A benefit corporation is a corporation organized under a state's general corporation law that has elected to become subject to benefit corporation statutory provisions. Most benefit corporation statutes require that the entity "shall have the purpose of creating a general public benefit," meaning it must create a "material positive impact on society." In many states this general public benefit purpose is in addition to, and may be a limitation on, any specific purpose set forth in its articles. The benefit corporation was created to provide an option for entrepreneurs who want to voluntarily adopt higher standards of corporate purpose, transparency, and accountability. The entity provides a way to legally cement a social or environmental mission into a company's corporate and legal structure.
The provisions of general corporation law apply to benefit corporations except where those provisions are in conflict with or inconsistent with the benefit corporation provisions. Therefore, like a traditional for-profit corporation, a benefit corporation is an independent legal and tax entity, separate from the people who own, control and manage it. Because of this separate status, the owners of a benefit corporation don't use their personal tax returns to pay tax on corporate profits-the corporation itself pays these taxes. Owners pay personal income tax only on money they draw from the corporation in the form of salaries, bonuses, and the like.