On July 1, 2015, the Pennsylvania Association Transactions Act (also known as the Entity Transactions Act) (the “Act”) went into effect. The primary purpose of the Act is to simplify the architecture of Title 15 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes by moving the provisions applicable to names, fundamental transactions and registration of foreign entities into a new Chapter 3. Presently, those provisions are spread out in numerous subsections applicable to each entity type (e.g., corporations, limited liability companies, etc.). The thinking was that since identical or nearly identical provisions already applied to most or all entity types, they should be moved to a new chapter to streamline the statute and hopefully simplify the process for undertaking fundamental changes. The Act adopts new terms to refer to various entity concepts, so practitioners will have to learn a new vocabulary. For example:
- Association: a corporation for profit or corporation not-for-profit, partnership, limited liability company, statutory or business trust, or an entity or two or more persons associated in a common enterprise.
- Governor: a person by or under whose authority the powers of an association are exercised and under whose direction the activities and affairs of the association are managed (e.g., a corporate director, the general partner of a limited partnership, a partner of a general partnership, a manager of a manager-managed LLC, etc.).
- Interest holder: a direct or record holder of an interest (e.g., a shareholder, member, general or limited partner).
While much of the Act is simply a reorganization of the statute, some changes are substantive. For example, the Act expands the use of conversions. In a conversion transaction, one Pennsylvania entity type converts to another Pennsylvania entity type. Until now, this result could be accomplished by using a 2-step process: forming a new entity of the desired type and merging the old entity into it. Alternatively, a business seeking to change its form would have to wind down its business and dissolve, then start again by forming a new entity type. Both approaches were cumbersome and can involve significant transaction fees and delays so the new one-step process is welcomed. But even the simplified conversions can have tax consequences, so a tax advisor should be consulted.
At the opposite end of the transaction spectrum is the division transaction. Prior to the Act, an entity could only divide into like entity types. The Act permits an entity to divide into different entity types (e.g., a corporation can now divide into a corporation and a limited liability company). Once again, care should be taken to avoid unintended tax consequences.
Another significant change is a new provision that allows for contractual dissenters rights where such rights would not otherwise be available under the statute. Additionally, the existing concept of share exchanges is expanded to include other association types and bundled into a new subchapter called “Interest Exchanges.”
All of the transactions included in new Chapter 3 require a plan approved by the interest holders of the constituent associations, although the approval process and plan contents vary depending on the type of association. Many of these transactions have tax consequences for the entity and/or the interest holders, so the advice of tax counsel is critical.
The Act is based on the Model Entity Transactions Act (known as META). The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Business Law, which drafted the Act, continues its work to modernize the remainder of Pennsylvania’s association statutes to make them consistent with the uniform laws passed in other states.