CPA Firm in Miami Reasonable Salary for S Corporation Owners

CPA Firm in Miami Reasonable Salary for S Corporation Owners

Besides its single level of taxation as a pass through entity, CPA Firm in Miami  remind clients that the advantage of an S corporation over a C corporation is that a shareholder’s share of the corporation’s net income is not considered self-employment earnings and therefore is not subject to self-employment tax (13.3% in 2011 and 2012). CPA Firm in Miami VieraCPA notes the stark contrast to that of a general partner, LLC member, or sole proprietor, for whom net earnings from self-employment include any trade or business income and a partner’s distributive share of income from a trade or business carried on by the partnership according to CPA Firm in Miami , Gustavo A Viera.

However, if the S corporation shareholder (let’s say an CPA Firm in Miami ) provides services to the S corporation, he or she must receive an adequate or reasonable amount of compensation for these services. The S corporation may deduct the compensation expense and must pay the employer share of employment taxes: 6.2% Social Security tax and 1.45% Medicare tax. The shareholder-employee (i.e. CPA Firm in Miami ) is responsible for 4.2% Social Security tax (in 2011 and 2012) and 1.45% Medicare tax. The S corporation is also responsible for Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) taxes. Minimizing these taxes provides an incentive to keep the S corporation shareholder’s wages low and to characterize most of the pass through income as distributions.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in 2009 on employment tax noncompliance among S corporation shareholders. The IRS has been pursuing this perceived abuse of inadequate compensation in favor of dividend distributions to shareholder-employees and has won a number of cases, according to CPA Firm in Miami VieraCPA.

According to CPA Firm in Miami VieraCPA, the IRS has the authority to reclassify dividends, distributions, or payments to the shareholder-employee, including loan repayments, as compensation if it deems compensation inadequate or unreasonable. The courts have held that the question of reasonable compensation is one of fact, determined on a case-by-case basis. The IRS has posted on its website three major sources of gross receipts it will consider when determining reasonable compensation: the services provided by the shareholder, the services of non-shareholder employees, and the capital and equipment of the corporation.

IRS fact sheet FS-2008-25, Wage Compensation for S Corporation Officers line an CPA Firm in Miami with Sub S status, lists the following factors in determining reasonable compensation: training and experience, duties and responsibilities, time and effort devoted to the business, dividend history, payments to non-shareholder employees, timing and manner of paying bonuses to key people, what comparable businesses pay for similar services, compensation agreements, and the use of a formula to determine compensation. Sources of information on comparable compensation for services include the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment agencies, and a market analysis. The key in defending a claimed compensation amount is to document all research to support the amount.

Shareholders who are officers of a corporation who do not perform any services or perform only minor services in that capacity and who do not receive or are not entitled to receive direct or indirect compensation are not considered employees of the corporation. Thus, since most shareholder-officers of closely held corporations do provide more than minor services to the corporation, they most likely are considered employees. If a shareholder is an officer who is considered an employee, CPA Firm in Miami point to Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978, P.L. 95-600, does not apply as a safe harbor for re-characterizing the shareholder’s compensation because, under Sec. 3121(d)(1), corporate officers are statutory employees.

The S corporation entity form provides planning opportunities to avoid payroll taxes or self-employment taxes on distributions that are instead a return on capital and assets. With the increase in Medicare tax of an additional 0.9% for high-wage earners scheduled to begin in 2013, this may represent a larger opportunity. The key in defending against a possible audit and re-characterization of dividends is to document all research and analysis of the determination of the shareholder-employee salary.



Miami Accountant Converting C Corporation to an S Corporation or LLC

Miami Accountant Converting C Corporation to an S Corporation or LLC

Historically low rates makes converting C Corp to S Corp according to Miami Accountant Gustavo A Viera CPA

  • Current historically low tax rates, scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, plus correspondingly low values for assets like real estate caused by the recession, make converting C corporations to pass-through entities especially attractive at this time.
  • C corporations are subject to double taxation, but methods of reducing corporate taxable income, such as increasing compensation to shareholder-employees, all have their own limitations.
  • One method is to elect to be taxed as an S corporation, eliminating double taxation without the need to liquidate the corporation, but it may not be a solution for all types of corporations, due to restrictive rules on corporate structures, classes of stock, types of permitted shareholders, and other limitations.
  • Converting from a C corporation to a limited liability company (LLC) can also eliminate double taxation; however, for federal tax purposes, it involves liquidating the corporation and can result in tax liability at the corporate and shareholder levels.

Gustavo A Viera, a Miami Accountant, says for closely held corporations that still have C status, 1) the current uncertain economic environment, depressed asset values (especially in certain real estate markets), and historically low income tax rates on distributions to individuals (qualified dividends) from C corporations (which are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012) 2) may present an opportunity to exit C status and its attendant double taxation at an acceptable current tax cost. Miami Accountant VieraCPA is talking to their C corporation clients about the opportunities that now exist to avoid substantial future taxes.

Miami Accountant Reflect on Tax Inefficiency of C Corporations

Miami Accountant remind you that C corporations are taxed on their taxable income at federal rates up to 35%. Distributions of qualified dividends to individual shareholders are taxed again at a federal rate of 15%, and those dividends are not deductible by the corporation. Thus, the total federal tax rate on distributed earnings from a C corporation is 44.75% [(1 × 0.35) + (.15 × (1 – 0.35)]. If your Miami Accountant has elected an S corporation or a business is not operated in corporate form (e.g., partnership, limited partnership, or limited liability company (LLC)), there is only one level of taxation at the owner level, and a savings of 9.75% of taxable income, assuming the owners are individuals taxed at the highest individual rate.4 This difference is even greater when taking into account state taxation.

Miami Accountant Service Lowering Taxable Income

A usual approach to managing the inefficient taxation of C corporation operating income has been to pay as much of the income as possible to shareholder-employees in the form of compensation, which, unlike dividends, is deductible. Such an approach may reduce the taxable income of the C corporation to an acceptable level and result in the earnings being taxed only once at the shareholder-employee level. But this approach has its limitations.

Compensation must be reasonable: Sec. 162 allows a deduction for compensation that is (among other things) “reasonable.” Where a large percentage of corporate earnings is paid as compensation, particularly where the compensation is proportionate to shareholdings, the reasonableness of it may be difficult to defend.5 Moreover, while a Miami Accountant high amounts of compensation as a percentage of corporate income may be reasonable (e.g., where personal services are the principal contributor to income, such as in a dental practice), in other businesses where capital is a principal contributor to income (e.g., rental real estate or manufacturing and sales with large capital investment), compensation that is a high percentage of pre-tax corporate income may be more difficult to justify.

Shareholders may object to some compensation arrangements: Managing the level of corporate taxable income by paying compensation to shareholder-employees may be a difficult strategy to implement where there is more than one shareholder and the individual shareholder-employees do not believe that compensation payments that are proportionate to stockholdings accurately reflect their respective contributions to the success of the enterprise. Certain shareholders may be unwilling to agree to a compensation arrangement that they believe does not adequately reward their efforts or which they believe excessively rewards the efforts of others.

Compensation can be costly: Compensation is subject to payroll taxes, including Social Security and Medicare tax. The combined rate of Social Security and Medicare taxes payable by employers for 2012 is 7.65% on the first $110,100 of wages, and the combined rate for employees is 5.65%.8 For wages in excess of $110,100, the employer and employee are both subject to a Medicare tax of 1.45%.9

Even if double taxation of C corporation earnings can be acceptably and justifiably managed through payment of compensation to shareholder-employees, there remains the problem of managing double taxation of C corporation earnings when disposing of the C corporation itself or of its underlying business.

Managing Tax Inefficiency When Disposing of the Business

The management of the tax inefficiency of C corporations on the disposition of the business held in the corporation in an asset sale is a function of the double taxation of C corporation income and the concepts of “inside” and “outside” gain. Gain on the sale of the business assets (including corporate goodwill) is “inside gain” taxed at the corporate level. Outside gain is gain the shareholders have on the distribution of the after-tax sales proceeds from the sale of corporate assets. Inside and outside gain will also occur where appreciated assets are distributed to shareholders in exchange for their shares.

Double Taxation on C Corporation Liquidating Distributions

If a corporation sells all its assets and distributes the proceeds to its shareholders in a liquidating distribution, the corporation is subject to tax on the asset sale and the shareholders are subject to tax on the distribution. The distribution of assets in liquidation is treated at the corporate level in the same way as if the assets were sold for cash and the proceeds distributed to shareholders in exchange for their shares. The shareholders would also have a tax on their gain measured by the difference between the liquidation proceeds (or the net fair market value (FMV) of the assets if they are distributed in kind) and the basis of the shares in their hands. Thus, whether the C corporation sells all of its assets and distributes the proceeds in liquidation or distributes all of its assets in liquidation, the tax consequences to the corporation and its shareholders are substantially the same. In both cases, there is double taxation. In general, the federal double-tax rate of 44.75% (plus applicable state tax net of any federal benefit from deducting state tax) should apply if the shares of the corporation are a long-term capital asset in the hands of the shareholders. In considering these alternatives, both corporate and shareholder tax attributes such as net operating or capital loss carryovers should be considered.

Described above is how inside gain (gain at the entity level) and outside gain (gain at the owner (shareholder) level)cause double taxation of C corporation earnings on the sale of corporate assets. But what would be the result if the sale of the business took the form of a sale of the shares of the C corporation by the shareholders?

Miami Accountants recommend avoiding double taxation be avoided?

Business Limitations and “Practical” Double Taxation on Share Sales

Before even getting to the tax implications of the sale of shares of the C corporation, the general reluctance of a buyer of a corporate business to buy the shares cannot be denied. A buyer who buys the shares could inherit undisclosed and perhaps even unknown liabilities. While seller warranties may assuage a buyer’s reluctance, they are only as comforting as the seller’s ability to make good on them. There are cases, however, where the buyer may have no choice but to buy shares rather than the underlying assets. This can occur, for example, where the corporation holds a valuable asset such as a lease that is not transferrable, or where the corporate charter itself has value, as in the case of a bank or insurance company.

If the disposition of the C corporation business takes the form of a sale of its shares rather than a sale of the business assets, it might at first appear that there is only one level of taxation. The shareholders would pay tax on gain equal to the difference between the sales price and their basis in their shares. Assuming that the shares are long-term capital gain property, the shareholders would face only a 15% federal tax. This is a good result as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. There is still “practical” or “economic” double taxation because the share sale shifts the problem of “inside” or corporate-level gain to the buyer.

The buyer of the C corporation shares would have a basis in those shares equal to the amount paid (assuming FMV was paid), but the assets of the C corporation (inside basis) would remain their historic basis. Thus, the difference between that historic basis and the FMV of those historic assets remains subject to tax upon disposition or carries a tax cost in the form of reduced future depreciation or amortization. Financial accounting recognizes this by requiring a deferred tax liability to be set up in the accounts of the post-acquisition entity.

In essence, the buyer who buys shares will inherit a deferred tax liability (in the form of future tax on the sale of the low-basis assets or reduced tax-deductible cost recovery) and will expect to be compensated for that increased cost by way of a reduced price for the shares. The buyer might demand that the price be reduced by what would otherwise be the present value of the entire deferred tax liability. Such a reduction in purchase price would put the buyer and seller in approximately the same position as they would have been in had the C corporation sold assets and the selling shareholders absorbed the corporate-level tax. Alternatively, the buyer and seller may agree on a purchase price that results in each of them bearing a portion of the deferred tax liability.

Obviously, the greater the difference between the FMV of C corporation assets and their basis in the hands of the C corporation (inside appreciation), the greater the potential problem of double taxation of that inside appreciation. If such appreciation is likely to get larger in the future because current values are depressed, this may be the time to exit C status.

Exiting C Status, Generally

There are two strategies for exiting C status. Each of these strategies involves the conversion of the C corporation to a passthrough entity. In general, the income, deduction, gain, loss, and credit of the passthrough entity pass through to its owners, and the entity itself is not subject to tax. The first, and least expensive exit strategy, is to convert to S corporation status. But, as more fully discussed below, S corporation status may not be a suitable alternative for every C corporation and its shareholders. When S status is not achievable or its requirements are not compatible with other needs of the business and its shareholders, a second strategy is available. The C corporation can convert to an LLC and continue its operations in that form.

Exiting C Status by Making an S Election

The easiest and least costly method to exit C status is to convert to S corporation status, but that has its limitations and may not be possible or desirable in all situations.

Electing S corporation status: The shareholders of a C corporation may elect S status and, in general, the corporation will avoid a corporate-level federal tax on its operating income or on gain resulting from the sale of its business. Items of income, deduction, gain, loss, and credit are generally taken into account only by the shareholders and not by the corporation in computing taxable income and tax. A favorable aspect of an S election is that in many cases it takes a corporation out of C status and its attendant double taxation without a tax consequence.

Eligible C corporations: Not every C corporation is eligible to be an S corporation. There are shareholder requirements, a capitalization requirement, requirements for corporations with accumulated earnings and profits where the corporation has certain levels of passive income, and requirements relating to the corporation itself.

Corporate requirements: Only domestic corporations that are not (1) financial institutions using the Sec. 585 reserve method of accounting for bad debts, (2) insurance companies taxable under subchapter L, (3) possessions corporations, or (4) DISCs or former DISCs can qualify for S status.20

Shareholder requirements: An S corporation cannot have more than 100 shareholders.21 Only individuals who are U.S. citizens or residents, certain estates, certain trusts, and certain tax-exempt organizations can be shareholders of an S corporation.

Capitalization requirement: S status is available only to corporations with one class of stock outstanding (differences in voting rights among the shares of common stock do not violate the one class of stock requirement).The one class of stock requirement can become problematic and a serious limitation where there is a need or desire for special allocations of corporate earnings to certain shareholders (e.g., certain shareholders would like a preferred return on their shares). In general, a corporation has only one class of stock for these purposes if all outstanding shares confer identical rights to distributions and liquidation proceeds. However, otherwise ordinary commercial transactions between the corporation and a shareholder, such as compensation arrangements and leases, with a principal purpose to circumvent this requirement, can violate the one class of stock requirement.

Unless certain safe-harbor requirements are met, the one class of stock rule can also be a problem where financing arrangements include consideration in the form of equity-based payments including “equity kickers” or options to buy shares.

Careful analysis is required where shareholders are not treated identically or where lending arrangements include some form of equity interest.

Requirements Relating to Corporations With Earnings and Profits and Passive Income

An S corporation can be subject to tax at the corporate level30 and its S status terminated. if it has certain amounts of passive income and also has earnings and profits accumulated during years when it was a C corporation. For this purpose, passive income includes rents, royalties, interest, annuities, and dividends. This problem may be avoided if the earnings and profits can be purged by distribution to the shareholders as dividends. With the 15% federal tax rate on dividends in effect for this year, an earnings and profits purge in 2012 may be a tax-efficient way to remove those earnings from corporate solution at a favorable tax rate.

Limitations on S Election Tax Efficiencies

Corporate-level tax on built-in gain: The excess of the FMV of assets over their adjusted basis at the time of the S election is built-in gain. Any of this built-in gain recognized during the 10-year period beginning with the first day of the first tax year for which the corporation was an S corporation remains subject to corporate-level tax. Only the excess of the FMV of those assets over their respective tax basis is subject to this corporate-level tax. Post-election appreciation is subject to only one level of taxation. Thus, it is essential that an appraisal of all assets be performed at the time of the S election to document the assets on hand and to keep track of their future sale.

Appraisal of all assets means all assets, even assets that are not reflected on the corporation’s balance sheet, including self-created intangibles, such as goodwill and going-concern value, and patents and trademarks, the costs of which have been expensed. The appraisal process should be similar to that undertaken when allocating an FMV purchase for an entire business among its various assets. The importance of accurate appraisals cannot be overemphasized. There are severe civil penalties for misstating the value of property.

Tax efficiency—income from operations: In general, S corporation earnings are subject to tax only at the shareholder level except for the tax on built-in gain. However, the tax on built-in gain does not necessarily present a problem for all corporations. For example, it might not be an issue for a service corporation where income is not earned through the regular sale of property or a corporation in the real estate rental business (where the income was from an active trade or business) and the intent was to hold assets for the long term.

Salaries and wages paid to S corporation shareholder-employees are subject to payroll tax, which has caused some S corporations to pay little or no salary to shareholder-employees, hoping to avoid payroll tax. The IRS is well aware of this strategy, and works aggressively to prevent its use. Unreasonably low salaries paid to S corporation shareholder-employees who hope to withdraw income from the corporation as distributions rather than compensation to avoid the payroll tax will likely be challenged by the IRS, resulting in the recharacterization of some portion of dividend distributions to the shareholder-employees as compensation.

Tax efficiency—income from disposition of the business: Subject to the tax on built-in gain, the sale of the S corporation’s business is generally not subject to a corporate-level federal income tax. It is important to note that post-election appreciation in value is not subject to the corporate-level built-in gain tax, and after the election has been in effect for 10 years, the built-in gain tax no longer applies. In addition to there being only one level of taxation on the actual sale of the assets, where desirable, it is possible to sell the shares of the S corporation and for the buyer and seller to jointly elect to treat the transaction as an asset sale.38 This elective treatment accommodates situations where certain assets of the corporation are not transferrable or where the S corporation’s charter has value in and of itself.

S election mechanics and miscellaneous concerns: The S election requires the shareholders’ unanimous consent and is effective for any year if made in the prior year or on or before the fifteenth day of the third month of the year. Documentation of the filing of those elections should be made a permanent part of corporate records.

In general S corporations must use the calendar year, but a fiscal year is possible in certain circumstances. It is important that there be shareholder agreements that bar unilateral action by a shareholder that would cause the S election to be revoked. This could occur, for example, if a shareholder transferred his shares to an ineligible person such as a non-qualifying trust. In addition, shareholder agreements should deal with distributions of cash to pay tax on S corporation earnings. The shareholders are liable for income tax on their distributable shares of S earnings whether they are distributed or not. Therefore, agreements should be in force to require distributions of at least enough cash to cover those tax liabilities.

Since, in general, the shareholders of an S corporation are taxable on the income of the S corporation, the tax-compliance burden may be increased. Each shareholder may be required to file individual tax returns and pay individual tax and estimated tax in each state in which the S corporation does business.

It is also important to determine the manner in which each state where the S corporation is liable for tax treats S corporations generally. Some states do not recognize S corporations as pass-through entities (all income is taxed at the corporate level), and some states have a hybrid approach. Some states require withholding on income of nonresident shareholders of S corporations. It is also important to determine whether a shareholder may claim a credit on his resident state income tax return for his nonresident state income tax on his share of the S corporation’s income. An analysis of state tax responsibilities is essential.

For corporations with foreign subsidiaries, there must be additional planning to best use U.S. foreign tax credits.

The S Election Exit From C Status: Summary

The S election can be an efficient and inexpensive way to exit C status and its double taxation on operating income and upon the sale of the business. However, it is not the ideal solution in every situation.

Limitations on the number of shareholders, the characteristics of the persons who can be shareholders, and restrictions on the capital structure impose limitations on the availability of S status. If S corporation status is not feasible, a company may be able to achieve the desired results by converting to an LLC.

Exiting C Status by Converting to an LLC

If a C corporation is not a candidate for an S election because of the requirements for S status discussed above, the current economic environment and depressed values for assets as well as historically low individual income tax rates on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains may make conversion to an LLC an acceptable exit strategy. The major difference between the exit from C status by conversion to S status and the exit from C status by converting to an LLC is that the latter has immediate tax consequences, which the corporation and its owners must evaluate in light of the future potential tax savings.

Income Tax Consequences of Converting a C Corporation to an LLC

In general, an LLC with one owner is disregarded for federal tax purposes and is treated as a sole proprietorship, branch, or division of the owner,and an LLC with more than one owner is classified as a partnership for federal tax purposes. Therefore, a conversion from C to LLC is not merely a change in the tax status of a corporation; it involves liquidating the C corporation and transferring the C corporation’s assets to an entity treated as a partnership (if the C corporation had more than one shareholder) or a disregarded entity (if the C corporation had only one shareholder).

The mechanics of a conversion from a C corporation to an LLC can take one of four forms:

Assets up: In the assets up form of conversion, the C corporation is liquidated and its assets are transferred to its shareholders who then transfer them to the LLC. (See Exhibit 1.)

Interests over: In the interests over form, there is an actual transfer of the shares of the C corporation to an LLC (which is then the sole shareholder of the C corporation) followed by an actual liquidation of the C corporation with its assets being distributed to the LLC.

Assets over: In the assets over form, the C corporation transfers its assets to an LLC in exchange for all the interests in the LLC, followed by an actual liquidation of the C corporation in which the C corporation distributes the LLC interests to its shareholder.

Merger or statutory conversion under state law: The merger of a C corporation into an LLC or its statutory conversion into an LLC under applicable state law are forms of conversion available in only some states. Where allowed, a C corporation can merge into an LLC or can be converted to an LLC by election.

Analysis of Income Tax Consequences and Other Considerations

Assets up: The assets up form is a liquidation of the C corporation, which is a taxable event at the corporate level measured by the difference between the FMV of the corporation’s several assets and their respective bases. The shareholders will recognize gain to the extent of the excess of the FMV of the assets distributed in liquidation over the basis in their shares. The basis of the assets in the hands of the shareholders will be their FMV upon distribution from the corporation. The contribution of that property to the LLC is generally not a taxable event, and the property’s basis in the hands of the LLC is the same as it was in the hands of the LLC member (former C corporation shareholder).

Interests over: In the interests over form, the shareholders’ transfer of their C corporation shares to an LLC is generally not a taxable event, and the basis of the C corporation shares in the hands of the LLC is the same as the shareholders’ bases in those shares.55 The members’ bases (former shareholders) in their LLC interests is the same as their bases in C corporation shares. Upon the liquidation of the C corporation, the tax consequences are the same as the liquidation of the C corporation in the assets up approach. The C corporation will recognize gain. The LLC will also recognize gain, but that gain will be taxable at the member level, and the members’ bases in their membership interests will increase by their share of that taxable income. Thus, the basis of the assets of the C corporation in the hands of the LLC will be FMV, and the basis of the LLC interests in the hands of the member(s) will reflect the FMV of the assets. If there is only one shareholder of the corporation so that the LLC is disregarded, the result should be the same and the assets up analysis should apply.

As more fully discussed below, the IRS seems to take the position that the assets up approach requires an actual transfer of assets (rather than a transfer of an interest in an LLC). In the case of the interests over approach, the assets of the C corporation are actually transferred to the LLC whether or not the LLC is a disregarded entity. The only difference is whether the member(s) of the LLC (former shareholder(s) of the corporation) will be taxed on the distributions from the liquidation corporation directly because the LLC is disregarded or as partners in a partnership because the LLC is classified as a partnership.

Assets over and statutory merger or state law elective conversion: In Letter Ruling 200214016,59 the IRS concluded that a statutory merger of a C corporation into an LLC under applicable state law should be analyzed as an assets over transaction. The C corporation was considered to have transferred all of its assets to a newly formed LLC in exchange for LLC interests (at that point the C corporation was the only member) and the LLC’s assuming the C corporation’s liabilities. The LLC interests were considered to be distributed to the shareholders in liquidation of the C corporation. The C corporation had more than one shareholder, and the resulting entity was held to be a partnership.

The ruling is silent on whether an election under Sec. 754 was made or could be made. The IRS appears to be applying the assets over default provisions of Regs. Sec. 1.708-1(c)(3), which require an actual transfer of partnership assets for the assets up form to be followed.61 Where the facts are similar to those of Letter Ruling 200214016 and there is a distribution of an interest in a disregarded entity that becomes a partnership upon the receipt of interests by more than one shareholder in exchange for his shares, the availability of a Sec. 754 election is appropriate since the shareholders have acquired a partnership interest even if a partnership interest was not distributed by the corporation. In the case of a single-shareholder corporation, the distribution of the LLC should be viewed as the distribution of the assets of the corporation to the shareholder in liquidation, and the assets up analysis should apply.

In an elective statutory conversion of a C corporation to an LLC, the same analysis should apply. Regs. Sec. 301.7701-3(g)(1)(iii) treats the elective conversion of an association taxable as a corporation to a disregarded entity as a distribution of all of its assets and liabilities to its single owner in liquidation of the corporation (assets up). While such an elective conversion of a domestic corporation is not permissible, the practical consequences of an elective state law conversion of a corporation to an LLC are the same as an elective conversion for tax purposes under Regs. Sec. 301.7701-3(g)(1)(iii). It is not clear whether the IRS would treat the state law elective conversion of a multi-shareholder corporation to an LLC the same way it treated the merger of the corporation into the LLC in Letter Ruling 200214016. Prudence would suggest that, in the case of a multi-shareholder corporation, careful consideration should be given to a Sec. 754 election.

Self-employment tax consequences: Where the business of the C corporation continues as an LLC, it is possible that all of the income of the enterprise can be subject to self-employment tax. This may not be a substantial problem where the shareholder(s) of the C corporation has been paid compensation at or above the wage base.

Summary and Analysis of Tax Cost

It is clear that the form of the conversion from C to LLC can be very important to the tax outcome for the shareholders. Since the conversion is a taxable event at the corporate and shareholder levels, it is important that the form allows a step-up to FMV of the assets formerly held by the corporation.

In the context of a multi-shareholder corporation, the IRS has taken the position that the merger of a corporation into an LLC should be analyzed as an assets over transaction. It may take the same position for an elective statutory conversion. In those situations, careful consideration must be given to an election under Sec. 754. In the context of a single-shareholder corporation that converts to a single-member LLC by way of a state law merger or state law election, the assets up analysis appears most appropriate.

Analysis of Tax Cost

Since the conversion of a C corporation to an LLC is a taxable event, it is necessary to analyze whether the current tax cost of the conversion is less than the present value of the future tax cost of double taxation of C corporation earnings and the present value of the future tax cost of disposing of the C corporation’s business. In making this analysis, it is necessary to consider whether and to what extent the assets of the C corporation will appreciate in value and how much operating income the C corporation will generate over a period of years, as well as the possibility of managing double taxation by paying tax-deductible compensation to shareholder-employees. In addition, some assumptions will have to be made about future tax rates, and appraisals will have to be obtained to establish and document the FMV of the business.

If the value of the assets in excess of their basis is sufficiently small and those assets are expected to appreciate in value, the cost upon conversion and the opportunity cost of the current payment of tax may not be too expensive in light of the tax savings on future appreciation. In addition, the existence of favorable tax attributes at the corporate level might reduce the current tax cost. Since the tax consequences of conversion are based on FMVs and the transactions are not between unrelated parties dealing at arm’s length, it is imperative to obtain bona fide appraisals to support the FMV that is used to determine gain. There are severe penalties for misstating the value of assets.


Double taxation of C corporation income from operations and from the sale of its business make C status tax inefficient. Changes in federal tax law scheduled to take effect in 2013 would worsen this tax inefficiency. The owners of a C corporation can avoid the tax inefficiency of the C corporation form by converting the corporation to S corporation status or converting it to an LLC.

While converting to an S corporation may be able to be accomplished without a current tax cost, converting a C corporation to an LLC can result in current tax at the corporate and shareholder level. Nevertheless, that current tax cost may be far less than the future tax cost of operating the business in a C corporation and incurring double taxation at what may be higher tax rates, or of incurring the higher tax cost (or reduced value) on a disposition of the business and the attendant double taxation of any appreciation in the value of the business. Since individual tax rates on qualifying dividends from C corporations and on capital gains are at historically low rates, this is may be the time to exit C status.



S Corporation Shareholders: Is it Time to Consider Accelerating Income Into 2012?

You may not realize this, but there’s far more at stake in next month’s presidential election than the fate of national security, gay marriage and America’s continued independence from China. There’s also the distinct possibility that if President Obama wins reelection, S corporation shareholders will find themselves in the counterintuitive position of trying to accelerate taxable income into the waning days of 2012. Allow me to explain.

First, let’s make three key assumptions:

  1. You own an S corporation that was previously taxed as a C corporation.
  2. As of the start of your 2012 tax year, your S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits (E&P) from your previous days as a C corporation.
  3. Lastly, your S corporation has a positive balance in its Accumulated Adjustments Account (AAA), but you expect to make some large distributions in future years that may well exceed this positive balance.

Next, some foundations of tax principles:

C Corporation Distributions, In General

During the time a business is operated as a C corporation, any distributions are governed by Section 301(c), which provides that to the extent the distribution is made from the corporation’s current or accumulated E&P, the distributions are taxed as a dividend to the shareholder.

E&P, in its simplest form, is the measurement of a corporation’s economic — as opposed to taxable — income that is available for distribution to its shareholders. The purpose of determining E&P is to differentiate those distributions that are made from a corporation’s income and thus should be taxed as dividends to the recipient shareholders from those that represent a nontaxable return of a shareholder’s capital.

This treatment of E&P distributions as taxable dividends gives rise to the dreaded “double taxation” that largely defines the Subchapter C regime, as a shareholder’s dividend income will have been taxed twice: once when the income was earned by the corporation, and a second time when the shareholder receives the dividend.

S Corporation Distributions and the Accumulated Adjustments Account

Unlike C corporations, S corporation income is generally subject to only a single level of tax. The statute ensures this beneficial treatment from a mechanical perspective by providing that income earned by an S corporation increases the shareholders’ basis in the corporation’s stock (IRC Section 1367(a)(1)), while a distribution of those same earnings is treated as a tax-free reduction of the shareholders’ previously increased stock basis (IRC Section 1368).

S Corporations with Prior C Corporation E&P

Because of the advantageous treatment afforded S corporation distributions, there is tremendous motivation for a C corporation with substantial E&P to convert to an S corporation prior to making a distribution, so that the distribution will be treated as a tax-free return of shareholder stock basis rather than a taxable dividend.

Recognizing this potential loophole, the statute provides that a C corporation’s accumulated E&P survives the S election and remains with the S corporation. Should this E&P be subsequently distributed — even during an S corporation year — the distribution will be taxed as a dividend to the recipient shareholders as if it had been made while the business was a C corporation.

S Corporation Distribution Ordering Rules and the Importance of the Accumulated Adjustments Account

Because an S corporation’s prior E&P continues to lurk, waiting to be taxed as a dividend when distributed, the statute provides an ordering rule to determine which S corporation distributions are deemed to have been made from S corporation income  – and will be subject to the favorable rules discussed above — versus when the corporation is deemed to be distributing prior C corporation E&P, which will be taxed as a dividend to the shareholders with no offset for the shareholders’ stock basis.

This line of demarcation comes in the form of an S corporation’s Accumulated Adjustments Account (AAA). This corporate level attribute is intended to measure the income earned by the S corporation that has previously been taxed to the shareholders as flow-through income, but has not yet been distributed, similar — but not identical to — a C corporation’s E&P.

To the extent an S corporation’s distribution does not exceed the positive balance in its AAA, the distribution will be taxed according to the general S corporation rules. Once the distribution exceeds the AAA balance, however, the next dollars of distribution are deemed to have come from E&P and will be taxed as a dividend to the recipient shareholders until all of the E&P has been distributed.

These ordering rules are intended to be taxpayer-friendly, as S corporation shareholders would generally prefer to have a distribution treated as a tax-free return of basis than a taxable dividend. But in 2012, that may not be the case, particularly if the S corporation is planning to make large distributions in future years that may well exceed the corporation’s AAA balance at the time of the distribution and as a result, be taxed as a dividend when made. Here’s why:

The maximum tax rate on qualified dividends is currently 15%. Should no new legislation be passed between now and December 31st, however, this top rate is slated to return to 39.6%, with an additional 3.8% tacked on for taxpayers with unearned income in excess of $250,000, for a total rate of 43.4%.

If reelected, President Obama would allow the preferential rates afforded dividends to expire in exactly this manner, meaning dividend rates may well triple in 2013. And if this were happen, well…S corporation owners would be remiss not to consider getting rid of their corporation’s E&P now, at the favorable 15% rates, even if it means accelerating dividend income into 2012 that otherwise would not have been recognized.

To that end, there are three ways you can purge your S corporation’s E&P between now and the end of 2012:

  1. If your S corporation has plenty of cash lying around — and few do in today’s economy — the corporation could simply make a large enough distribution in 2012 to wipe out its AAA as well as its complete E&P balance in accordance with the normal ordering rules.
  2. Alternatively, if cash is precious, the corporation can elect under Treasury Regulation 1.1368-f(2) to reverse the traditional distribution ordering rules, and have the S corporation’s 2012 distribution be treated as having come first from E&P, and then from AAA. This allows the corporation to purge its E&P balance at preferential rates with whatever cash is available
  3. Lastly, if you simply don’t have any cash available to distribute, the regulations still provide a mechanism for purging all of the S corporation’s E&P during 2012. Treas. Reg. 1.1368-(1)(f)(3) provides that an S corporation can elect to make a deemed dividend of all or part of the corporation’s E&P balance. In the fictional transaction, cash equal to the elected amount is deemed distributed by the corporation to its shareholders and then immediately contributed by the shareholders back to the corporation. Obviously, if this election is made, the S corporation is also deemed to have made the election discussed in #2 above to reverse the normal ordering rules. This election has the added effect of providing the shareholders with a basis increase for the amount of the deemed dividend, which may free up current or suspended losses.

The elections discussed at #2 and #3 above are irrevocable, and both must be made by attaching a statement to an originally filed (including extensions) original or amended return. This means that for shareholders electing to make a deemed dividend under Treas. Reg. Section 1.1368-1(f)(3), because no cash is actually distributed, the timing of the election provides a rare post-year-end planning opportunity. These shareholders can sit back and watch the election — and any legislation emerging from the subsequent lame-duck session of Congress — unfold before deciding which step to take with the added benefit of hindsight.




Can I Change My LLC to an S-Corporation?

An LLC is an entity created under state law for federal tax purposes, and can be treated as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation.

An S-corporation is an entity that passes corporate income, losses, credit and deductions to its individual shareholders for federal tax purposes. Choosing your business to be treated as an S-corporation by the IRS does not change its organization under state law as an LLC. Certain limitations must first be met before you change your LLC into an S-corporation.


To meet the restrictions imposed by the IRS on entities looking for a designation as an S-corporation, your LLC must be a domestic entity with only one class of stock, and have fewer than 100 members that are considered shareholders of the putative corporation. Those shareholders can include individuals and certain types of trusts and estates, but may not include partnerships, corporations or nonresident aliens. Additionally, certain types of regulated businesses, such as certain financial institutions, insurance companies and international sales corporations, cannot elect for S-corporation treatment. Meeting these requirements may involve making some changes to the structure and ownership of your LLC.


Use IRS Form 8832 to instruct the IRS on how to classify your business entity. As an LLC, your election can be any one of the three types recognized by the IRS for this type of entity. If you have already classified your LLC to be taxed as a corporation, you do not need to refile Form 8832. However, if your LLC was previously being taxed as a partnership or sole proprietorship, you must file Form 8832 and mark box 6a to elect taxation as a corporation. If your LLC is a foreign entity, you cannot change your LLC into an S-corporation.

Forms and Time Frame

Use IRS Form 2553 to elect to be an S-corporation. For the election to take effect in the current tax year, it must be filed not more than two months and 15 days from the beginning of the tax year. Otherwise, the election will take effect in the following tax year. All members owning a share of the LLC on the day of election for treatment as an S-corporation must sign the election form. You must file Form 1120s as the tax return for the LLC in the tax year in which your election for S-corporation treatment takes effect.


The most notable effect of electing for federal tax treatment as an S-corporation is that you will no longer be subject to the self-employment tax levied on general and limited partnerships. [You will, however, be required to pay a reasonable salary to anyone who provides services to the LLC, including members, and these payments are taxable wages even if paid as distributions or dividends. You will not need a need a new Employer Identification Number, or EIN, as a result of electing for taxation as an S-corporation.