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Chapter 15 Hybrid Business Forms

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should understand the following:

  1. The limited partnership
  2. The limited liability company
  3. Other hybrid business forms: the sub-S corporation, limited liability partnerships, and limited liability limited partnerships

This chapter provides a bridge between the partnership and the corporate form. It explores several types of associations that are hybrid forms—that is, they share some aspects of partnerships and some of corporations. Corporations afford the inestimable benefit of limited liability, partnerships the inestimable benefit of limited taxation. Businesspeople always seek to limit their risk and their taxation.

At base, whether to allow businesspeople and investors to grasp the holy grail of limited liability is a political issue. When we say a person is “irresponsible,” it means he (or she, or it) does not take responsibility for his harmful actions; the loss is borne by others. Politically speaking, there is an incentive to allow businesspeople insulation from liability: it encourages them to take risks and invest, thus stimulating economic activity and forestalling unemployment. So the political trade-off with allowing various inventive forms of business organization is between providing business actors with the security that they will lose only their calculable investment, thus stimulating the economy, versus the “moral hazard” of allowing them to emerge mostly unscathed from their own harmful or foolish activities, thus externalizing resulting losses upon others. Some people feel that during the run-up to the “Great Recession” of 2007–09, the economic system allowed too much risk taking. When the risky investments collapsed, though, instead of forcing the risk takers to suffer loss, the government intervened—it “bailed them out,” as they say, putting the consequences of the failed risks on the taxpayer.

The risk-averseness and inventiveness of businesspeople is seemingly unlimited, as is investors’ urge to make profits through others’ efforts with as little risk as possible. The rationale for the invention of these hybrid business forms, then, is (1) risk reduction and (2) tax reduction. Here we take up the most common hybrid types first: limited partnerships and limited liability companies. Then we cover them in the approximate chronological order of their invention: sub-S corporations, limited liability partnerships, and limited liability limited partnerships. All these forms are entities.