What Is a C Corporation (C Corp)?

Gabrielle Sinacola | Nov 12, 2023

What Is a C Corporation (C Corp)?

In the corporate landscape, C corporations stand out as a common corporate structure for entrepreneurs. Small business owners and individuals in finance or HR roles need a comprehensive understanding of what sets C corporations apart.

Here, we unravel the complexities of C corps, shedding light on their structure, tax implications, and the liability protections they provide to businesses.

What Is a C Corp?

A C corporation, commonly referred to as a C corp, stands as a separate legal entity from its owners or shareholders. This distinction provides limited liability protection, meaning the personal assets of the shareholders are protected in the event of business debts or legal actions.

The C corp business structure is a popular choice for entrepreneurs and businesses due to its ability to attract investment, its scalability, and its tax benefits.

How Does a C Corp Work?

Next, let’s explore how this entity type functions in practical terms. Understanding the operational structure of a C corp can help you better grasp how, exactly, it works and how it might apply to your business.

Operational Structure

A C corp is a type of corporation that is considered a separate legal entity from its owners or shareholders. This means that the business itself holds its own rights, independent of its founders or shareholders.

Structurally, a C corp is organized with a board of directors who make significant decisions and officers who handle the daily operations. These roles are outlined in the corporate bylaws, which serve as the company’s internal rulebook.

Additionally, a C corp can issue stock and have an unlimited number of shareholders. The issued shares of stock represent ownership in the corporation and can be of different classes, with each class of stock having its unique rights and privileges.

Starting a C corp involves a few steps. First, entrepreneurs must file the articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State in the state where the business will be headquartered.

This document includes essential details such as the business name, purpose, and information about stock issuance. There’s typically a filing fee associated with this. Once registered, a C corp must appoint a registered agent — someone who receives official legal and tax correspondence for the business.

C corps are required to file annual reports and adhere to specific state laws, which may vary from one state to the next. For instance, Delaware’s renowned business-friendly regulations attract many corporations to incorporate there.

Paying Yourself

One of the many decisions small business owners face when running a C corp is determining how to compensate themselves. Generally, owners who are actively involved in the business draw a salary as employees.

This compensation is subject to personal income tax. Additionally, they might receive shareholder dividends, which are distributions of the company’s after-tax profits.

Tax Considerations for the Owners

Perhaps one of the most-discussed characteristics of a C corp is its tax treatment, particularly “double taxation.” Here’s how it works — a C corp, as a separate legal entity, pays corporate income tax on its business income at the corporate level, based on the corporate tax rate.

After this, if the C corp distributes dividends to its shareholders, those dividends are considered taxable income, and are taxed again on the shareholders’ personal tax returns. This phenomenon is what’s referred to as “double taxation.”

While double taxation might seem like a drawback, it’s essential to weigh it against other tax advantages and considerations of a C corp.

For instance, the business structure offers limited liability protection, ensuring that the personal assets of shareholders remain separate and protected from potential business liabilities. C corps can also be taxed as partnerships or sole proprietorships to keep things simple.

Understanding the operational and legal intricacies of a C corporation is key for entrepreneurs and startup founders considering this business entity.

As always, considering your specific business needs and consulting with a platform like Mosey after incorporation can help streamline the complexities associated with compliance and ensure that you’re on the right track.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a C Corp?

Choosing a business entity is no small decision. It impacts how you pay taxes, raise capital, and even the degree to which your personal assets are protected. So, with that in mind, here are the pros and cons of C corps:


Some of the benefits of a C corporation include:

  • Limited Liability Protection: One of the standout advantages of a C corp is the limited liability protection it offers to its shareholders. Their personal assets remain separate and are typically shielded from business debts and lawsuits.
  • Unlimited Number of Shareholders: A C corp can have an unlimited number of shareholders, offering ample opportunities to raise capital.
  • Separate Legal Entity: As a separate entity, a C corp has its own legal rights. It can enter contracts, acquire assets, and sue or be sued independently of its owners.
  • Stock Issuance: With the ability to issue multiple classes of stock, a C corp can attract a variety of investors and offer different ownership and voting rights.
  • Perpetual Existence: C corps continue to exist even if ownership changes or shareholders pass away.


That said, a C corporation can also have certain downsides or limitations, such as the following:

  • Double Taxation: The most frequently cited drawback of a C corp is double taxation. The corporation pays taxes on its business income at the corporate level. Later, shareholders pay taxes on dividends at their personal tax rates.
  • Complexity and Cost: Establishing and maintaining a C corp can be more complex and costly. This includes filing fees for articles of incorporation, potential state fees, and the requirement for annual reports.
  • Regulatory Requirements: C corps generally face more stringent regulatory requirements, such as adhering to specific state laws and having a board of directors.

How Is a C Corp Different From an LLC?

C corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) both have their uses, but there are a few key differences between the two.

These key differences include the following:

  • Taxation: C corps undergo double taxation, whereas LLCs benefit from pass-through taxation, taxing owners just once on their personal returns.
  • Structure: C corps maintain a formal structure with a board of directors, whereas LLCs operate with more flexibility without a required board.
  • Stock: C corps can issue stock to attract investors, a feature not available to LLCs.
  • Regulations: C corps face more extensive state and federal regulations compared to the simpler regulatory environment for LLCs.

Choosing between the two involves considering tax implications, operational flexibility, and growth strategies.

Is a C Corp Better Than an S Corp?

When you incorporate your business, you may have the option to form either a C corporation or an S corporation. Both C corps and S corps fall under the category of corporations, but they have distinct differences:

  • Taxation: The most notable difference is in tax treatment. S corps are pass-through entities, much like LLCs.
  • Shareholder Limitations: While a C corp can have unlimited shareholders, an S corp is limited to 100 shareholders, and they must be US citizens or residents.
  • Stock Classes: A C corp can have multiple classes of stock, while S corps can only have one class of stock.
  • Eligibility: Not all businesses qualify for S corp status. The IRS has specific requirements concerning shareholders, stock classes, and profit and loss allocation.

How Do You Form a C Corp in Your State?

You want to begin your C corp journey by choosing and registering a distinctive business name through your state’s Secretary of State, then proceed to draft and submit the articles of incorporation. You’ll also want to identify and assign a dependable registered agent to handle official correspondences and formulate thorough corporate bylaws to direct internal operations.

Then, you’ll want to secure an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS for tax-related matters and distribute stock to your initial shareholders. Complete the process by applying for all necessary business licenses and permits, ensuring your C corporation stays in compliance with all local and state requirements.

Compliance Tools for Your C Corporation

Navigating the complexities of C corporation compliance across multiple states can be a daunting task. Mosey is here to streamline the process, keeping all of your compliance needs in one place.

From ensuring you meet all state-specific requirements to helping you maintain ongoing payroll compliance, we’re here to help every step of the way. Get started with Mosey and start your journey toward hassle-free compliance today.

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