partners (no need for general partners).  Moreover, some states allow for only one member, known as a single-member LLC, an option not available in partnership entities that require at least two partners.  The members can be persons but may be other business entities, such that an LLC can be a member of another LLC.

The LLC can be established and managed so as to offer the benefits of a corporation such as limited liability and continuation after a member’s death, but without the impact of corporate taxation.

What is the benefit of an LLC?

The LLC properly managed provides for the protection of personal financially liability in connection with the business liability.  Proper management generally includes following the annual requirements of corporation law, such as holding an annual directors and members meeting, and recording corporate minute (this will be discussed in future blogticles).

Additionally, the LLC avoids double taxation because of it can elect to be a “pass-through” entity for federal and state tax purposes – like a partnership or a sole-proprietorship is treated.

Also, most LLCs do not have a restriction on the number of members as S-Corps have (albeit rarely will the number of members or shareholders be an issue for a financial professional’s client).  To learn more details and nuances of each business structure see the AUS Main Section 10. Basics Of Business Insurance, A—Forms Of Business Organization.  More detail on LLCs specifically is provided in AUS Main Section 14.1, I—The Limited Liability Company (LLC).

 

What are some limitations of the LLC?

Aside from the fact that LLCs have essentially developed as a hybrid of older forms of business organizations, and are relatively new in the history of corporation law.  The LLC is not a corporation in the traditional sense of the word.

Sometimes businesses start as an LLC but expand to a point of eventually considering receiving outside equity with the goal of a public offering such as listing on a stock exchange.  The LLC is not suitable for “going public”.  Thus at the stage of soliciting equity investment for a business a client may have outgrown the LLC and should convert into a C-Corporation (a topic that will be addressed in a future blogticle).

The Federal Government allows the business owner(s) of the LLC to choose how the LLC will be characterized for tax purposes.  The LLC may be taxed as a Corporation (both Subchapter C and S), partnership or sole-proprietorship. This process is generally referred to as “Check the Box”.[1] The IRS Check the Box Form is Number 8832[2] and the business owners literally check one of the included boxes on that form and then file the corresponding tax returns.

What are some other uses of LLCs?

LLCs are used in many transactions by high-net worth client.  Sometimes clients use an LLC in place of a trust in the irrevocable life insurance trust (commonly called an “ILIT”) structure.  By example, in a situation where a client wants less restriction on the direction of the assets of the vehicle, the LLC is a more popular choice than the ILIT.  As a result, the LLC has become a common tool for the financial planner.  A detailed discussion of one of these transactions is examined in the AUS Main Section 14.1, I-The Limited Liability Company (LLC). “LLC as an Alternative to a Life Insurance Trust”.

For a detailed analysis of the tax and non-tax Advantages of a Close Corporation see AdvisorFX Main Library Section 14. Close Corporations I—The Limited Liability Company (LLC) http://www.advisorfx.com/articles/f14_1_2_2080.aspx?action=13

Tomorrow’s blogticle will address Accounting for Corporations and Limited Liability Companies and How it Relates to Insurance.


[1] Treasury Regulations Section §301.7701-3.

 

[2] Internal Revenue Service Form 8832, http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8832.pdf.

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Investment Trusts (or Not) Via Limited Liability Companies

Posted by William Byrnes on March 14, 2011


Is a state law trust that is established as an investment trust to hold interests in an LLC, which has the power to vary its investments, classified as an investment trust?

Example:

LLC is organized under the laws of State as a limited liability company and is treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes.  LLC will acquire, hold and manage a portfolio of investments.  The governing document of LLC permits the managers of LLC to sell assets in the portfolio and acquire new assets.

LLC will issue two classes of interests:  common interests and manager interests.  Holders of common interests and holders of manager interests have different rights to the income, deductions, credits, losses, and distributions of LLC.  Manager interests will be held by a select group of investors who are also responsible for managing LLC.  The common interests of LLC will be held by Trust.

Trust is organized under the laws of State as a trust.  The governing documents for Trust provide that Trust is only permitted to hold common interests in LLC.  Trust will issue trust certificates and each certificate will entitle the holder to all the income, gain, profit, deductions, credits, losses, and distributions associated with one common interest in LLC.  The governing documents for Trust indicate that Trust is a trust for federal tax purposes.

First, the Treasury Regulations provide that a “business entity” is an entity recognized for federal tax purposes that is not properly classified as a trust under or otherwise subject to special treatment under the Code. [1]

In addition, an arrangement will be treated as a trust if it can be shown that the purpose of the arrangement is to vest in trustees responsibility for the protection and conservation of property for beneficiaries who cannot share in the discharge of this responsibility and, therefore, are not associates in a joint enterprise for the conduct of business for profit. [2]

There are arrangements that are known as trusts because legal title to property is conveyed to trustees for the benefit of beneficiaries, but which are not classified as trusts for purposes of the Code because they are not simply arrangements to protect or conserve the property for the beneficiaries.   These trusts, which are often known as business or commercial trusts, generally are created by the beneficiaries simply as a device to carry on a profit making business which normally would have been carried on through business organizations that are classified as corporations or partnerships (business entities) under the Code. [3]

Moreover, an “investment” trust will not be classified as a trust if there is a power under the trust agreement to vary the investments of the certificate holders. [4] An investment trust with a single class of ownership interests, representing undivided beneficial interests in the assets of the trust, will be classified as a trust if there is no power to vary the investments of the certificate holders.

The essential nature of an arrangement, whatever its form, as shown by the objects attained and the manner of their attainment, is what controls the classification of the arrangement as a trust.[5] In determining the character of an arrangement, the managerial powers of all parties to an arrangement will be combined in order to arrive at the full amount of permitted managerial activity and its object. [6]

Going back to our example, to determine whether Trust is an investment trust for tax purposes, it is appropriate to consider the nature and purpose of Trust.  Trust is holding the interests in LLC for the purpose of providing investors with the benefits of the managed investments of LLC.  These investment activities would result in Trust failing to be classified as a trust if Trust were permitted to engage in those activities directly.  Because the nature and purpose of Trust under this arrangement is to vary the investments of the certificate holders, Trust is likely a business entity for federal tax purposes and not an investment trust.

Restated, a state law trust that is established as an investment trust to hold interests in an LLC partnership, that has the power to vary its investments, is generally not classified as a trust for federal tax purposes.

Tomorrow’s blogticle will discuss relevant topics to wealth managers in 2011.

We invite your opinions and comments by posting them below, or by calling the Panel of Experts.


[1] Treasury Regulations § 301.7701-2(a).

 

[2] Treasury Regulations § 301.7701-4(a).

[3] Treasury Regulations § 301.7701-4(b).

[4] Treasury Regulations §  301.7701-4(c); See also Comm’r v. North American Bond Trust, 122 F.2d 545 (2d Cir. 1941), cert. denied, 314 U.S. 701 (1942).

[5] Morrissey v. Comm’r, 296 U.S. 344 (1935).

[6] See Comm’r v. Chase Nat’l Bank, 122 F. 2d 540 (2d Cir. 1941).

 

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LLC Taxation

Posted by William Byrnes on March 8, 2011


A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute.  LLCs are popular because, similar to a corporation, owners have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the LLC.  Other features of LLCs are more like a partnership, providing management flexibility and the benefit of pass-through taxation.

Owners of an LLC are called members.  Since most states do not restrict ownership, members may include individuals, corporations, other LLCs and foreign entities.  There is no maximum number of members.  Most states also permit “single member” LLCs, those having only one owner.

A few types of businesses generally cannot be LLCs, such as banks and insurance companies. Check your state’s requirements and the federal tax regulations for further information.  There are special rules for foreign LLCs.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

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IRS Rebuffed by Federal Court of Appeals in Valuation Discount Case

Posted by William Byrnes on March 6, 2011


Valuation discounts will always be a disputed issue between taxpayers and the IRS, but as illustrated by the recently published Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, a properly timed gift can still qualify for a discount.  The parents contributed cash, securities, and real property to an LLC and then transferred LLC interests to a trust (“the children’s trust”) naming their children as beneficiaries.

The IRS rejected the valuation discount, claiming that the parents did not make a gift of the LLC interests to the trusts as they claimed, but instead made an indirect gift of the assets owned by the LLC.  The IRS also argued that, even if the LLC were funded prior to the gifting of the LLC interests to the children, the transaction’s two steps—transfer of assets to the LLC and the gift of the LLC interest to the children’s trust—were really a single transaction, an indirect gift of the assets, under the step transaction doctrine.   Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

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LLC Series and Cell Companies

Posted by William Byrnes on March 3, 2011


Late last year the IRS published proposed regulations regarding the classification for Federal tax purposes a domestic series limited liability company (LLC), a domestic cell company, or a foreign series or cell that conducts an insurance business.

A number of States, such as Delaware, have enacted statutes providing for the creation of entities that may establish series, including limited liability companies (series LLCs).  In general, most series LLC statutes provide that a limited liability company may establish separate series.

Although the series LLC generally are not treated as separate entities for State law purposes, the treatment of rights and obligations is similar to separate entities, creating in essence “associated members”.  Members’ association with one or more particular series is comparable to direct ownership by the members in such series, in that their rights, duties, and powers with respect to the series are direct and specifically identified.   If the conditions enumerated in the relevant statute are satisfied, the debts, liabilities, and obligations of one series generally are enforceable only against the assets of that series and not against assets of other series or of the series LLC.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

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