Corporations have limited liability. That is, in general, the owners of a corporation (referred to as stockholders) are liable to third parties only to the limited extent of their investment in the corporation. A third party with a claim against the corporation cannot in most instances collect against the stockholders. There are important exceptions to this general rule. Corporations have stockholders (the owners), directors (those responsible for the overall management of the corporation) and officers (those responsible for the day-to-day management). The officers usually consist of a President, Secretary, Treasurer and one or more Vice Presidents. Corporations are formed by filing Articles of Incorporation with the Montana Secretary of State. There are different kinds of corporations, including C Corporations, S Corporations, Statutory Close Corporations, Professional Corporations, Benefit Corporations and Nonprofit Corporations.
The income from these corporations is taxed to the corporation. Distributions to the stockholders (“dividends”) are not deductible to the corporation, and are taxable to the stockholders.
These are corporations for which an election is filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Not all corporations can make this election, due to limitations on the kind and number of stockholders an S corporation can have. The income of these corporations is taxed to the stockholders rather than to the corporation, which in some situations is advantageous.
These are corporations formed under special provisions of Montana law. These can elect to operate without a board of directors and without some of the formality required of other corporations. These can be taxed either as C corporations or as S corporations.
Professional Corporations: These are corporations for professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and CPA’s. Only licensed professionals can be stockholders in these corporations.
These are formed in a similar manner as a business corporation but with a public benefit purpose stated in the Articles of Incorporation so that they can be operated for a public benefit, not just for the benefit of the owners.
These are created for one of three purposes: public benefit, mutual benefit or religious. Public benefit corporations will often be operated for some charitable purpose, while mutual benefit corporations are operated for the benefit of the members, a homeowners association being an example of that.
In a partnership, each of the partners is entitled to participate in the management of the business, and each of the partners is liable for the obligations of the partnership, as well as the acts of the other partners. There is greater flexibility than with corporations in dividing profits among the owners of the business. A partnership can be formed without any formal action of the partners, although having a written partnership agreement is advisable. The income of the partnership is taxed directly to the partners.
These consist of one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. The general partners have the same liability and same management rights as partners in a general partnership. The limited partners have limited liability similar to stockholders of a corporation, but are prohibited from participating in the management of the partnership.
These combine features of corporations and partnerships. These have the limited liability feature of corporations, but usually are taxed as partnerships (that is, the income is taxed directly to the owners, not the entity). The owners can fully participate in management of the business without losing the benefit of limited liability, an important distinction from limited partners in a limited partnership. There are fewer restrictions on ownership and fewer requirements than with S Corporations.