Sometimes a limited liability company (LLC) has a year with no business activity. For example, a newly formed LLC might not have started doing business yet, or an older LLC might have become inactive without being formally dissolved.
But even though an inactive LLC has no income or expenses for a year, it might still be required to file a federal income tax return.
LLC tax filing requirements depend on the way the LLC is taxed. An LLC may be disregarded as an entity for tax purposes, or it may be taxed as a partnership or a corporation.
Tax elections for LLCs
If an LLC only has one owner (known as a “member”), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) automatically disregards it for federal income tax purposes. The LLC’s member reports the LLC’s income and expenses on his or her personal tax return.
If an LLC has two or more members, the IRS automatically treats it as a partnership. The LLC files an informational partnership tax return and the members also report the LLC’s income and expenses on their personal tax returns.
However, an LLC can change these default classifications and choose to be taxed as a corporation. To do this, the LLC must file Form 8832 with the Internal Revenue Service. The LLC may make this election when it is formed, or it may elect to change its tax classification at a later date.
Filing requirements for disregarded entities
An LLC that is not considered a separate entity for federal income tax purposes is taxed in the same way as a sole proprietor: the LLC’s income and expenses are reported as self-employment income on Schedule C of the member’s personal tax return. You are required to file Schedule C if your LLC’s income exceeded $400 for the year.
If a one-member LLC did not have any business activity and does not have any expenses to deduct, the member does not have to file Schedule C to report the LLC’s income. However, the member will still have to file a personal tax return if he or she had other income, and may have to file a Schedule C if there was self-employment income from another business.
Filing requirements for an LLC partnership
An LLC that is taxed as a partnership is subject to the same federal income tax return filing requirements as any other partnership. The LLC must file an informational partnership tax return on tax form 1065 unless it did not receive any income during the year AND did not have any expenses that it will claim as deductions or credits.
Thus, an LLC with no business activity that is taxed as a partnership is not required to file a partnership tax return unless there are expenses or credits that the LLC wants to claim.
LLC tax filing requirements for an LLC corporation
Corporations have different tax filing requirements than either disregarded entities or partnerships. All corporations are required to file a corporate tax return, even if they do not have any income.
If an LLC has elected to be treated as a corporation for tax purposes, it must file a federal income tax return even if the LLC did not engage in any business during the year.
Even if your LLC has no business activity, it is important to understand your LLC tax filing status and whether it is obligated to file a federal income tax return. Filing required returns on time can help your LLC avoid fines and penalties.
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