Corporate Structures and Tax Rates
For federal income tax purposes, a C corporation is recognized as a separate taxpaying entity. C corporations conduct business, realize net income or losses, pay taxes, and distribute profits to shareholders. C corporation profits are taxed to the corporation when earned, and then taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends. This creates a double tax. In select circumstances, however, net income will be higher, even after the double tax, than it would be for sole proprietors or individuals in the top tax brackets. This in mind, it is important to plan ahead by estimating personal income, business income, and dividends, and evaluating the corresponding tax rates.
The table below specifies the Federal income tax rate schedule for C corporations, current through the 2020 tax year.1
Federal Income Tax Rate
Any Amount of Income
Personal Holding Company
In addition to C corporation graduated taxes, personal holding companies pay a flat 15 % on all undistributed income.2 Personal holding company status is determined by a two part income and stock ownership test.3
Income Test. At least 60 % of its adjusted ordinary gross income for the taxable year is passive income, e.g. interest, dividends, rents, royalties, etc.
Stock Ownership Test. More than 50 % of the stock value is owned by 5 or fewer individuals.
This tax can be avoided by structuring your business as an S corporation, (discussed below).
You can avoid double taxation by incorporating as an S corporation. Corporate income passes-through to individual shareholders, who file their share of corporate gains, losses, deductions and credits on their personal tax returns. While the prospect of bypassing C corporation double taxation is enticing, it is important to estimate future income and weigh the corresponding tax rates. Each business scenario is unique, and warrants a thorough evaluation to get at the business structure that most decreases taxes, limits liability, and maximizes profits.
Qualified Personal Service Corporation
For tax years beginning in 2018, qualified personal service corporations pay tax at a flat rate of 21%, just like C corporations.
2 IRC Sec. 541.
3 IRC Sec. 542.