An S corporation, for United States federal income tax purposes, is a corporation that makes a valid election to be taxed under Subchapter S of Chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code.
In general, S Corporations do not pay any income taxes. Instead, the corporation's income or losses are divided among and passed through to its shareholders. The shareholders must then report the income or loss on their own individual income tax returns. This concept is called single taxation; if the corporation is taxed as a C Corporation, it will face double taxation, meaning both the corporation's profits, and the shareholders' dividends, will be taxed.
S corporation status provides many of the benefits of partnership taxation and at the same time gives the owners limited liability protection from creditors. The S corporation rules are contained in Subchapter S of Chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code (sections 1361 through 1379). S status combines the legal environment of C corporations with U.S. federal income taxation similar to that of partnerships.
Like a C corporation, an S corporation is generally a corporation under the law of the state in which the entity is organized. S corporations are separate legal entities from their shareholders and, under state laws, generally provide their shareholders with the same liability protection afforded to the shareholders of C corporations. For Federal income tax purposes, however, taxation of S corporations resembles that of partnerships. As with partnerships, the income, deductions, and tax credits of an S corporation flow through to shareholders annually, regardless of whether distributions are made. Thus, income is taxed at the shareholder level and not at the corporate level. Payments to S shareholders by the corporation are distributed tax-free to the extent that the distributed earnings were not previously taxed. Also, certain corporate penalty taxes (e.g., accumulated earnings tax, personal holding company tax) and the alternative minimum tax do not apply to an S corporation.
Unlike a C corporation, an S corporation is not eligible for a dividends received deduction.
Unlike a C corporation, an S corporation is not subject to the 10 percent of taxable income limitation applicable to charitable contribution deductions.