Learn more about what a general corporation is in business.
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Learn the definition of a general corporation and why it’s a good option for a small business owner hoping to go public someday.
A general corporation is a legal entity owned by shareholders, managed by a board of directors, and run by officers. It’s the most common type of corporation.
General corporations are the best option for owners who plan to:
This business structure also makes it possible to eventually become a publicly traded corporation.
Shareholders usually receive one vote for each share of common stock they own. They vote to elect members to the board of directors as well as on other significant corporate issues.
The shareholder who holds the most shares, known as the majority shareholder, can control the company. Minority shareholders, on the other hand, have little to no control over the company but can sell their stock at any time.
The board of directors is responsible for managing the company and deciding key issues such as:
Because they bear so much responsibility, they owe the corporation a fiduciary duty. This means they have a duty to make careful, informed decisions and act in the corporation’s and its shareholders’ best interest.
The officers handle the general corporation’s day-to-day operations and report to the board of directors. Officers usually include the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. But a board also may create other offices such as that of the chief executive officer, chief operations officer, or chief financial officer.
A general corporation may also be referred to as a:
If the general corporation meets the requirements established by the Internal Revenue Service and files Form 2553, it may elect Subchapter S Status. This allows the general corporation to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to its shareholders. The shareholders then pay taxes on the income and losses at their individual income tax rates.
Forming a general corporation has advantages in addition to making it possible to form a public company. The biggest benefit is that the corporate structure limits the liability of the directors, officers, and shareholders so that their personal assets can’t be seized to cover corporate debts. It’s also much easier to raise capital or transfer ownership because you can just sell stock shares. And so long as the board of directors abides by all regulations and requirements, a general corporation can exist indefinitely.
One downside to a general corporation is that it’s more expensive to form than a limited liability company or sole proprietorship. State and federal laws also require general corporations to observe more formalities to maintain their liability shield. For instance, directors and officers must hold regular meetings, take minutes, maintain various records, and comply with reporting requirements.
Most large companies are corporations. Examples include Amazon, General Motors, and Apple.
A general corporation is a legal entity owned by stockholders. The most common reasons for forming one are to shield the shareholders, directors, and officers from liability for the corporation’s debts and to pave the way for taking the corporation public.
When you’re ready to incorporate, we can help you complete all the required paperwork for your state in a snap with our Corporate Formation Service. And once you’re up and running, we can help you with ongoing compliance obligations like filing your annual report.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.