Small Business Startup Tips - Corporate Structures

To begin putting your business name on any promotional material and on your signage, register the name of your business at the Montana Secretary of State Office website ( You will need to know the corporate structure for your business at this time. So what are your options?

  1. Sole Proprietorship – owned by a single individual, the sole proprietor has total control and is responsible for all taxes and liabilities of the business.

  2. General Partnership – two or more people act as co-owners, and both share the losses, profits (taxed as personal income for each individual), and personal liability for claims against the business.

  3. Limited Liability Partnership – similar to the general partnership, except that none of the partners can be held personally liable for claims against the business; they are not responsible for the negligence of their employees or the other partner unless they were involved in the action that led to a claim against the business.

  4. Limited Liability Company – you have the personal liability protection of a corporation but the favorable tax treatment of a partnership, as well as flexibility in the contribution and distribution of assets.

  5. Corporation – the most complex legal structure, a corporation exists apart from its owners or shareholders, and is owned by those who invest money in it. These shareholders have annual meetings to elect a board of directors, who in turn make policy decisions and selects corporate officers to manage the business.

Since each legal structure has distinct advantages and disadvantages, it is a good idea to consult an attorney, an accountant, or a business and/or financial advisor to determine the right fit for your business.