Why Starting an LLC for a Massage and Spa Business Is Important

Personal Asset Protection

The top reason to form an LLC for a spa is to gain access to the personal asset protection provided by this business structure. Whether you operate your business as a solo masseuse or you’ve partnered with several other massage and beauty professionals, you need the limited liability protections that an LLC can provide.

As an example, let’s say that a customer slips on a wet spot on your floor, falls over, and injures themselves. If you operate your spa as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your personal assets — like your house, car, personal bank accounts, etc. — would be at risk if that customer decides to sue your business.

On the other hand, if you form an LLC for your massage business, and you operate and maintain that LLC in a compliant fashion, the scope of your customer’s lawsuit will be limited to your business assets. In other words, your personal assets will be protected by the business structure you’ve chosen.

Taxation

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the advantages of the LLC for a spa. Another important aspect is taxation. The LLC actually provides its owners with a selection of options regarding how they want the business to be taxed, which can save you a considerable amount of money compared to simply operating as an informal business entity.

Sole Proprietorship/General Partnership

Your massage and spa LLC can be taxed as a sole proprietorship (for single-member LLCs) or general partnership (for multi-member LLCs), which is the default option. With this tax structure, your spa itself does not pay taxes, but rather the profits are passed through the business entity and your owners pay taxes on that money when they file their own personal taxes.

C Corporation

You can also choose for your spa to be taxed as a C corporation, although this option isn’t very popular because it subjects your business to what’s known as double taxation — meaning that your profits are taxed first on the corporate level and again on the personal level when they’re distributed to your owners.

S Corporation

The other option is S corporation taxation. There are quite a few limitations to electing S corp taxation, but most massage and spa businesses have no trouble meeting these requirements — your business cannot have more than 100 owners, they all must be either residents or citizens of the United States, etc.

S corp taxation can help your spa save money by reducing your self-employment tax burden. Instead of paying self-employment taxes (a 15.3% tax that includes the employer and employee portions of Medicare and Social Security) on all of your business income, you can pay yourself and your co-owners a reasonable salary for your roles and only pay self-employment tax on that portion of your income, while you can reinvest the rest of it into your business without paying this tax.

Compared to operating a sole proprietorship or general partnership massage business, the S corp taxation model can save you quite a bit of cash that you can use to buy new massage tables and make other improvements to your spa, rather than writing a big check to Uncle Sam.

Enhanced Credibility and Name Uniqueness

Finally, an LLC structure can enhance the credibility of your massage business venture. Informal business entities don’t have exclusive assumed business names and typically operate under the personal name(s) of their owner(s). For instance, if your name is Johnny Smith and you operate a spa sole proprietorship, your company’s name is also “Johnny Smith,” which obviously isn’t a great name for a massage and spa business.

In this scenario, you could register a DBA (doing business as) name to give your business the ability to operate under an assumed business name, but DBAs have no exclusivity regarding their naming rights in many states. This means that if another spa wants to use your DBA name as their own, they’re not only allowed to do so, but they can actually register a formal business entity with that name, preventing you from continuing to use your own assumed name.

With an LLC, you not only have the rights to exclusive use of a business name, but you will also have either the phrase “limited liability company” or the letters “LLC” in that business name. This provides your business with a jolt of respectability because customers respect the professionalism displayed by an LLC. Also, they typically feel more comfortable writing checks to a business entity rather than to an individual.

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More InfoWe do everything needed to file your application with the state and make your business official. Standard LLC Filing
More InfoWe’ll file your paperwork quickly and accurately. If there are any errors with your filing, our team will do what’s needed to make it right. 100% Accuracy Guarantee
More InfoKeeps you compliant with all state-required annual report and amendment filings to maintain LLC protections and avoid fines. Worry-Free Compliance
More InfoThis essential document is like the constitution for your business. Operating Agreement
More InfoOur fastest service puts you to the front of our line of filings. Our Fastest Filing Speed
More InfoOur team will secure your EIN from the IRS so you can open a business bank account, hire employees, and pay taxes. EIN
More InfoIncludes over 25 templates for contracts, service agreements, waivers, and more. Business Documents
More InfoGet online with a website builder tool optimized for traffic and customers. Business Website Builder
More InfoBuild and protect your brand by registering a private domain name that matches your business name. Domain Name with Privacy
More InfoStay organized and give your business more credibility with a business email. Business Email Address

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What Is an LLC?

First off, let’s quickly outline what an LLC is. LLCs are formal legal entities that are typically txed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships, in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself does not owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.

There are similarities to corporations too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk.

How to Start a Massage and Spa LLC

The formation process for LLCs varies depending on which state you’re forming one in, but in general, the process has some universal steps that need to be taken no matter what state your business is located in. If you want a comprehensive overview of all the steps required to form an LLC, check out our complete guide on the topic. The basic steps in the LLC formation process in any state are as follows:

1) Choose an LLC name

Coming up with the perfect name for your new LLC is an important step. You’ll need to choose a name that represents your company and describes what you do, and you’ll also have to make sure it isn’t already in use by checking your state’s business database.

2) Designate a registered agent

Your LLC’s registered agent (which can be an individual or a professional service) is responsible for receiving important document deliveries from the state — like service of process, annual report reminders, etc. — and forwarding them to you. The registered agent ensures that the state always has a reliable point of contact for your business.

3) File your formation documents with the state

The form used to create an LLC is usually called the Articles of Organization, although the name can vary (some states call it the Certificate of Formation or something similar). You’ll need to provide the state with some basic information about your business and its owners. In exchange, the state will formally create your LLC.

4) Acquire an EIN

The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a federal tax ID number that essentially functions as a Social Security number for a business. The EIN allows your business to hire employees, pay taxes, apply for bank loans, and more. You can easily obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service free of charge.

5) Create an LLC operating agreement

Most states don’t require operating agreements but every LLC should have one regardless. This is an internal document that outlines several key operational aspects of your LLC. The value of the operating agreement is how it can help prevent ownership disputes down the line by clearly explaining how the LLC will be run.

6) Create a financial infrastructure

You will need a business bank account for your LLC, and you’ll probably want a business credit card for work-related expenses as well. It’s also a good idea to use accounting software like QuickBooks or even hire an accountant to handle your bookkeeping for you.

7) Handle taxes, licenses, and permits

Depending on your state, you may need a general business license to operate your LLC in compliance with state requirements. For a spa, you and your employees will need cosmetology licenses, and your state/locality may have other requirements as well. Don’t forget to check with your state to see if there are franchise or privilege taxes assessed on LLCs, and also see if your municipal and/or county government entities have any further licensing requirements.

8) Understand maintenance requirements (annual reports, franchise taxes, etc.)

Again, these requirements can vary by state, but most states require some sort of regular report to ensure that your LLC’s info is up-to-date in the state’s business database. Some states require reports each year, while others only require them biannually or not at all. No matter what your state requires, you’ll need to stay on top of it to keep your LLC in good standing.

Additional Resources for Starting a Massage and Spa Business

1) MassageBook

MassageBook’s main service is providing software to help massage therapists manage their businesses, and they also have an excellent blog. The page we linked is their “Top 10 Free Resources for Massage Therapists,” and it has a great selection of resources including online forums, podcasts, video webinars, research, and more.

2) Massage Therapy Foundation

The Massage Therapy Foundation says that they “provide massage therapists and students with the tools and information needed to maintain a high standard of care,” and the resource section of their website strongly backs up that statement. They provide links to ebooks, infographics, research tools, student and faculty tools, and they even have their own podcast.

3) Richard Lebert, RMT

Lebert is a registered massage therapist and educator based out of Ontario, and his website has a wealth of information for massage therapists. Richard provides users with an exhaustive list of tools and resources that’s sure to have the answer to any question you might have. He also maintains his own blog with regular posts at least twice a month.

4) Spa Industry Association

The Spa Industry Association’s website has tons of tools for spa owners, including a comprehensive resource library, virtual events and webinars, podcasts, recommendations for spa products, and more. If you want to join the SIA as a member, they won’t charge you a cent, as all of their membership services are free to “those actively practicing the pursuit of wellness.”

5) Skin Inc.

Skin Inc. describes their magazine as “the leading industry publication for day spa, medical spa, and wellness professionals,” and they live up to this billing. This resource includes information about the business side of the spa industry, as well as articles about skin science, spa treatment trends, and much more.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • There are quite a few potential liability issues for spas. First off, spas are often liable for slip-and-fall accidents that can occur in any brick-and-mortar business. In addition, there is a potential for injury with some of the treatments provided by massage therapists and estheticians. Due to the intimate nature of some spa services, there is also the potential for lawsuits based on inappropriate behavior. In short, you should never operate a massage and spa business as an informal business entity.

  • Everyone’s situation is different, and we are not here to provide legal advice. That said, the limited liability company has some concrete advantages over the corporation that makes it the preferred option for most small businesses.

    Corporations tend to have more complex formation and maintenance requirements, and they don’t have the taxation advantages of an LLC. The corporation has some advantages of its own (for example, it’s easier to attract investors to a corporation) that make it worth a look but the LLC is a simpler and more flexible business structure.

  • You certainly can! Every state allows entrepreneurs to serve as their own registered agents. However, while the role of the registered agent can seem like that of an unnecessary middleman, there is more complexity to this position than some people realize.

    For instance, you would need to be present and available at your business location during all standard business hours. In addition, if you serve as your LLC’s registered agent, you may need to make your home address a matter of public record. Not only does this have privacy concerns, but there’s also the matter of unwanted junk mail as well.

  • The DIY route is always an option for LLC formation. However, LLC services are so affordable that there’s really no good reason not to use one these days. In addition, some of these companies often throw in free bonus features that make them an even better bargain.

  • Some people like to form their LLCs in states with favorable legal settings. For instance, Delaware is often seen as the most business-friendly state, as it has an entire court system that’s dedicated solely to business matters. As for Wyoming, this state has some of the most generous anonymity laws for LLC ownership.

    However, for most people, your best option is to simply form your business in your home state. Forming in a different state can be a tremendous hassle, and it can add some unnecessary complexity to tax issues as well.

  • The costs of LLC formation can vary quite a bit depending on which state you’re forming one in. For in-depth information about LLC formation costs in your specific state, take a look at our comprehensive guide to state-by-state expenses.

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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