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  • Writer's picturePeak Frameworks Team

Corporations: Examples, Structures, Pros, and Cons

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What is a Corporation?

Corporation

In essence, a corporation is a legal entity distinct from its owners, capable of rights and obligations similar to an individual. It can own assets, enter into contracts, and even sue or be sued.

Corporations differ from sole proprietorships and partnerships wherein the liability of owners is limited to their investment, a key characteristic that often makes corporations attractive.

Types of Corporations

Corporations come in different forms, each with its unique characteristics and implications:

C Corporations

The most common type of corporation, separate from its owners for tax purposes. Google, as a C Corporation, pays corporate tax on profits and shareholders pay personal tax on dividends, leading to the 'double taxation' phenomenon.

S Corporations

A U.S.-specific entity, where profits pass directly to shareholders and are taxed at personal rates, avoiding 'double taxation'. For instance, the family-owned Mars Inc. is an S Corporation.

C corporation vs. S corporation
Source Wallstreet Mojo


Non-Profit Corporations

These are formed to carry out a charitable, educational, or scientific purpose. The American Red Cross is a well-known example.

The Corporate Governance Structure

A corporation’s governance structure involves shareholders who own the company, the board of directors who oversee its operations, and executives who manage the day-to-day activities.

Shareholders, such as Warren Buffet in Apple, elect the board of directors who then hire executives like Tim Cook, maintaining checks and balances at every level.

Benefits of Forming a Corporation

Corporations come with several advantages:

  • Limited Liability. Shareholders' personal assets are safe, even in case of bankruptcy, as seen during the Lehman Brothers collapse.

  • Perpetual Existence. Corporations survive beyond the life of their owners. Ford Motor Company, for instance, has thrived for over a century.

  • Transferability of Ownership. Shares can be easily sold or transferred, as regularly happens on the New York Stock Exchange.

  • Capacity to Raise Capital. Corporations can raise funds by selling shares, as Facebook did in its 2012 IPO.

Drawbacks and Challenges of a Corporate Structure

Despite the benefits, corporations do face challenges:

  • Financial and Administrative Burdens. Corporations require substantial resources for setup and compliance, as Tesla's SEC dealings illustrate.

  • Regulatory Compliance and Oversight. Corporations must adhere to stringent regulations, a lesson learned by Wells Fargo in light of its account fraud scandal.

  • Potential for Double Taxation. As previously mentioned, C corporations face the risk of double taxation.

Double Taxation
Source: The Motley Fool

The Role of Corporations in the Economy

Corporations drive job creation, economic growth, and innovation. They also shoulder social responsibilities and contribute towards environmental sustainability. Amazon, for instance, has not only revolutionized e-commerce but also pledged to be net-zero carbon by 2040 under its Climate Pledge.

Conclusion

From the small businesses that make up our local communities to the multinational conglomerates that shape our global economy, corporations play a significant role in our everyday lives. Understanding the structure, benefits, and challenges of corporations is key for anyone seeking to make a mark in the field of finance, investment banking, or corporate finance.

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