A corporation is a large and complex organization that is owned by its shareholders and governed by a board of directors.
The corporation is considered an independent legal entity and, as such, is responsible for its actions and debts. Corporations pay tax on their net income; shareholders pay tax on distributions but are not responsible for corporate debts and liabilities.
A standard corporation is sometimes known as a C corporation or C corp but is usually just called a corporation unless the distinction is required for clarity. An S corporation (S corp) is an organization that has filed for that status under Subchapter S of the United States tax code, as the C corp has similarly filed under Subchapter C. The profits and losses of an S corporation pass through to stockholders and must be reconciled on their individual tax returns. The benefit of the S corp is that double taxation cannot occur, as it does for the C corp.
The benefit corporation (B corp) is another variation on the standard that commits to social and environmental efforts in addition to corporate sustainability and in return is eligible for some types of legal protection and tax benefits.
Companies made up of multiple separate corporations are known as conglomerates. Typically, a conglomerate is a parent company with one or more subsidiaries, which are partially or wholly-owned companies. Alternative business structures to the corporation include sole proprietorships, partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs).