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What “Piercing the Corporate Veil” Means for Arizona Businesses

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2024 | Arizona Business, Business Law, Business Owner, Business Protection, Business Structure, Piercing the corporate veil

Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are popular choices for protecting personal assets from business debts. They act as a shield, separating an individual’s finances from the company’s. But this shield isn’t invincible. In certain situations, a court can “pierce the corporate veil,” exposing the personal assets of owners or shareholders to liabilities. Understanding this concept and how to avoid it is crucial for Arizona business owners.

So, what does it mean to pierce the corporate veil? Imagine a corporation or LLC as a separate legal entity with its own bank account, debts, and assets. This entity is distinct from its owners. However, if the court finds that someone misused the corporate structure for improper purposes, it can disregard the separation and hold the individuals behind it personally liable. This typically happens when owners:

  • Commingle personal and business funds: Blurring the lines by using company money for personal expenses or vice versa can raise red flags. Be sure to get an EIN for your entity and keep all its finances separate from your own.
  • Undercapitalize the company: If the company lacks sufficient capital to operate independently, and the owners treat it as an extension of themselves (sometimes called an alter ego), courts might see through the veil.
  • Commit fraud or illegal acts: Using the corporation to shield illegal activities like tax evasion or fraud is a surefire way to get the veil pierced.
  • Ignore corporate formalities: Failing to maintain proper records, hold meetings, or follow other required procedures can weaken the legal separation. This is why we set up all our business owner clients with the tools they need to keep good records.

Why should you care? If the corporate veil is pierced in your case, creditors can come after your personal assets (like your home, savings, or investments) to satisfy business debts. This can have devastating consequences for your financial security.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:

  • Maintain separate finances: Keep meticulous records of personal and business transactions, using distinct bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Capitalize the company adequately: Ensure the company has sufficient resources to operate independently, meeting its own obligations without relying on personal funds.
  • Follow corporate formalities: Conduct regular meetings, document decisions, and adhere to legal requirements for your business type. 
  • Seek professional guidance: An experienced business law attorney can help you structure your business and its practices to maximize protection against veil piercing.

Remember, even with precautions, there’s no guaranteed immunity. Consulting with an attorney familiar with your specific situation and Arizona laws is vital for crafting a robust defense against veil piercing. By understanding the risks and taking proactive steps, you can ensure your personal assets remain shielded, protecting your financial future and the legacy you intend to leave. If you’d like some help with anything we mentioned in this article, schedule a consultation with us today – we would be happy to help!