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There is no real difference between Inc. and Corp. Any new business organizing under standard articles of incorporation, whether it is a C or S corporation, usually must identify itself by one of these designations and use it in all its business correspondence, but there is no real legal difference between the two. Despite this, the terms cannot be used interchangeably, and they must be used on certain documents. There are also other corporate structures that businesses can choose from, which may be better suited for specific purposes.
Purpose of the Designations
Each nation or region, such as the states in the US, generally has specific laws regarding the incorporation process, including the naming of a business. Though calling a company an Inc. or Corp. is not mandatory in all regions, businesses often do it anyway for legal reasons. Once a business includes either term after its name, it has legally informed anyone dealing with it that it has limited liability and is not a natural person. This means that, if a person sues the business, he or she can only collect assets from it after getting a judgment, and he or she can't access any assets of the company owners. This type of notice is called a constructive notice, meaning that it still stands in court even if the person receiving the notice isn't aware of it.
Interchangeability and Usage Rules
Though both terms serve the same legal purpose, a business can't use the terms interchangeably, meaning that once it decides to use either Inc. or Corp., it has to stick with that throughout its life. Most areas also require companies to include the designation after their name on all professional correspondence and business stationery. Some regions have additional rules for how they want businesses to write whichever one they choose: for instance, some states in the US require incorporated companies to write their names as "XYZ, Inc." or "XYZ Corp." while others require it to read “XYZ, Incorporated” or "XYZ Corporation." This generally only applies to official and external correspondence, though. Regardless of region, it is almost always illegal to use either designation if the company isn't actually a corporation.
Some countries offer other corporate structures, including a limited liability company (LLC) and limited company (Ltd.). A LLC offers different tax structures than a C or S corporation; profits flow through to the business owners, even though the company itself is responsible for legal issues and debts. This type of structure is often preferred by small businesses, since it has a little more flexibility in terms of taxation, and it requires much less paperwork than incorporation. A Ltd. company has ownership restrictions based on owner guarantee or percentage of shares owned, but it can be traded on a stock exchange.