What is business law? What factors should be considered in choosing the type of business form for my business? What is the difference between a subchapter C and S corporation? What does it mean to “pierce the corporate veil”? What is the difference between a joint venture and a partnership? What is a nonprofit corporation? How often should a corporation hold meetings and update its minutes? Is it a good idea to have a buy-sell agreement? What is involved in a corporate merger? How long may a foreign national stay and work in the United States with an H-1B visa? How can a properly established business entity such as a corporation shield me from personal liability for business debts and obligations?
Q: What is business law?
Business law encompasses the many rules, statutes, codes and regulations that are established, which govern commercial relationships and provide a legal framework within which businesses may be conducted and managed. Business law is highly diverse and includes areas such as:
- Business formation and organization
- Transactional business law (contracts)
- Business planning
- Business negotiations
- Mergers and acquisition
Q: What factors should be considered in choosing the type of business form for my business?
Although there are many important things to think about when choosing a business form, some of the main considerations include your preference of tax treatment, how you intend to capitalize the business, whether you plan to issue stock and trade it publicly, how you intend to structure the management of your business and issues surrounding the liability of the business owners, among other things. It is very important to plan your business and to work closely with someone who can help you choose the business form that will meet your needs.
Back to the top.
Q: What is the difference between a subchapter C and S corporation?
The Internal Revenue Code allows for two different levels of corporate tax treatment. Subchapters C and S of the code define the rules for applying corporate taxes. Subchapter C corporations include most large, publicly held businesses. These corporations face double taxation on their profits if they pay dividends: C corporations file their own tax returns and pay taxes on profits before paying dividends to shareholders, which are subsequently taxed on the shareholders’ individual returns. Subchapter S corporations meet certain requirements that allow the business to insulate shareholders from corporate debts but avoid the double taxation imposed by subchapter C. In order to qualify for subchapter S treatment, corporations must meet the following criteria:
- Must be domestic
- Must not be affiliated with a larger corporate group
- Must have no more than 100 shareholders
- Must have only one class of stock
- Must not have any corporate or partnership shareholders
- Must not have any nonresident alien shareholders
Additionally, after a business is incorporated, all shareholders must agree to subchapter S treatment prior to electing that option with the Internal Revenue Service. Back to the top.
Q: What does it mean to “pierce the corporate veil”?
Sometimes, courts will allow plaintiffs and creditors to receive compensation from corporate officers, directors or shareholders for damages rather than limiting recovery to corporate assets. This procedure bypasses the usual corporate immunity for organizational wrongdoing, and may be imposed in a variety of situations. The specific criteria for piercing the corporate veil vary somewhat from state to state and may include the following:
- Courts may not allow owners to benefit from a corporation’s limited liability if the underlying business is indistinguishable from its owners.
- If a corporation is formed for fraudulent purposes.
- Courts may impose liability on the individuals controlling the business if a business fails to follow certain corporate formalities in areas such as record-keeping.
Q: What is the difference between a joint venture and a partnership?
Joint ventures and partnerships share certain characteristics. A joint venture is a sort of partnership where two or more entities join together for a particular “short-term” purpose. In both partnerships and joint ventures, each partner has equal ability to legally bind the entire entity. A partner can represent the entire organization in the normal course of business and his or her legal actions on behalf of the joint venture or partnership create legal obligations. Though the powers of individual partners in a partnership or joint venture can be limited by agreement, such agreements do not bind third parties. Because business contacts outside of the partnership may have no knowledge of the limitations, they may be entitled to rely on the apparent authority of an individual partner as determined by the usual course of dealing or customs in the trade.
Q: What is a trademark?
A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms “trademark” and “mark” are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and service marks. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same good or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks that are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for nationwide protection.
Q: Are there different types of marks?
Yes, and the different types of marks are represented with different designations. Any time you claim rights in a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO. However, you may use the federal registration symbol “®” only after the mark is registered, federally, and not while an application is pending. Also, you may use the registration symbol with the mark only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration.
Q: How can a properly established business entity such as a corporation shield me from personal liability for business debts and obligations?
Personal liability arising from business obligations can devastate the accumulated wealth of a lifetime of work. Personal liability may extend to business losses, but other obligations may also reach individuals, including:
- Damage awards in lawsuits
- Tax penalties
- Back wages and benefit payments
Limited liability offered by corporations and other business entities shelters business owners from personal liability. Nonetheless, if an owner or director performs certain personal acts, behaves illegally or fails to uphold statutory requirements for corporate status, he or she may face personal liability despite the corporate shelter. Back to the top. To arrange a free consultation today, call The Pagano Law Firm, LLC at 484-318-2561 or send us an email. Our Delaware County lawyers return all calls within 24 hours.