PLLCs and LLCs are very similar entity types. The main difference is that only licensed professionals may form PLLCs.
In states that offer both entity types, the formation process is largely the same. Forming a PLLC simply requires a few additional steps, such as providing evidence of professional licensure or obtaining approval by the applicable state licensing board.
The LLC is a popular business type for licensed professionals because it offers the following benefits:
It’s relatively easy to form and maintain. It’s also suitable for a variety of ownership structures, from one-person businesses to multiple classes of owners.
How the business is managed is flexible as well — your LLC can be managed by the owners (which are called the “members” of the your LLC), or the members can appoint managers (much like the board of directors of a corporation). The members can agree to govern the LLC however they’d like by preparing and signing an operating agreement.
Limited liability companies are designed to protect the personal assets of their owners. This means if your business is sued, creditors can only go after the assets of the company. Your personal assets as a member — such as your personal bank accounts, home, and other property — can’t be seized to pay liabilities or debts of the company.
One important exception is that each member is personally liable for their own malpractice, and no member is liable for the malpractice of any other member. For this reason, it’s wise for each member to maintain their own professional liability insurance.
Many business owners like the LLC structure because these types of companies are generally classified as “pass through” entities for tax purposes. This means that the income and losses of the LLC are “passed through” to the members, and the members report the income and losses on their personal tax returns. In other words, any income tax is paid by the members, and not the entity itself.
A corporation’s income, on the other hand, is generally subject to “double taxation”. The corporation pays taxes on its income on the entity level, and if the corporation distributes profits to shareholders by paying a dividend, the shareholders must pay taxes on the dividend as well.
If you decide the LLC is the right structure for your Hawaii business, the formation process is relatively straightforward. To form an LLC, you can complete the six-step process outlined in our step-by-step guide yourself, enlist the help of an attorney, or use an LLC formation service.
Identify the LLC package and services that fit your needs and then get started.
If you’re still not sure what kind of structure is appropriate for your business, Hawaii offers several other options. One type of structure that is common among professionals is the professional corporation. You can find more information about Hawaii professional corporations in our How to Form a Professional Corporation in Hawaii guide.
One important difference to keep in mind is that corporations are generally subject to more legal requirements regarding management, governance, and reporting.
If you have a one-person business, you may also choose to just operate as a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is not a legal business entity formed with the state, and there’s no distinction between the business and the sole owner for legal or tax purposes. This is the simplest form of operating a one-person business and gives the owner complete control. However, a major disadvantage is that the owner of a sole proprietorship is subject to unlimited liability for all of the liabilities and debts of the business.
If your business has more than one owner, you can also form a partnership. In Hawaii, you can form any of the four following types of partnerships:
General Partnership: A general partnership, or GP, consists of at least two owners, which can be either individuals or entities. In Hawaii, a GP must be registered with the state within 30 days after the partnership is formed. Who controls the GP and how it’s managed can be outlined in a partnership agreement, but if there’s no partnership agreement, the partners generally share equal control and management rights. As with a sole proprietorship, the owners are subject to unlimited personal liability, meaning that their personal property can be seized to pay the liabilities and debts of the GP.
Limited Liability Partnership: In Hawaii, a GP can elect to be treated as a limited liability partnership, or LLP, by filing a Statement of Qualification with the state. An LLP operates like a GP, except the liability of each partner for the obligations of the GP can be limited.
Limited Partnership: A limited partnership, or LP, is a legal business entity that consists of at least one general partner and at least one limited partner. The general partners control and manage the LP, while the limited partners can only have very minimal participation in running the business. In exchange for giving up management control, the limited partners only risk their financial investment in the LP. General partners, on the other hand, are responsible for all of the liabilities and debt of the LP.
Limited Liability Limited Partnership: In Hawaii, you can choose to treat your LP as a limited liability limited partnership, or LLLP, by making that election in the Certificate of Limited Partnership. An LLLP operates like an LP, except the general partners’ liability may be limited.
Many professional businesses with two or more owners choose to form an LP, LLP, or LLLP because like an LLC, they offer limited liability, “pass through taxation,” and flexibility. Each type of entity has legal and tax implications, so if possible, you should consult with an attorney and accountant to discuss your specific situation.
We also recommend contacting your profession’s state licensing board to discuss their requirements before forming an entity for the purpose of rendering professional services. Hawaii’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division is responsible for a number of professional regulatory boards and commissions.
To learn more about these boards and commissions, you should visit the Division’s website. Contact information for some common professional regulatory boards in Hawaii is below.
|Hawaii State Bar Association||Alakea Corporate Tower 1100 Alakea Street, Ste. 1000 Honolulu, HI 96813 Phone: 808-537-1868 Email: email@example.com|
|Hawaii Medical Board||DCCA-PVL Att: BME P.O. Box 3469 Honolulu, HI 96801 Phone: 808-586-2699 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Board of Dentistry||DCCA-PVL Att: DENTAL P.O. Box 3469 Honolulu, HI 96801 Phone: 808-586-2702 Email: email@example.com|
|Board of Public Accountancy||DCCA-PVL Att: ACCT P.O. Box 3469 Honolulu, HI 96801 Phone: 808-586-2692 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Hawaii Board of Veterinary Medicine||DCCA-PVL Att: VET P.O. Box 3469 Honolulu, HI 96801 Phone: 808-586-2694 Email: email@example.com|
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information 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.
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