All businesses need the proper legal structure to thrive. For certain professionals that operate a business with more than one owner—attorneys, accountants, and architects—there are two options available: A limited liability partnership (LLP) or a professional corporation (PC). There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these entities. In this article, our Fremont business formation lawyer explains the key things to know about LLPs and PCs in California.
An Overview of LLPs and Professional Corporations
As a starting point, it is useful to have a basic understanding of the two types of professional business structures. Here is a brief overview of these business entities:
- Professional corporation (PC): Governed by California’s Moscone-Knox Professional Corporation Act, a PC is a specialized type of business entity that is registered for certain businesses that offer professional services.
- Limited liability partnership (LLP): As explained by the California Franchise Tax Board, an LLP is a type of partnership business that allows certain eligible professionals to access many of the benefits—liability protection, pass through taxation, etc.—offered by an LLC.
A Limited Number of Professionals Can Choose Between the Two Options
Not all licensed professionals in California have the option to choose between an LLP and a PC. In fact, you are only allowed to set up your business as an LLP if you are one of the following professions:
- Licensed attorneys
California law holds that other professionals are not eligible to operate their business as an LLP. In other words, medical doctors, physicians’ assistants, chiropractors, clinical social workers, dentists, nurses, optometrists, veterinarians, physical therapists, pharmacists, marriage, family and child counselors, and court reporters must operate as a PC.
LLPs Offer Additional Flexibility in Certain Circumstances
As LLPs share many common characteristics with LLCs, they offer several potential benefits to eligible professionals. Most notably, they offer business owners additional flexibility to customize their operations. As a partner in an LLP, you have access to enhanced protection from liability for professional malpractice claims filed against one of your partners, but the license holder for the LLP remains personally liable for all malpractice of the business. This differs from a general partnership where all partners are liable for the malpractice of one partner. Therefore, adequate malpractice insurance coverage is still recommended, as is errors and omissions insurance.
Setting up a well-structured LLP is complex. It is crucial that you have a properly crafted partnership agreement that clearly lays out ownership/operational rights and responsibilities. If you are a lawyer, accountant, or architect preparing to form an LLP in the Bay Area, an experienced California partnership agreement attorney can help.
Know the Tax Differences: LLP vs. PC
In California, a PC is generally taxed as a C-corporation unless an S-corporation election has been made. LLPs in California are usually taxed as pass-through entities. A 2021 reform passed by state lawmakers (California Assembly Bill 150) created a new pass-through entity elective tax option. If you have any questions about what type of entity offers a more advantageous tax structure for your business, it is best to consult with a licensed certified public accountant (CPA).
Get Help from a Business Formation Attorney in the Bay Area
Lynnette Ariathurai is a California attorney with experience helping entrepreneurs start business. If you have any questions about LLPs vs professional corporations, we can help. Contact us today for a confidential initial consultation. With an office in Fremont, we serve communities throughout the Bay Area.