The beginner's guide to filing business taxes for your LLC

Ines Zemelman, EA
Ines Zemelman, EA
• 08.03.24 • 5 mins read
The beginner's guide to filing business taxes for your LLC

Welcome to the world of LLC tax filing!

Being a seasoned CPA, I realize that filing taxes for your LLC for the first time can seem daunting and even a bit scary, doesn’t it?

So, this guide is designed to illuminate the path and provide you with the knowledge of how to file taxes for your LLC.

Understanding your LLC's tax classification

Your LLC's tax classification is more than just a label; it's a roadmap for your entire tax filing process.

An LLC can be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, each with distinct tax implications.

For instance, as a sole proprietorship, you'll face a self-employment tax rate of 15.3%, which includes 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare.

As a corporation, however, you might encounter the corporate tax rate, which, as of 2024, stands at 21%.

Understanding this classification is crucial as it dictates not only the forms you'll use but also the tax rates you'll encounter, which can significantly impact your financial planning.

Filing as a single-member LLC

As a single-member LLC, you're viewed as a sole proprietor by the IRS.

This classification means that your business income is subject to the same tax rates as your personal income, which, for the 2024 tax year, can range from 10% to 37% depending on your total taxable income.

You'll report your business's income and expenses on Schedule C, which becomes part of your personal income tax return (Form 1040).

In 2023, the IRS reported that over 25 million taxpayers filed Schedule C, reflecting the popularity of sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs.

Filing as a multi-member LLC

Multi-member LLCs default to partnership status.

You'll file a partnership return using Form 1065 and issue Schedule K-1 forms to each member.

These forms detail each member's share of profits or losses, which they report on their personal tax returns. It's a collaborative process that requires accuracy and transparency.

Choosing corporate taxation: a strategic decision

Your LLC can elect to be taxed as a C corporation or S corporation.

Electing to be taxed as a C or S corporation can offer tax advantages under certain circumstances, but it's important to understand the nuances of each option.

C Corporation: The traditional corporate structure

Taxation. C corporations are subject to corporate income tax. As of 2024, the federal corporate tax rate is 21%. This is separate from any state corporate taxes, which can vary significantly.

Double Taxation. One of the key considerations for C corporations is the potential for double taxation. This occurs when the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and then shareholders pay taxes again on dividends received.

For instance, if a C corporation earns a profit of $100,000, it pays $21,000 in federal corporate tax. If the remaining $79,000 is distributed as dividends, shareholders pay personal income tax on these dividends.

Form 1120. C corporations file their taxes using Form 1120, US Corporation Income Tax Return. According to IRS data, over 2 million Forms 1120 were filed in 2023, indicating the prevalence of this business structure.

S Corporation: The pass-through entity

Avoiding double taxation. S corporations are designed to avoid the double taxation faced by C corporations.

Profits and losses pass through to shareholders' personal tax returns, similar to partnerships or sole proprietorships.

Taxation at individual rates. Shareholders of S corporations pay tax at their individual income tax rates on their share of the corporation's income. This can be advantageous, especially if individual rates are lower than the corporate rate.

Form 1120-S. S corporations file Form 1120-S, US Income Tax Return for an S Corporation. Each shareholder receives a Schedule K-1 showing their share of corporate income, which they report on their personal tax returns.

Choosing between C and S corporation status involves analyzing your business's financial situation, future growth plans, and the tax implications for both the business and its shareholders.

It's a decision that can significantly impact your tax liability and the overall financial health of your business.

Self-employment taxes

As an LLC owner, you're likely subject to self-employment taxes, which cover Social Security and Medicare.

This applies unless your LLC is taxed as a C or S corporation.

NOTE! Properly calculating and paying these taxes is vital to avoid penalties.

Tax rates. For 2024, the self-employment tax rate is 15.3%, comprising 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare.

For Social Security, only the first $147,000 of your combined wages, tips, and net earnings is subject to this tax.

NOTE! There's no cap on earnings subject to the Medicare part.

Additional Medicare Tax. Some high earners may also be subject to an additional 0.9% Medicare tax.

This applies to individuals with a combined income exceeding $200,000, or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Deductions. Half of your self-employment tax can be deducted from your gross income, reducing your taxable income and, consequently, your overall tax liability.

Impact on net earnings. According to IRS data, over 15 million taxpayers paid self-employment tax in 2023, significantly impacting their net earnings and tax responsibilities.

Estimated quarterly tax payments

If you expect to owe $1,000 or more when your tax return is filed, you'll need to make estimated tax payments throughout the year.

These payments are due in April, June, September, and January of the following year.

State and local tax obligations

In addition to federal taxes, your LLC may be subject to state and local taxes.

This can include income taxes, franchise taxes, and sales taxes, depending on where your business operates.

Pro tip. Check with your state's tax authority for specific requirements.

Record-keeping and documentation

The backbone of tax filing. Maintain meticulous records of all your business transactions.

This includes invoices, receipts, bank statements, and any other documentation related to your business income and expenses.

Good record-keeping simplifies the filing process and supports your deductions.

Seeking professional tax assistance

A wise investment. Especially for first-time filers, consulting with a tax pro can be invaluable. They can provide tailored advice, ensure compliance, and help maximize your deductions.

Bottom line

Filing business taxes for your LLC doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. With a clear understanding of your tax obligations, diligent record-keeping, and possibly the help of a professional, you can navigate this process with confidence.

Remember, staying informed and proactive is the key to successful tax filing.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Always consult with a tax professional regarding your specific case.