What are Business Entities?

Cite this article as:"What are Business Entities?," in The Business Professor, updated January 12, 2015, last accessed May 27, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/what-are-business-entities/.
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What are Business Entities
This video provides and explanation of what are business entities.

Next Article: Closely-Held vs Publicly Held Businesses


What are “business entities”?  

Business entities are legal organizations that exist by virtue of state law. One way to view a business entity is as a separate person. The business entity carries on business activity on its own behalf. The owners of the business entity are representatives of the entity. Business entities benefit society by allowing individuals to aggregate their resources and efforts in furtherance of a business activity. The legal entity is essentially a bundle of contracts that provides for the rights and duties of the owners and employees of the business entity. Each individual state passes its own substantive and procedural laws regarding business entities. A business must choose its state of formation or organization. The home state may be the location where the business is headquartered or it may be any other state where the business organizes and establishes a registered agent. If the business wishes to carry on business outside of its home state, it must qualify to do business and register as a “foreign” entity doing business in the other state. Carrying on business is generally defined pretty broadly to include marketing or sales activity. A business may carry on the majority or all of its business in a state or states where it is registered as a foreign entity. The business entity must comply with the laws of any state in which it does business.

  • Example: I want to form a business entity in my home state of New York. The rules prescribed by New York will govern the formation process. I want to also carry on business in Pennsylvania. To do so, I will register my business in New York and then register as a foreign entity doing business in Pennsylvania.

Discussion: Think about major businesses within the United States. Can you identify five major businesses (Fortune 100 Businesses) within the United States and the state in which they are formed? Where is the headquarters located for each of these businesses?

Practice Question: Martin is from Mississippi. He forms a business entity and begins providing chartered fishing services. He wants to expand his operations to Louisiana. Can you do that given that he is organized in Mississippi? How or why not?

Proposed Answer

  • Yes. All states require businesses formed in other states to register with the State Secretary of State’s office prior to doing business within the state. Excluding out-of-state (foreign) businesses would violate the Privileges & Immunities Clause of the US Constitution.

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