Choosing your business structure: C-Corp vs. LLC



    • C-Corps are best for founders seeking to raise outside capital from VCs

    • LLCs may me favorable for small businesses that will not raise outside capital

    • C-Corps are highly attractive to investors due to their flexibility in issuing different classes of stock, facilitating fundraising and incentivizing team members.

    • LLCs offer pass-through taxation and fewer compliance obligations, allowing founders to focus more on business operations and decision-making.

Why Consider a C-Corp?

C-Corps (or corporations) are the best choice for attracting venture capital and angel investors. Due to the flexibility corporations offer by issuing different classes of stock, this entity structure makes it easier to raise funds and incentivize key team members with stock options. Corporations allow an unlimited number of shareholders, which is best suited for a scaling startup that is looking to eventually go public. Their inherent flexibility in the stock structure allows for a seamless implementation of equity compensation plans. Flexibility in equity compensation is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent.

The Complexities of a C-Corp

Operating as a C-Corps involves navigating through more regulatory formalities and compliance requirements. These complexities include shareholder reports, regular board meetings, and adherence to specific reporting standards. The structured operational framework of a corporation is designed to ensure governance and oversight which will be advantageous for your investors who require a disciplined approach to decision-making and strategic planning. While this might add to the administrative workload, it can also instill a sense of transparency and accountability in the company’s operations.

The most defining factor of a C-Corp is that the owners, or shareholders, are taxed separately from the entity. This “double taxation” means that a corporation is responsible for paying corporate income taxes and owners are responsible for paying personal income taxes on earning from dividends or the sales of their shares. Even thought founders have heard about this so-called “double taxation,” it remains misunderstood. With proper planning and strategies, you can mitigate this concerns. Employing law firms or tax strategists to assist with salary optimization, dividend planning, and capital expenditure management helps optimize your tax implications for both the company and its shareholders.

Why Consider an LLC?

One of the standout features of an LLC is pass-through taxation. Profits and losses flow through the individual members, avoiding the double taxation associated with C-Corps. The increased simplicity appeals more to business owners who want to streamline their tax reporting.


Founders can choose a member-managed model for hands-on involvement or alternatively, opt for a manager-managed setup for flexibility in the organization. Increased flexibility enables founders to tailor the management style to specific needs and dynamics of their business. Therefore, less administrative burden lends itself to a simpler setup with fewer compliance obligations. Fewer obligations mean less time and effort spent on regulatory formalities, allowing business owners to focus more on business operations and decision-making. If you prefer a more straightforward approach to business operations, an LLC could be your sweet spot.

The Limitations of an LLC

LLCs face challenges attracting institutional investors. Most often, venture capitalists and angel investors favor the standardization and well-defined governance associated with C-Corps. In addition, institutional investors tend to stay away from LLCs because they need to be issued K-1s every annual tax season. As a startup founder looking to raise multiple rounds of funding, issuing K-1s to every investor on your cap table will be both expensive and time consuming.

If equity compensation is an essential component to your talent acquisition strategy, the process can be less straightforward in an LLC compared to the structured approach of C-Corps. Providing stock options or other equity incentives may involve more complex agreements, which may be a drawback for founders aiming to attract top talent through equity compensation plans.

Tax Implications

Since C-Corps are subject to double taxation, profits are taxed at the corporate tax rate and again at the individual level for any salaries or dividends distributed to shareholders. Corporations can tend to have a higher overall tax burden – taxed at a rate of 21%.

LLCs offer pass-through taxation, where profits and losses flow through to the individual members. Although advantageous to some founders, you should consider your personal tax situation and whether the pass-through structure aligns with your financial goals. Members of an LLC are considered to be self-employed and responsible for paying self-employment taxes on their share of the profits, which can have a huge impact the overall tax liability for members.

One tactical nuance worth considering when filing your year-end taxes is electing your tax status for our tax return. LLCs can file taxes as a partnership, C-Corp, S-Corp, and single member LLC. Founders should research their options and seek tax / legal help to ensure that you file correctly. (Shameless plug: OpStart’s tax professionals would be happy to discuss the tax implications of each).

A Founder's Guide for Fundraising:

C-Corps are recognized as the favorite entity structure by venture capitalists and angel investors. The ability to issue multiple classes of stock provides a level of flexibility that aligns with investor preferences. Increased flexibility enables you to tailor investment terms, making your company more appealing to a broader range of funding sources. Individual angel investors may be open to investing in an LLC structured company, but LLCs may face hurdles in attracting venture capitalists that most often prefer the familiarity and structure offered by C-Corps.

If your company aspires to grow significantly and sees the possibility of going public on the horizon, a C-Corp is the preferred option. The unlimited number of shareholders in a corporation facilitates the seamless influx of capital needed for expansive growth plans. LLCs may face limitations in terms of the number and types of investors they can attract. The structure of an LLC, while suitable for some businesses, might not align with the ambitious growth plans that often accompany fundraising efforts.

Making the Decision: Which is best for your company?

Envision your company’s future. If rapid growth, multiple financing rounds, and initial public offerings are integral components of your company’s roadmap, a C-Corp aligns best with your strategic vision. Corporations are well-suited for companies with ambitious growth plans and a desire to attract substantial investor capital to fuel your expansion. The ability to issue multiple classes of stock in a C-Corp facilitates fundraising and incentivizes key stakeholders, making it a preferred choice for founders eyeing significant scale.

Consider your target investors. If your company’s journey involves heavy reliance on investor funding, whether from venture capitalists, angel investors, or institutional backers, a C-Corp tends to be most compatible. Investors often prefer the structured framework and familiar governance of C-Corps, making them more willing to invest capital into companies with this structure. Aligning your choice with investor preferences enhances your ability to attract the necessary funding to propel your company’s growth.

Assess your comfort with administrative formalities. If you lean towards a streamlined operational approach and value flexibility in management and decision-making, an LLC could be your preferred choice. LLCS have fewer administrative requirements compared to C-Corps, allowing founders to focus more on business strategy and execution.

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