A corporation is a state-chartered legal entity that exists separately and distinctly from its owners (who are called stockholders or shareholders). It is the most flexible form of business organization for purposes of obtaining capital. A corporation can sue; be sued; hold, convey, or receive property; enter into contracts under its own name; and does not dissolve when its ownership changes. There are two types of corporations—publicly owned (widely held) corporations and privately owned (closely held) corporations. Because more than 50% of the outstanding stock of a privately owned corporation is owned directly or indirectly by no more than five people, the corporation has little or no access to public funds and must raise capital through institutional financing.
Although legal control of the corporation rests with its stockholders, they typically are not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business since they elect a board of directors to manage the corporation and delegate responsibility for the day-to-day operations to the directors and officers of the company. The distribution of profits earned by the business is determined by the corporation’s board of directors or other entities that have a significant financial interest in the business. However, the profits usually are filtered down to the owners in the form of dividends. Since a stockholder is not personally liable for the debts of the corporation, losses are limited to his or her individual investment in the corporation’s stock.
Corporations must report income and losses on IRS Form 1120 and pay taxes on the net income. The corporation distributes profits to its shareholders in the form of dividends, which it reports on IRS Form 1099-DIV. The shareholders must then report the dividends as income on their individual IRS Form 1040.
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