When a corporation confers an economic benefit upon a shareholder, in his capacity as such, without an expectation of reimbursement, that economic benefit becomes a constructive dividend, taxable as such. See INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE NATIONAL OFFICE FIELD SERVICE ADVICE MEMORANDUM FOR DISTRICT COUNSEL, Number 200011003 dated October 27, 1999; specifically Page 4, 3rd paragraph.
Dividends are corporate payments to investors of common or preferred stock. This payment is authorized by the Board of Directors and paid based on a schedule prescribed by that board. It is in effect a form of a return on the investment.
When an owner of a small business operation transfers money from the business bank account to their personal bank account the transaction is commonly referred to as a ‘Draw’. There are other terms but this is the traditional word used. The technical definition is: ‘A transfer of earnings from the business on behalf of the owner is referred to as a draw’.
Dividends and distributions refer to the payment of cash to investors. So why are there two separate terms? Well, the term is tied back to the type of entity that makes the payment. Simply stated, regular corporations, i.e. C-Corporations as identified in the Internal Revenue Code use the term ‘Dividends’ and S-Corporations (Small Business Corporations) use the term ‘Distributions’. In addition to S-Corporations, other closely held business use the term ‘Distributions’ to identify amounts disbursed to the respective owners or beneficiaries. These forms of entities include Partnerships, Limited Liability Corporations, Trusts and Estates.
Although it appears relatively simple at first, it is slightly more involved than this and this article addresses the proper definition and context use when using these two similar terms. In addition, there are more differences between the two terms than just the source of the payment. For a full and detailed understanding of the terms, continue reading.