For some corporations, a time comes when the people who own and run things voluntarily decide to close the business. If you’ve reached that point with your Montana corporation, you’ll need to take care of multiple tasks—including what is called dissolving and winding up your business.
Dissolving the Corporation
Your corporation is registered with the State of Montana. Officially ending its existence as a state-registered business entity, and putting it beyond the reach of creditors and other claimants, begins with a formal process called “dissolution.” While a corporation may be involuntarily dissolved through a court decree, or for administrative reasons such as failing to file an annual report, this article covers voluntary dissolution by a corporation’s shareholders. Also, while there are streamlined procedures for dissolving corporations that have not yet issued stock or not yet started doing business, those procedures are not covered in this article.
The Montana Business Corporation Act (“BCA”) provides for voluntary dissolution through a shareholder vote at a shareholder meeting. Before the vote, your board of directors must submit a proposal to dissolve to the shareholders. Keep in mind that you are required to give notice to each shareholder, whether or not entitled to vote, of the proposed meeting on dissolution. Then, unless your articles of incorporation or the board of directors require a greater vote or a vote by voting groups, generally a minimum two-thirds majority of the votes at the meeting must approve the dissolution. However, a simple majority vote is all that’s required if a statement to that effect is included in your articles of incorporation. Make sure to properly record both the board’s proposal and the shareholders’ votes.
The BCA also allows you to avoid a formal meeting and vote if all shareholders entitled to vote on dissolution provide their written consent. This method can be more efficient for small businesses where most or all of the shareholders are directors—and there is full agreement on dissolution. All shareholders entitled to vote must sign a document, known simply as a “consent,” that states the corporation is dissolved. The consent then must be properly entered in the corporation records. If you use this method, you must give any nonvoting shareholders at least ten days advance notice that the corporation will dissolve.
Certain Matters are Unchanged by Dissolution
Note that dissolution, alone, does not:
- transfer title to the corporation’s property
- prevent transfer of corporation shares (although the authorization to dissolve may provide for closing the corporation’s share transfer records)
- generally subject the corporation’s directors or officers to standards of conduct different from those that applied before dissolution
- change quorum or voting requirements for the corporation’s board of directors or shareholders, change provisions for the selection, resignation, or removal of directors or officers, or both, or change provisions for amending the corporation’s bylaws
- prevent the commencement of a legal proceeding by or against the corporation
- abate or a suspend a legal proceeding pending by or against the corporation on the effective date of dissolution
- terminate the authority of the registered agent of the corporation; or
- discharge, abate, or forgive any tax liability of the corporation.
Montana requires that you obtain a tax clearance certificate before dissolving your corporation. More specifically, before filing your articles of dissolution (see below), you’ll first need to complete Department of Revenue (“DOR”) Form CR-T (Tax Certificate Request) and file it with the DOR. You can download a blank Form CR-T from the DOR website. The DOR does not charge for issuing a certificate. The specific document you’ll need is a Dissolution/Withdrawal Certificate (“DWC”), which states that your corporation has filed all applicable tax returns and paid all taxes owed to the State of Montana. Be aware that it can take weeks for the DOR to process your request and issue the DWC.
For federal tax purposes, check the “final return” box on your IRS Form 1120 (for traditional corporations) or IRS Form 1120S (for S corporations).
Articles of Dissolution
After dissolving your corporation, you should file articles of dissolution with the Secretary of State (“SOS”). The BCA does not strictly require you to file this document, instead stating that a corporation “may” file the articles. However, for various reasons, including limiting liability and terminating various filing requirements, filing articles of dissolution is generally the best practice. (If you have specific questions about whether to file, you should contact a local attorney.)
To complete the articles of dissolution, you must provide:
- the name of your corporation
- the date dissolution was authorized
- if the dissolution was adopted by the board of directors without shareholder action, a statement to the effect that shareholder action was not required; and
- if dissolution was approved by the shareholders, the number of votes entitled to be cast on the proposal to dissolve, and either (a) the total number of votes cast for and against dissolution or (b) the total number of undisputed votes cast for dissolution and a statement that the number cast for dissolution was sufficient for approval.
An articles of dissolution form is available for download from the SOS website. There is a $15 fee to file the articles. Your filing should be processed within ten working days after it’s received by the SOS. Various forms of expedited processing are available for additional fees.
Be aware that your business name will become available for use by others 120 days after dissolution.
Following dissolution, your corporation continues to exist only for the purpose of taking care of certain final matters that, collectively, are known as “winding up” the company. It may be appropriate to designate one or more officers and/or directors to handle the winding up.
Under the BCA, key winding up tasks include:
- collecting the corporation's assets
- disposing of corporation properties that will not be distributed in kind to shareholders
- discharging or making provision for discharging the corporation’s liabilities; and
- distributing remaining corporation property among shareholders according to their interests.
Regarding the last two listed items, be aware that your corporation’s first obligation is to discharge liabilities. This includes paying all business taxes and creditors. Only then may the corporation distribute remaining assets, if any, to shareholders.
Notice to Creditors and Other Claimants
One other key task is giving notice to creditors and other claimants of your corporation’s dissolution. Giving notice is optional. However, doing so will help limit your liability and allow you to more safely make final distributions to shareholders.
Under the BCA, you may send written notice directly to known claimants after dissolution. Proper written notice must:
- describe information that must be included in a claim
- provide a mailing address where a claim may be sent
- state the deadline, which may not be fewer than 120 days from the effective date of the written notice, by which the dissolved corporation must receive the claim; and
- state that the claim will be barred if not received by the deadline.
Unlike many other states, the Montana BCA does not describe a method for providing notice to unknown claimants. Instead, the Act generally states that, subject to giving written notice to known claimants, dissolution of a corporation does not take away or impair any available remedies to or against the corporation.
Some of the rules for how to give notice and respond to claims can be hard to understand. Therefore, if you choose to give notice, you should strongly consider getting assistance from a business attorney.
An S corporation is a corporation that has filed an election with the IRS to have business income, losses, deductions, and credits pass through to individual shareholders for federal tax purposes. Only the shareholders, and not the corporation, pay federal taxes on income from the business. Potential tax issues aside, the process for dissolving and winding up an S corporation is generally the same as dissolving and winding up a traditional corporation. You still need to file DOR Form CR-T, which includes a check box to indicate that your business is an S corporation.
Is your corporation registered or qualified to do business in other states? If so, you must file separate forms to terminate your right to conduct business in those states. Depending on the states involved, the form might be called a termination of registration, certificate of termination of existence, application of withdrawal, or certificate of surrender of right to transact business. Failure to file the additional termination forms means you’ll continue to be liable for annual report fees and minimum business taxes.
For information on dissolving and winding up corporations formed in other states, check Nolo’s 50-state series on dissolving corporations.
Final Note: Dissolving and winding up your corporation is only one piece of the process of closing your business. For further, general guidance on many of the other steps involved, check Nolo’s 20-point checklist for closing a business and the Nolo article on what you need to know about closing a business.