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June 1, 2023

What is a Disregarded Entity?


As a self-employed professional, the right business structure is crucial for maximizing benefits and minimizing liabilities. And when doing research into possible solutions, you might have discovered the term disregarded entity. In this blog, we will dive into the definition, advantages, and disadvantages of a disregarded entity so you better understand the term and feel more empowered in your search for the right business structure.

Definition of Disregarded Entity:

Disregarded entity meaning: A disregarded entity is a specific tax status granted to certain business entities, allowing them to be treated as extensions of their owners for tax purposes. This means that the entity itself does not file a separate tax return, and all income, deductions, and credits are reported on the owner's personal tax return.

Why Choose Disregarded Entity Status?

Self-employed don't elect to be a disregarded entity. The IRS uses the term disregarded entity as a default for certain entities in regard to how their taxes are treated. By operating your business as an entity such as a Single-Member Limited Liability Corporation (SMLLC), you'll automatically be considered a disregarded entity by the IRS, but still have taken a step to treat your business as a business. Let's explore these advantages in more detail.

Advantages of Disregarded Entity Status:

1. Simpler Filing Process

The tax filing process is typically streamlined and less complex with disregarded entities. Unlike corporations or partnerships, which require separate tax returns, a disregarded entity, such as an SMLLC, allows you to report all business income, deductions, and credits on your personal tax return. This eliminates the need for additional paperwork, saving you time, effort, and potentially reducing accounting costs.

2. Limited Liability

Being a disregarded entity means you’ve created a structure for your business, such as an SMLLC. This means that your personal assets, such as your home or savings, are shielded from business debts and legal obligations because of the liability protection an LLC offers. In the event of legal issues or financial challenges, your personal assets remain protected, offering peace of mind.

3. Avoiding Double Taxation

One significant advantage of disregarded entity status is the ability to avoid double taxation. This advantage is particularly relevant when compared to traditional corporations. In a corporation, the entity is taxed on its profits, and shareholders are then taxed on any dividends they receive. With a disregarded entity, all business profits and losses flow through to your personal tax return. This pass-through taxation eliminates the need for a separate business tax return and minimizes the risk of double taxation.

Disadvantages of Disregarded Entity Status:

While disregarded entity status offers numerous advantages, it's essential to consider potential disadvantages to make an informed decision for your business structure. Let's explore these disadvantages in more detail.

1. LLCs and Corporations are Different Entities

One disadvantage of disregarded entity status is that limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are distinct entities with different legal and operational requirements. If you are currently operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership and choose to form an LLC, you will need to comply with additional regulations, such as filing articles of organization and creating an operating agreement.

2. LLCs are Not Disregarded for Other Tax Purposes

While a disregarded entity provides simplicity for tax filing, it's important to note that LLCs are not disregarded for all tax purposes. In certain situations, such as employment taxes or excise taxes, an LLC may be subject to additional complexities and obligations. It's recommended to consult with a tax professional to fully understand the tax implications and requirements specific to your business and industry.

3. Difficulty Raising Capital

Compared to corporations, LLCs may face challenges when it comes to raising capital. Corporations can issue stocks or seek investments from shareholders, providing more flexibility and opportunities for capital infusion. In contrast, LLCs typically rely on personal funds or loans from members, which may limit the potential for substantial business growth or expansion. If raising capital is a significant priority for your business, you may need to carefully consider the implications of operating as an LLC.

4. Additional Payroll Taxes

As the owner of an SMLLC operating as a disregarded entity, you are considered self-employed for tax purposes. This means you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes. Unlike employees who split these taxes with their employers, self-employed individuals bear the full burden of these taxes. It's essential to factor in these additional costs when evaluating the financial impact of operating as a disregarded entity.

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Hopefully, this overview has illuminated the term disregarded entity, and you have better context of where it fits in the world of business structures for self-employed.

Remember, consulting with a qualified tax professional or business advisor can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation, helping you confidently navigate the complexities of business structure selection and tax planning.


Does a disregarded entity need an EIN?

In most cases, a disregarded entity is not required to obtain a separate Employer Identification Number (EIN) if it has no employees or operates as a single-member LLC. Instead, the owner can use their Social Security Number (SSN) for tax purposes. However, if the disregarded entity hires employees or is subject to certain excise tax requirements, an EIN may be necessary. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional or the IRS for specific guidance based on your business situation.

What is the difference between a sole proprietor and a disregarded entity?

A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned and operated by a single individual. It is the simplest form of business entity and does not provide liability protection. On the other hand, a disregarded entity refers to the tax status of certain business entities, such as single-member LLCs. The disregarded entity status allows the business to be treated as an extension of the owner for tax purposes, simplifying the tax filing process. Essentially, a sole proprietorship can be considered a type of disregarded entity, but not all disregarded entities are sole proprietorships.

Do disregarded entities pay payroll taxes?

As a general rule, disregarded entities do not pay payroll taxes. Since the income and expenses of a disregarded entity are reported on the owner's personal tax return, payroll taxes are typically not required. However, if a disregarded entity has employees, it will be responsible for paying payroll taxes on behalf of those employees. It's important to consult with a tax professional or the IRS to ensure compliance with payroll tax obligations based on your specific business structure and circumstances.

Does a single-member LLC need an EIN?

In most cases, a single-member LLC is not required to have a separate EIN if it has no employees and does not meet other specific criteria, such as being subject to excise taxes. The owner can use their SSN for tax purposes. However, some owners may choose to obtain an EIN for their single-member LLC for various reasons, such as separating personal and business finances or opening a business bank account. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional or the IRS to determine if obtaining an EIN is necessary or beneficial for your single-member LLC.

Can a multi-member LLC be a disregarded entity?

No, a multi-member LLC cannot be treated as a disregarded entity for tax purposes. By default, a multi-member LLC is classified as a partnership for federal tax purposes and must file a partnership tax return. However, if a multi-member LLC elects to be taxed as a corporation or meets the requirements to be treated as an association, it can choose a different tax status. Each member's share of the LLC's income, deductions, and credits is generally reported on their personal tax returns. It is important to consult with a tax professional to understand the tax treatment options available for a multi-member LLC.

Is an S Corp a disregarded entity?

No, an S Corp is not a disregarded entity. Although it's a pass-through entity like a disregarded entity, it's still considered a distinct legal entity from its owner. 

Therefore, the S Corp must file its own tax return and pay taxes on its income, rather than the owner reporting everything on their personal tax return.