Single member LLC - John R. Dundon II, Enrolled Agent
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Single member LLC

Single member LLC

Over the years, there has been confusion regarding Single Member Limited Liability Companies (SMLLCs) in general and specifically, how they can report and pay employment taxes.

An LLC is a new entity created by state statute. The IRS did not create a new tax classification for the LLC when it was created by the states; instead IRS uses the tax entity classifications it has always had for business taxpayers: corporation, partnership, or sole proprietor. An LLC is always classified by federal law as one of these types of taxable entities.

A multi-member LLC can be either a partnership or a corporation, including an S corporation. To be treated as a corporation, an LLC has to file Form 8832, Entity Classification Election (PDF), and elect to be taxed as a corporation. A multi-member LLC that does not so elect will be classified by federal law as a partnership. A single member LLC (SMLLC) can be either a corporation or a single member “disregarded entityâ€. Again, to be treated by federal law as a corporation, the SMLLC has to file Form 8832 and elect to be classified as a corporation. An SMLLC that does not elect to be a corporation will be classified by the existing federal guidance as a Disregarded Entity which is taxed as a sole proprietor for income taxes.

The confusion in this area arises when determining employment tax requirements for an SMLLC that is a disregarded entity. Notice 99-6 gives the SMLLC classified as a “disregarded entity†two options for reporting and paying employment taxes:

Using the name and EIN assigned to the LLC, or
Using the name and EIN of the single member owner

Even if the employment tax obligations are reported using the SMLLC’s name and employer identification number (EIN), the single member owner retains ultimate responsibility for collecting, reporting and paying over the employment taxes.

An LLC applies for an EIN by filing Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, and completing lines 8 a, b, and c. An SMLLC that is a disregarded entity and does not have or will not have employees does not need an EIN. It should use the name and TIN of the single member owner for federal tax purposes. However, if a SMLLC, whose taxable income and loss will be reported by the single member owner, nevertheless needs an EIN to open a bank account or if state tax law requires the SMLLC to have a federal EIN, then the SMLLC can apply for and obtain an EIN. If the SMLLC has no employees, it will not use this EIN for any federal tax reporting purpose.

If an SMLLC has or intends to have employees, the EIN rules are different. If there is or will be employment tax reporting, both the single member owner and the SMLLC will need an EIN (two EIN’s). If the SMLLC has already received an EIN for reasons set out in the above paragraph, then only the owner will need to file the SS-4 and be assigned an EIN.

These numbers should not be used interchangeably. Doing so will result in complicated problems which could require the taxpayer’s, practitioner’s, and IRS’s resources to correct.

There are also instructions contained in Notice 99-6 which limit changing back and forth between reporting under the SMLLC or the single member owner’s EINs. Be sure to review this notice and its limitations before making a change.