Determine the basic legal structure of the business and properly record the business name. There are several legal structures available for businesses operating in Texas. Each structure is listed below with a brief description of the entity.
A sole proprietorship exists when a single individual operates a business and owns all assets. A sole proprietor is personally liable for all debts, and business ownership is nontransferable. Under a sole proprietorship, the life of the business is limited to the life of the individual proprietor. The sole proprietorship makes no legal distinction between personal and business debts, and it does not require a separate income tax return. A sole proprietorship is often operated under the name of the owner. Whenever operating a business under a name other than the sole proprietor, an Assumed Name Certificate must be filed with the county clerk. Assumed Name Certificates are discussed later in this section.
A general partnership exists when two or more individuals or businesses join to operate a business. Under a general partnership, a separate business entity exists, but creditors can still look to the partners’ personal assets for satisfaction of debts. General partners share equally in assets and liabilities. A general partnership requires an annual partnership income tax return (separate from the partners’ personal returns). A general partnership may be operated under the names of the owners, or a different name. In either case, an Assumed Name Certificate must be filed with the county clerk.
A limited partnership is a partnership formed by two or more persons or entities, under the laws of Texas, and having one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. General partners share equally in debts and assets, while limited partners have limited debt obligations. A limited partnership must be registered with the Secretary of State. (See next section for details on the business name.
Registered Limited Liability Partnership
A registered limited liability partnership is a general partnership that has been registered with the Secretary of State. A partner’s liability in a registered limited liability partnership differs from that of an ordinary partnership. In a registered limited liability partnership, a partner is not individually liable, under some circumstances, for debts and obligations of the partnership arising from errors, omissions, negligence, incompetence, or malfeasance committed in the course of business by others in the partnership.
A corporation (Subchapter C or S) is created when two or more individuals, partnerships, or other entities join together to form a separate entity for the purpose of operating a business in the state. A corporation has its own legal identity, separate from its owners. The corporation offers protection to the business owners’ personal assets from debts and liabilities relating to the operation of the corporation. Taxation of the corporation varies depending on the type of corporation formed. A corporation must be registered with the Secretary of State.
Corporation is taxed at a higher rate than an individual. The owners are not taxed personally for profits; however, the owners do pay personal taxes on any salaries and/or dividends, and the corporation is also taxed on the profits.
Corporations may deduct business losses on personal income tax returns, similar to a partnership. The Subchapter S Corporation also offers alternative methods for distributing the business income to the owners.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company is an unincorporated business entity which shares some of the aspects of Subchapter S Corporations and limited partnerships, and yet has more flexibility than more traditional business entities. The limited liability company is designed to provide its owners with limited liability and pass-through tax advantages without the restrictions imposed on Subchapter S Corporations and limited partnerships. A limited liability company must be registered with the Secretary of State