C Corps

The largest companies in the United States are organized as C Corporations (C corps). A C corp has the most flexibility for attracting public and private investors. Learn the best practices for managing these legal entities.

C Corporation
C Corporation

Definition

The "C" in C corp refers to Subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code1 where the IRS regulates for-profit businesses organized as corporations.

C corps are usually compared with S corps. S corporations provide favorable tax treatment, but impose ownership limitations which C corps avoid.

Reasons to Incorporate a C Corporation

C corporations provide several benefits to businesses and investors:

  1. Limited liability and protection of personal assets,
  2. Flexible ownership structure with classes of stock, options, warrants, convertible debt, and the like,
  3. Flexible management structure,
  4. Advantageous form for some employee insurance and compensation plans,
  5. Well understood for raising venture capital and taking the company public.

Basic information

After you form a C corporation, you must maintain it to keep it in compliance. Track the following information for a corporation:

  • Legal name is official name on the Articles of Incorporation.
  • Tax Identification Number (TIN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Address should be the principle place of business.
  • Registered Agent or legal address is the place where you receive service of process.
  • Website is not legally required but is part of standard contact information.
  • Email is not legally required but is part of standard contact information.
  • Phone is not legally required but is part of standard contact information.
  • Place of Incorporation is the legal jurisdiction for registration. In the United States, legal entities are formed under state law.
  • Legal Form is the type of legal entity. For C corporations, the legal form is "Corporation".
  • Tax Status is a determined by federal tax law. For C corporations, tax status is "Taxable". C corporations are taxable and do not benefit from pass-through tax status. This means that profits of the business are taxed as income and distributions to shareholders are taxed as income to them.

Documents and filings

This table summarizes the types of C corporation documents and filings:

Type Timing2 Expiration3
Organizational at formation No
Ownership agreement at formation No
Minutes ongoing No
Insurance ongoing Yes
Licensing ongoing Yes
Debt instruments ongoing Yes
Filings ongoing Yes
Certificates ongoing No
Tax notices ongoing No
Other ongoing Yes

Compliance obligations

After forming a C corporation, it is important to track compliance obligations. Compliance requirements vary widely based on jurisdiction and line of business.

Here is how to design compliance tracking:

Requirement Jurisdiction4 Expiration5 Recurring Frequency6
Annual report State Yes Yes Annual
Foreign authorization State Yes Yes Annual
Trade name or DBA State Yes Yes Annual
License Any Yes Yes Annual
Permit Local No No Longer
Estimated taxes Federal Yes Yes Quarterly
Other Any Yes Yes Annual

Of course, you should substitute actual filing requirements for your business. This table gives you a framework to capture the essentials of any compliance filing.

Officers and directors

C corporations generally have a Board of Directors corporate structure to separate ownership governance (a board of directors) from management (officers).

Most states require that corporations have a Board of Directors unless the shareholder agreement provides otherwise.7

People often serve more than one role so it is important to list officers and directors by role and not by name. In the long run, it is also helpful to track terms of service for each role and person.

Here is the information to track for officers and directors:

  • Type of Role: officer, director, or other (consultant, lawyer, accountant, or auditor)
  • Title: chair, director, President and CEO, Treasurer, Secretary, etc.
  • Name: first and last name
  • Start Date (term of service): date of appointment
  • End Date (term of service): date appointment ends

Many boards use a committee structure to parcel out work among board members. The list of roles should also include committee assignments.

Please note that a person can have two different roles with very different terms of service.

Ownership

Corporate owners and investors are usually called "Shareholders" or "Stockholders". Ownership interests are called "stocks" or "shares". There are several other instruments which convey ownership interests such as options, warrants, and convertible debt. Holders of those instruments should also make the list of ownership interests.

You should capture the name of the owner and the percentage of ownership at a minimum.

Conclusion

To preserve the benefits of your legal entity, effective ongoing maintenance is critical.


  1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/subtitle-A/chapter-1/subchapter-C ↩︎

  2. Exceptions apply ↩︎

  3. Exceptions apply ↩︎

  4. Specify the government agency. ↩︎

  5. Substitute the actual expiration date ↩︎

  6. Add the periodic cycle. There are exceptions. ↩︎

  7. https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/business_law/corplaws/2016_mbca.authcheckdam.pdf ↩︎

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