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Faces of Modern CFO's
Cap Table Management

LLCs and Equity: A Crash Course for Private Companies

Zohaib Khalid


September 29, 2023

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) handle equity in a distinct manner compared to corporations. While corporations issue shares of stock to represent ownership, equity in an LLC is typically divided into membership units.

What are membership units and what does it mean for LLCs? Find out in this crash course designed to outline some of the key aspects of equity ownership in LLCS.

Membership Units

LLCs issue membership units, also known as membership interests, to represent ownership in the company. These units grant individuals or entities a stake in the company's ownership and financial interests. Membership units are similar in concept to shares of stock in a corporation but come with more flexibility in terms of ownership structure and distribution of profits and losses.

Ownership Percentage

The ownership percentage of a member in an LLC is typically proportional to the number of membership units they hold. For instance, if a member holds 30% of the membership units, they generally have a 30% ownership interest in the company.

Operating Agreement

LLCs create an operating agreement, which is a legal document outlining the structure, management, and operations of the company. The operating agreement details how membership units are allocated, the rights and responsibilities of members, the distribution of profits and losses, and other essential aspects of the company's functioning.

Voting Rights

Membership units in LLCs often come with voting rights, allowing members to participate in key company decisions. Voting power is typically proportional to ownership percentage, but the operating agreement might define specific voting rules and thresholds.

Profits and Losses  

Similar to shares in a corporation, membership units entitle the holder to a portion of the company's profits and losses. LLCs have flexibility in how they allocate these financial distributions, and it's usually outlined in the operating agreement.

Transferability and Buy-Sell Provisions

The transferability of membership units is typically governed by the operating agreement. Some LLCs place restrictions on transferring membership units to maintain control and prevent unwanted external ownership. Buy-sell provisions can be included to regulate how membership units can be bought or sold among existing members.

Capital Contributions

Members might be required to make capital contributions to the LLC based on their ownership percentage. These contributions could be in the form of cash, property, or services.

Limited Liability Protection

One of the primary benefits of LLC ownership is limited liability protection. Similar to corporations, LLC members' personal assets are generally shielded from the company's liabilities and debts.

Equity Compensation

LLCs can use various equity compensation tools such as Profits Interest Units (PIUs), Membership Units, and Phantom Equity to incentivize employees, managers, or other participants. These instruments allow participants to share in the future profits and appreciation of the company without granting actual ownership.

Tax Flexibility

LLCs offer flexibility in terms of taxation. By default, LLCs are treated as pass-through entities, where profits and losses flow through to the members' personal tax returns. However, they can elect to be taxed as corporations if it aligns better with their financial goals.


LLCs handle equity through membership units, providing a flexible and customizable ownership structure. The operating agreement defines ownership percentages, voting rights, financial distributions, and other key aspects. This approach allows LLCs to tailor their equity handling to their unique needs while offering members both ownership and limited liability protection.


Disclosure: The information provided in this blog post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, tax laws and regulations are subject to change, and the application of tax laws can vary depending on individual circumstances. This blog post does not constitute professional advice, and it is recommended that you consult with a qualified tax professional, accountant, or financial advisor for personalized guidance regarding your specific tax situation. Always rely on the advice of a qualified professional who is aware of your unique circumstances and can provide advice tailored to your needs.