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What’s Best for Real Estate Investors, LLC or S Corp?

What’s Best for Real Estate Investors : LLC or S Corp?

By Thomas J. Franklin

There are many Real Estate Investors that are unsure whether they should establish a Corporate Entity or not. The primary purpose of having your Real Estate Investments, in a Corporate Entity, is to protect you personally. You want Asset Protection. Ideally, for Buy and Hold Investments, you would want to create a LLC, for each property. This may seem a daunting task; and you may be thinking how to manage all the bookkeeping. Depending on your area and the value of each property, you may want to consider grouping properties into a single LLC that does not exceed a total monetary threshold.

To better illustrate this concept, I will share my Company's Business Model. Each acquisition is placed in its own Clone LLC, with the only member of the Clone LLC being the Umbrella LLC. This funnels all net gains and losses, from each Clone LLC, to ACT Investment Properties, LLC that operates as the Umbrella LLC. This Business Model only requires two Bank Accounts: a Corporate Checking Account and a Corporate Savings Account.

For Buy and Hold Investors, why is a Corporate Entity important? What happens if one of your tenants has a slip and fall, on your property, or something else happens to them? You are on the hook and can be personally sued, for everything you own. Some people will say, "Take out a quality Liability Insurance Policy and you will be protected." Ambulance chasing attorneys know their way around and can legally navigate around Insurance Policies. Another downside is you loose on the advantages, of the Federal Tax Code, by not closing in the name of a LLC, or S Corporation.

I would strongly suggest you establishing a Corporate Entity such as a S Corp or a LLC. This is a relatively inexpensive process. I invite you to Google "Creating a LLC or S Corp in _____," "Division of Corporations in _____," or another phrase. The blank line is where you insert the name of the state, in which you want to establish the Corporate Entity. You can go to and see how Florida does things, to give you and idea what to look for, in a website. I invite you to please consider the following, from a Federal Income Tax Filing Perspective. I cannot stress the importance of finding a very good Investor Friendly CPA. Below are some things you may wish to consider, as to which Corporate Enity is best, for your Business Model as well as your Real Estate Investment Goals and Objectives.

Flipping Properties

If the primary objective of your real estate business, or one of your real estate businesses, is to buy, potentially fix up an existing property and resell it within one year, the Internal Revenue Service can consider that to be an active trade or business. Unlike passive rental income, the income from an active trade or business is subject to self employment tax (a nasty 15% tax commonly referred to a "social security and medicare" by working folks). If your goal is to reduce that self-employment tax to a minimum, an S Corporation is the best entity to use. Why?
It is the only entity structure whose rules allow the business owner to take a "reasonable salary" (subject to social security and medicare) and then take the remaining profit (often as much as 50% of the remaining income) out as distributions not subject to self-employment taxes. Correspondingly, all business income taken from an LLC under similar circumstances is subject to self-employment taxes. For a business owner with $100,000 taxable annual income, the net tax savings for using an S Corporation instead of an LLC in taxes paid every year can be as high as $7,500.

Holding Properties

When holding properties as a cash flow investor, the LLC (or LP) is generally the better choice because an LLC has more liberal distribution rules. The key here is flexibility. If you purchase a large piece of property and later decide to sub-divide it, you could distribute out a piece from an LLC without incurring a taxable event. LLC distributions come out of the LLC at cost basis. The members of an LLC are issued K-1 Form and have to pay taxes on all profits as though it were income, which could expose the owners to high employment taxes. Also, an LLC can elect to be taxed like an S Corporation.

While there is never only one answer that is correct for all circumstances, there is a general rule that is almost always the correct choice. So remember, for legal and tax planning, a good CPA will recommend that clients hold their properties in an LLC or Limited Partnership and run their businesses as S Corporations to avoid self-employment taxes.

I hope you found the above information valuable and would enjoy receiving your feedback.

Thomas J. Franklin
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