If the corporation distributes appreciated property, the corporation is taxed on the gain under Code § 311(b).
Because the income of S corporations is taxed to the owners when the income is earned, a mechanism is needed to ensure that the shareholder is not taxed again when the earnings are distributed.
This is done through a system of rules that track and adjust the shareholder’s stock basis.
While there are some differences, the S corporation basis system is similar to the rules that apply to partnerships.
When a business operates as a partnership, the partners each report a percentage -- which is usually the same as their percentage of ownership -- of annual earnings on their personal returns.These attribution rules provide that shares owned by a shareholder’s parents, children, and grandchildren (but not siblings) are considered to be owned by the shareholder. Similarly, shares held by corporations, trusts, and partnerships are deemed to be owned by their shareholders beneficiaries, and partners, and vice versa. As a result, shares held by these family members and entities are considered to be owned by the shareholder for purposes of determining whether the distribution qualifies as a redemption.A corporation will not recognize any gain or loss on a distribution of cash to its shareholders. But if the corporation distributes appreciated property, the corporation must recognize gain as if the property were sold to the shareholder at fair market value. Important Note: These two rules operate as a loss disallowance system.The rules governing distributions from C corporations differ from the rules that apply to distributions from S corporations.To the extent that a distribution is made from the corporation’s earnings and profits, it is taxed to the shareholder as a dividend. The portion of the distribution that is not considered a dividend is applied first to reduce the shareholder’s basis in the corporation’s stock. Any remaining portion is treated as gain from the sale or exchange of property (capital gain). Important Note: If a shareholder assumes a liability or takes property subject to a liability, the amount of the distribution is reduced by the amount of the liability. Special rules also apply at the corporate level. Special rules apply to distributions to a shareholder in exchange for the shareholder’s stock (redemptions).