DEFINITION of 'Corporation'

A legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. Corporations enjoy most of the rights and responsibilities that an individual possesses; that is, a corporation has the right to enter into contracts, loan and borrow money, sue and be sued, hire employees, own assets and pay taxes.

The most important aspect of a corporation is limited liability. That is, shareholders have the right to participate in the profits, through dividends and/or the appreciation of stock, but are not held personally liable for the company's debts.

Corporations are often called "C Corporations."


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BREAKING DOWN 'Corporation'

A corporation is created (incorporated) by a group of shareholders who have ownership of the corporation, represented by their holding of common stock. Shareholders elect a board of directors (generally receiving one vote per share) who appoint and oversee management of the corporation. Although a corporation does not necessarily have to be for profit, the vast majority of corporations are setup with the goal of providing a return for its shareholders. When you purchase stock you are becoming part owner in a corporation.

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