Member-Managed LLC vs Manager-Managed LLC

Member-Managed LLC vs Manager-Managed LLC

January 9, 2024
 Min Read

In the vast arena of U.S. business structures, the Limited Liability Company (LLC) stands out for its unique blend of flexibility and protection. An LLC ingeniously combines the best of partnerships and corporations, offering members limited liability akin to corporate shareholders, while also allowing adaptable management and tax options. This flexibility extends to its management structures: the member-managed LLC, where members are actively involved in daily decisions, and the manager-managed LLC, perfect for those preferring to delegate day-to-day operations, particularly suited for businesses with passive investors or a more extensive membership.

This choice is more than operational; it’s strategic, impacting everything from how the business operates to its legal and tax obligations. For US residents, it's about aligning with local laws and optimizing for growth and asset protection. For non-US residents and digital nomads, it involves balancing ease of management from afar with compliance across jurisdictions and strategic tax planning. Whether you're stateside or managing from a distance, selecting the right LLC structure is a crucial step toward shaping your business's future success.

Key Considerations Include:

  • Operational Efficiency: Member-managed LLCs suit hands-on operations, whereas manager-managed LLCs are better for larger businesses.
  • Legal and Financial Responsibilities: More direct involvement in liabilities in member-managed LLCs compared to a separation in manager-managed LLCs.
  • Control vs. Flexibility: Member-managed offers more control; manager-managed provides flexibility for less involved members.
  • Tax Implications and Growth: Different structures have distinct tax implications and adapt differently to business growth.

Choosing the right type of management structure for your LLC is a strategic decision, due to its impact on business operations and growth potential. The subsequent sections will delve deeper into these two LLC types to guide you in aligning your business structure with your goals.

Overview of LLC Management and Legal Framework in the US

LLC Management Structures: Member-Managed vs. Manager-Managed

Understanding the distinction between member-managed and manager-managed LLCs is key for those forming an LLC. These types of management structures represent distinct approaches to decision-making and operations:

  • Member-Managed LLCs: In this format, all members partake in daily management and decision-making, akin to a partnership. Characteristics include:
  • Direct Involvement: Members handle both strategic and operational decisions.
  • Equal Authority: Generally, members have equal legal authority, though this can vary based on the LLC operating agreement.
  • Collective Decision-Making: Decisions are typically made collectively, with votes often proportional to ownership interest.
  • Suitability: Ideal for smaller businesses or those desiring active owner involvement.
  • Manager-Managed LLCs: Here, one or more managers, who can be members or external appointees, run the day-to-day operations, resembling a corporate structure with a board of directors. Features include:
  • Delegated Management: Managers handle operational decisions, separating management from ownership.
  • Management Flexibility: Allows appointing managers from within or outside the LLC.
  • Role Distinction: Clear separation between managerial duties and member roles.
  • Applicability: Suited for larger businesses, those with passive investors, or members preferring not to manage daily affairs.

The choice between these structures should consider business size, member involvement level, and strategic objectives.

Considerations for Non-US Residents and Digital Nomads:

  • Understanding State-Specific Laws: Knowledge of the specific state's LLC laws is critical.
  • Tax Implications: Awareness of both US and home country tax implications is essential.
  • Legal Representation and Compliance: Seeking legal counsel for navigating US and state-specific laws ensures proper compliance and optimal business structuring.

What is a Member-Managed LLC?

A Member-Managed LLC is a common choice for small business owners and entrepreneurs who desire close involvement in management. In this structure, all members (owners) actively participate in managing the business, akin to a partnership. This direct involvement in management spans from daily operations to strategic decision-making.

Key Characteristics and Benefits:

  • Direct Involvement and Decision Making: Members are integral to daily management, contributing to both strategic and operational decisions. They usually have equal rights in decision-making, often determined through a voting process outlined in the LLC's operating agreement.
  • Simplicity and Transparency: This structure is straightforward, promoting direct communication among members and enhancing operational transparency and agility.
  • Operational Flexibility: Offers adaptability in business operations, allowing members to respond swiftly to changing market conditions or business needs without consulting separate management.
  • Expertise Utilization: Members can directly apply their skills and expertise, benefiting specialized or niche markets where such personal involvement is crucial for success.
  • Legal and Tax Responsibilities: Members ensure the LLC's compliance with relevant laws and tax obligations. As a pass-through entity for tax purposes, profits and losses are reported on members' personal tax returns in the U.S.

Roles and Responsibilities of Members:

  • Management of Daily Operations: Members handle tasks like customer service, marketing, product development, and administrative duties.
  • Financial Oversight and Legal Compliance: They are responsible for the financial health and legal compliance of the LLC, including budgeting, financial planning, and adhering to laws and regulations.
  • Record Keeping and Conflict Resolution: Accurate documentation and effective conflict resolution within the business are key responsibilities.

Advantages for Non-US Residents and Digital Nomads:

  • Remote Control and Oversight: This structure is ideal for those managing businesses from abroad, allowing for direct involvement in key decisions remotely.
  • Suitability for Small Teams: Offers flexibility and quick decision-making ideal for small teams or solo entrepreneurs.


  • Management Skills and Time Commitment: Members need the necessary skills and time commitment to effectively manage the business.
  • Adaptable Roles and Collaborative Environment: Roles within a member-managed LLC can be adapted to suit the business's evolving needs, fostering a collaborative work environment.

Decision-Making Process:

  • Collective Involvement: All members contribute to decision-making, with the process and voting procedures detailed in the operating agreement.
  • Types of Decisions: Majority or unanimous consent may be required for different decisions, depending on the agreement's voting rights stipulations.
  • Meeting Regularity and Remote Participation: Regular meetings are held for decision-making, with provisions for remote participation to accommodate non-resident members.

Specific Advantages for Small Businesses and Solo Entrepreneurs:

  • Member-managed LLCs offer enhanced control, streamlined decision-making, reduced overhead costs, and a strong alignment with business objectives, making them particularly suitable for small-scale entrepreneurial ventures.

What is a Manager-Managed LLC?

Manager-Managed LLCs present an alternative structure for business operations, especially suited for companies where owners prefer to delegate operational responsibilities. In this model, managers, who can be either LLC members or external individuals, are appointed to oversee the business's day-to-day activities and decision-making.

Key Characteristics and Advantages:

  • Delegation of Management: The core feature of this structure is the delegation of daily operational responsibilities to one or more appointed managers, allowing members to focus on broader strategic goals.
  • Manager Selection Flexibility: Managers can be chosen from within the LLC or hired externally, offering versatility in management expertise and skills.
  • Distinct Roles and Professional Management: This structure provides a clear separation between ownership and management. It allows for the incorporation of professional managers, enhancing business efficiency, particularly in specialized areas or larger operations.
  • Investor Appeal and Growth Potential: Manager-managed LLCs are often more attractive to investors due to their corporate-like structure. They also offer scalability, making it easier to expand without involving all members in every aspect of the business.
  • Reduced Operational Burden: Members not involved in daily management can dedicate time to other ventures or strategic planning, lessening the operational load.

Roles and Responsibilities in a Manager-Managed LLC:

  • Managers:
  • Operational Oversight: Responsible for day-to-day business management, including staff management, financial transactions, and customer relations.
  • Decision-Making Authority: Hold the power to make operational decisions and enter into contracts within the scope defined by the LLC's operating agreement.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensure the business adheres to relevant laws and maintains good standing with state and federal requirements.
  • Reporting and Strategy Implementation: Accountable to members, providing regular business performance reports and implementing strategic decisions set by members.
  • Members:
  • Strategic Direction: Focus on high-level business strategy and overall direction.
  • Manager Selection and Oversight: Involved in selecting and monitoring managers, including hiring and firing decisions.
  • Financial and Risk Management: Play a role in financial investment and risk assessment.
  • Major Decision Approval: Retain authority over significant business decisions like expansion, financial commitments, and structural changes.

Considerations for Non-US Residents and Digital Nomads:

  • Remote Ownership Advantages: This structure is advantageous for those managing from afar, as it allows ownership without the necessity of daily operational involvement.
  • Global Management Capability: Facilitates the appointment of managers across various regions, aligning international insights with local expertise.

Appointing Management in a Manager-Managed LLC:

  • Process and Criteria: Members decide on appointing managers, guided by the operating agreement, which outlines the appointment process, qualifications, and terms. Selection criteria may include management experience, industry knowledge, and alignment with business goals.
  • Voting and Agreements: Managers are typically appointed through a member voting process. External managers may enter into contractual agreements with the LLC.
  • Flexibility in Management Structure: Options include rotating managers or setting specific tenures to ensure dynamism.

Advantages for Larger Businesses and Passive Investors:

  • Suitability for Complex Operations: Ideal for larger businesses requiring specialized management and efficient handling of sophisticated operations.
  • Investor-Friendly Structure: Appeals to investors preferring a passive role, assuring them of professional management.
  • Governance and Risk Management: Offers a clear governance structure and enhanced risk management, which is crucial for larger entities facing complex challenges.
  • Operational Efficiency and Legal Compliance: Streamlines decision-making and ensures adherence to legal and regulatory standards.

Comparison: Member-Managed vs Manager-Managed LLC

Understanding the differences between member-managed and manager-managed LLCs is crucial for informed decision-making. These structures cater to different business needs and preferences, each with its own set of advantages, roles, and operational models.

Aspect Member-Managed LLC Manager-Managed LLC
Management Involvement Members actively involved in daily operations and decisions Managers handle daily operations and management duties; members less involved
Decision-Making Collective decisions by members, often through voting Managers make operational decisions; members decide on strategy
Roles and Responsibilities Members handle managerial and operational roles Clear separation between managerial duties and member roles
Flexibility and Control Direct control over business decisions by members Members have oversight but less direct control
Business Size and Complexity Suited for smaller, hands-on businesses Better for larger businesses or those with passive investors
Operational Efficiency Efficient for direct involvement in decision-making More efficient for complex operations with specialized management
Scalability Scaling can be challenging with all members involved Easier scalability with professional managers
Investor Appeal Attracts investors wanting active involvement Appeals to investors preferring a passive role
Risk Management Members responsible for risk management Professional managers bring specialized risk management skills
Legal and Regulatory Compliance Members ensure compliance, can be challenging Professional managers typically handle compliance

Scenarios Favoring Each Structure:

Member-Managed LLC:

  • Ideal for small businesses and startups with active owner involvement.
  • Suitable for businesses where owner expertise directly impacts success.
  • Preferred by entrepreneurs who enjoy hands-on management.
  • Favors a collaborative decision-making process and equal control.
  • Suitable for businesses with limited need for external investment.
  • Ideal for Non-US residents or digital nomads who want to control the LLC while living abroad

Manager-Managed LLC:

  • Favored by larger businesses requiring professional management for complex operations.
  • Attracts passive investors or businesses with members not wishing to handle daily operations.
  • Benefits companies needing specialized management skills, such as in tech or manufacturing sectors.
  • Facilitates scalability and expansion, especially into new markets.
  • Appeals to external investors due to its corporate-like governance structure.
  • Ideal for non-US residents or digital nomads maintaining ownership while delegating daily management.

Legal and Tax Considerations:

Legal Differences:

  • Member-managed LLCs have members with equal authority to bind the LLC, while only managers in manager-managed LLCs have this authority.
  • Fiduciary duties differ, with all members owing them in member-managed LLCs, but primarily resting with managers in manager-managed LLCs.
  • Member-managed LLCs may have more internal transparency compared to the formalized reporting in manager-managed LLCs.
  • Operating agreements in manager-managed LLCs often contain more detailed provisions about managerial powers and member rights.
  • Member liability can differ, with member-managed LLCs potentially exposing members to greater operational liabilities.

Tax Implications:

  • Both structures are typically treated the same for tax purposes by the IRS.
  • Tax classification depends on the number of members and elections made by the LLC.
  • Non-US residents must consider U.S. tax obligations and how they align with their home country’s tax laws.

Tax Implications for Non-US Residents:

  • Non-US residents forming an LLC in the U.S. face unique tax considerations regardless of the management structure chosen.
  • Key considerations include pass-through taxation, implications of effectively connected income (ECI), withholding tax obligations, impact of tax treaties, state taxes, filing requirements, and repatriation of profits.
  • Non-US residents need to navigate these complexities with the help of tax professionals experienced in U.S. and international tax law.


What is a Managing Member in an LLC?

A managing member in a member-managed LLC is a member who actively participates in the day-to-day operations and decision-making of the business. Their roles include overseeing daily activities, making operational decisions, and carrying out the strategic plans agreed upon by all members. They have the authority to bind the LLC in contracts and business dealings. In essence, managing members are both owners and operators of the LLC.

How Many Managers Can an LLC Have?

The number of managers in a manager-managed LLC can vary greatly and is often determined by the LLC's operating agreement. Factors influencing this decision include the size of the business, the complexity of operations, and the need for specialized management skills. An LLC can have one manager or multiple managers, depending on its requirements.

Is a Single-Member LLC Manager-Managed or Member-Managed?

A single-member LLC can be either manager-managed or member-managed, based on the choice made by the sole member during formation. 

Are LLC Members Employees?

LLC members are not typically considered employees unless they perform work for the LLC beyond their capacity as owners and receive compensation for these services. The distinction hinges on the nature of their work and how they are compensated. This impacts salary, benefits, and employment tax implications.

Employment Status of LLC Members in an S-Corp Election

When an LLC elects S-Corp status, members who actively work in the business are considered employees for tax purposes. They must receive a reasonable salary before any profits are distributed, which affects payroll taxes and the treatment of their income.

Liability Differences in Member-Managed vs Manager-Managed LLCs

Generally, both types of LLCs provide limited liability protection to their members. However, in a member-managed LLC, members are more actively involved in daily operations, potentially exposing them to greater operational liabilities compared to a manager-managed LLC, where managers assume most operational responsibilities.

Can an LLC's Management Structure Be Changed?

Yes, an LLC's management structure can be changed from member-managed to manager-managed or vice versa. This typically involves amending the LLC's operating agreement and possibly filing an amendment with the state. The decision to change should consider the evolving needs of the business and the preferences of the members.

How to Choose the Right LLC Management Structure for Your Business

Choosing the right LLC management structure involves considering the size of your business, the desired level of member involvement, the complexity of operations, and future growth plans. Member-managed structures suit hands-on owners, while manager-managed structures are better for owners preferring strategic oversight.

Reporting and Compliance Differences for Member-Managed and Manager-Managed LLCs

The primary compliance obligations, like tax reporting and annual state filings, generally remain the same regardless of the management structure. However, manager-managed LLCs may require more detailed internal reporting and record-keeping to inform members about business operations.

Can Non-US Residents Serve as Managers or Members in an LLC?

Yes, non-US residents can serve as managers or members in a U.S. LLC. There are no citizenship or residency requirements for owning or managing an LLC in most states. However, non-residents should be aware of any additional legal or tax implications of their involvement.

How do you create a Member-Managed LLC?

To create a Member-Managed LLC, follow these steps:

  • Choose a Business Name: Ensure the name complies with your state's LLC regulations and is distinguishable from existing businesses.
  • File Articles of Organization: Submit this document to your state's business filing agency, including basic information like your LLC's name, address, and members.
  • Create an Operating Agreement: Although not always legally required, it's highly recommended. This internal document should outline the LLC's management structure, member roles, decision-making processes, and ownership percentages.
  • Obtain Licenses and Permits: Depending on your business type and location, various licenses and permits may be required.
  • Comply with Tax and Regulatory Requirements: Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, and understand your state's tax and reporting obligations.
  • Announce Your Business: Some states require new LLCs to publish a notice of formation in a local newspaper.

The key aspect of a Member-Managed LLC is that all members are actively involved in the day-to-day management and decision-making of the business.

How do you create a Manager-Managed LLC?

Creating a Manager-Managed LLC involves similar steps to a Member-Managed LLC, with additional focus on management structure:

  • Complete Standard LLC Formation Steps: This includes choosing a business name, filing Articles of Organization, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, and fulfilling tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Specify Management Structure in Operating Agreement: Clearly state that the LLC will be manager-managed and outline the process for appointing, removing, and replacing managers. Define the powers and duties of managers and the extent of members' authority.
  • Appoint Managers: Managers can be selected from the members or hired externally. Their appointment and terms should be documented in the operating agreement or in separate managerial contracts.

The distinction of a Manager-Managed LLC lies in its delegation of daily operational decisions and management responsibilities to appointed managers, rather than the member owners.

Can a Single-Member LLC be a Manager-Managed LLC?

Yes, a Single-Member LLC can be a Manager-Managed LLC. In this Single-Member-Managed LLC structure:

  • The single member appoints a manager (which can also be themselves) to handle the business's daily operations and decision-making.
  • This arrangement might be preferred for legal or operational reasons, such as when the member wants to maintain an investor role or for liability purposes.

Even though the single member holds all decision-making power, this structure allows for clear separation of roles, especially if the member hires an external manager.

Does an LLC have a Board of Directors?

No, an LLC typically does not have a Board of Directors. Instead, LLCs have members who manage the business directly (Member-Managed LLC) or appoint managers to do so (Manager-Managed LLC). The concept of a Board of Directors is more characteristic of corporations, which have a more rigid governance structure. However, an LLC's operating agreement can establish a board-like body or committee for decision-making if the members choose to set up such a structure. This flexibility allows LLCs to adapt their governance to meet their specific needs.


In this article, we have delved into the nuances of Member-Managed and Manager-Managed LLCs, highlighting how each structure aligns with different business models and owner preferences, especially for non-US residents and digital nomads.

Key Takeaways:

  • LLC Management Structures: Member-Managed LLCs involve direct member involvement in daily operations and decision-making, suitable for smaller, hands-on businesses. Manager-Managed LLCs, conversely, delegate these responsibilities to appointed managers, ideal for larger enterprises or those with passive investors.
  • Legal and Tax Implications: Both structures offer legal protections and flexibility but differ in internal governance, management authority, and fiduciary duties. They are generally treated similarly for tax purposes, with specific considerations for non-US residents regarding effectively connected income and U.S. tax compliance.
  • Suitability and Scenarios: The choice between these structures depends on the business's size, desired management style, and strategic goals. Member-Managed LLCs are preferred for active management and smaller operations, while Manager-Managed LLCs are better suited for businesses requiring specialized management, scalability, and a passive role for owners.
  • Considerations for Non-US Residents: It's crucial for non-US residents to understand the legal and tax implications within the context of U.S. and international laws. 

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