Chapter 55B.

Professional Corporation Act.

55B-1.  Title.

This Chapter may be cited as "The Professional Corporation Act." (1969, c. 718, s. 1.)

 

55B-2.  Definitions.

As used in this Chapter, the following words shall, unless the context requires otherwise, have the following meanings:

(1)        "Disqualified person" means a licensed person who for any reason becomes legally disqualified to render the same professional services which are or were being rendered by the professional corporation of which such person is an officer, director, shareholder or employee.

(2)        "Licensee" means any natural person who is duly licensed by the appropriate licensing board to render the same professional services which will be rendered by the professional corporation of which he is, or intends to become, an officer, director, shareholder or employee.

(3)        "Licensing board" means a board which is charged with the licensing and regulating of the profession or practice in this State in which the professional corporation is organized to engage.

(4)        The term "licensing board," as the same applies to attorneys at law, shall mean the Council of the North Carolina State Bar, and it shall include the North Carolina State Board of Law Examiners only to the extent that the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners is authorized to issue licenses for the practice of law under the supervision of the Council of the North Carolina State Bar.

(5)        "Professional corporation" means a corporation which is engaged in rendering the professional services as herein specified and defined, pursuant to a certificate of registration issued by the Licensing Board regulating the profession or practice, and which has as its shareholders only those individuals permitted by G.S. 55B-6 of this Chapter to be shareholders and which designates itself as may be required by this statute, and which is organized under the provisions of this Chapter and of Chapter 55, the North Carolina Business Corporation Act.

(6)        The term "professional service" means any type of personal or professional service of the public which requires as a condition precedent to the rendering of such service the obtaining of a license from a licensing board as herein defined, and pursuant to the following provisions of the General Statutes: Chapter 83A, "Architects"; Chapter 84, "Attorneys-at-Law"; Chapter 93, "Public Accountants"; and the following Articles in Chapter 90: Article 1, "Practice of Medicine," Article 2, "Dentistry," Article 6, "Optometry," Article 7, "Osteopathy," Article 8, "Chiropractic," Article 9A, "Nursing Practice Act," with regard to registered nurses, Article 11, "Veterinarians," Article 12A, "Podiatrists," Article 18A, "Practicing Psychologists," Article 18C, "Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure," Article 18D, "Occupational Therapy," Article 22, "Licensure Act for Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists," and Article 24, "Licensed Professional Counselors"; Chapter 89C, "Engineering and Land Surveying"; Chapter 89A, "Landscape Architects"; Chapter 90B, "Social Worker Certification and Licensure Act" with regard to Licensed Clinical Social Workers as defined by G.S. 90B-3; Chapter 89E, "Geologists"; Chapter 89B, "Foresters"; and Chapter 89F, "North Carolina Soil Scientist Licensing Act". (1969, c. 718, s. 2; 1971, c. 196, s. 1; 1977, c. 53; c. 855, s. 1; 1979, c. 460; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 3; 1991, c. 205, s. 1; 1995, c. 382, s. 2; 1997-421, s. 2; 2000-115, s. 4; 2001-487, s. 40(d); 2003-117, s. 3; 2004-199, s. 19; 2004-203, s. 4.)

 

55B-3.  North Carolina Business Corporation Act applicable; other applicable law.

(a)        Chapter 55 of the General Statutes, the North Carolina Business Corporation Act, applies to professional corporations, including their organization, and professional corporations shall enjoy the powers and privileges and shall be subject to the duties, restrictions and liabilities of other corporations, except insofar as the same may be limited or enlarged by this Chapter. If any provision of this Chapter conflicts with the provisions of Chapter 55 of the General Statutes, the North Carolina Business Corporation Act, the provisions of this Chapter shall prevail.

(b)        A document required or permitted by this Chapter to be filed by the Secretary of State shall be filed under Chapter 55D of the General Statutes, Filings, Names, and Registered Agents for Corporations, Nonprofit Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships, and Limited Partnerships. (1969, c. 718, s. 3; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 3; 2001-358, s. 11; 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6.)

 

55B-4.  Formation of corporation.

A professional corporation under this Chapter may be formed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 55, the North Carolina Business Corporation Act, with the following limitations:

(1)        At least one incorporator shall be a "licensee" as hereinabove defined in G.S. 55B-2(2).

(2)        All of the shares of stock of the corporation shall be owned and held by a licensee, or licensees, as hereinabove defined in G.S. 55B-2(2), except as otherwise permitted in G.S. 55B-6.

(3)        At least one director and one officer shall be a "licensee" as hereinabove defined in G.S. 55B-2(2).

(4)        The articles of incorporation, in addition to the requirements of Chapter 55, shall designate the personal services to be rendered by the professional corporation and shall be accompanied by a certification by the appropriate licensing board that the ownership of the shares of stock is in compliance with the requirements of G.S. 55B-4(2) and G.S. 55B-6. (1969, c. 718, s. 4; 1977, c. 855, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 3; 1991, c. 205, s. 2; 1995, c. 351, s. 15.)

 

55B-5.  Corporate name.

The corporate name used by professional corporations under this Chapter, except as limited by the licensing acts of the respective professions, shall be governed by the provisions of Chapter 55D, provided that professional corporations may use the words "Professional Association, P.A.," "Professional Corporation," or "P.C." in lieu of the corporate designations specified in Chapter 55D, and provided further that licensing boards by regulations may make further corporate name requirements or limitations for the respective professions, but such regulations may not prohibit the continued use of any corporate name duly adopted in conformity with the General Statutes and with the pertinent licensing board regulations in effect at the date of such adoption. (1969, c. 718, s. 5; 1983, c. 22; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 3; 2001-358, s. 25; 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6.)

 

55B-6.  Capital stock.

(a)        Except as provided in subsections (a1) and (b) of this section, a professional corporation may issue shares of its capital stock only to a licensee as defined in G.S. 55B-2, and a shareholder may voluntarily transfer shares of stock issued to the shareholder only to another licensee. No share or shares of any stock of a professional corporation shall be transferred upon the books of the corporation unless the corporation has received a certification of the appropriate licensing board that the transferee is a licensee. Provided, it shall be lawful in the case of professional corporations rendering services as defined in Chapters 83A, 89A, 89C, 89E, and 89F, for nonlicensed employees of the corporation to own not more than one-third of the total issued and outstanding shares of the corporation; and provided further, with respect to a professional corporation rendering services as defined in Chapters 83A, 89A, 89C, and 89E of the General Statutes, an employee retirement plan qualified under section 401 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or any successor section), is deemed for purposes of this section to be a licensee if the trustee or trustees of the plan are licensees. Provided further, subject to any additional conditions that the appropriate licensing board may by rule or order impose in the public interest, it shall be lawful for individuals who are not licensees but who perform professional services on behalf of a professional corporation in another jurisdiction in which the corporation maintains an office, and who are duly licensed to perform professional services under the laws of the other jurisdiction, to be shareholders of the corporation so long as there is at least one shareholder who is a licensee as defined in G.S. 55B-2, and the corporation renders its professional services in the State only through those shareholders that are licensed in North Carolina.  Upon the transfer of any shares of such corporation to a nonlicensed employee of such corporation, the corporation shall inform the appropriate licensing board of the name and address of the transferee and the number of shares issued to the nonprofessional transferee. The issuance or transfer of any share of stock in violation of this section is void.  No shareholder of a professional corporation shall enter into a voting trust agreement or any other type of agreement vesting in another person the authority to exercise the voting power of any of the stock of a professional corporation.

(a1)      Any person may own up to forty-nine percent of the stock of a professional corporation rendering services under Chapter 93 of the General Statutes as long as:

(1)        Licensees continue to own and control voting stock that represents at least fifty-one percent (51%) of the votes entitled to be cast in the election of directors of the professional corporation; and

(2)        All licensees who perform professional services on behalf of the corporation comply with Chapter 93 of the General Statutes and the rules adopted thereunder.

(b)        A professional corporation formed pursuant to this Chapter may issue one hundred percent (100%) of its capital stock to another professional corporation in order for that corporation (the distributing corporation) to distribute in accordance with section 355 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or any succeeding section), the stock of the controlled corporation to one or more shareholders of the distributing corporation authorized under this section to hold the shares. The distributing corporation shall distribute the stock of the controlled corporation within 30 days after the stock is issued to the distributing corporation. A share of stock of the controlled corporation that is not transferred in accordance with this subsection within 30 days after the share was issued to the distributing corporation is void. (1969, c. 718, s. 6; 1977, c. 855, s. 1; 1989, c. 258; 1991, c. 179, s. 1; c. 205, s. 3; 1995, c. 351, s. 16; 1999-440, s. 1; 2000-115, s. 5.)

 

55B-7.  Death or disqualification of a stockholder or employee.

(a)        If any officer, shareholder, agent or employee of a corporation organized under this Chapter who is a licensee becomes legally disqualified to render professional services within this State, he shall sever all employment with, and financial interest in, such corporation forthwith. A corporation's failure to comply with this provision shall constitute grounds for the forfeiture of its certificate of incorporation and its dissolution. When a corporation's failure to comply with this provision is brought to the attention of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State shall forthwith certify that fact to the Attorney General for appropriate action to dissolve the corporation.

(b)        A professional corporation shall report to the appropriate licensing board the death of any of its shareholders within 30 days thereafter. Within one year of the date of such death, all of the shares owned by such deceased shareholder shall be transferred to and acquired by the professional corporation or persons qualified to own such shares. In the absence of an agreement which determines the equitable value of the shares, then the price for such shares shall be the fair market value of the stock, but not less than the book value as of the end of the month immediately preceding the death or disqualification. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Chapter, the shares of stock owned by such deceased shareholder may be owned and held by the person or persons who may be legally entitled to receive such shares for a period of one year after the death of such deceased shareholder, or in the case of the death of the owner of all the shares of such corporation, for such period of time as may be necessary to liquidate the corporation. (1969, c. 718, s. 7.)

 

55B-8.  Rendition of professional services.

A professional service corporation may render professional services only through its officers, employees and agents who are duly licensed to render such professional services; provided, however, this provision shall not be interpreted to include in the term "employee," as used herein, clerks, secretaries, bookkeepers, technicians and other assistants who are not considered by law to be rendering professional services to the public. (1969, c. 718, s. 8.)

 

55B-9.  Professional relationship and liability.

(a)        Relationship. - Nothing in this Chapter shall be interpreted to abolish, modify, restrict, limit or alter the law in this State applicable to the professional relationship and liabilities between the licensee furnishing the professional services and the person receiving such professional service, or the standards of professional conduct applicable to the rendering therein of such services.

(b)        Liability. - A shareholder, a director, or an officer of a professional corporation is not individually liable, directly or indirectly, including by indemnification, contribution, assessment, or otherwise, for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of, or chargeable to, the professional corporation that arise from errors, omissions, negligence, malpractice, incompetence, or malfeasance committed by another shareholder, director, or officer or by a representative of the professional corporation; provided, however, nothing in this Chapter shall affect the liability of a shareholder, director, or officer of a professional corporation for his or her own errors, omissions, negligence, malpractice, incompetence, or malfeasance committed in the rendering of professional services. (1969, c. 718, s. 9; 1993, c. 354, s. 2; 1999-362, s. 2; 2000-140, s. 101(f).)

 

55B-10.  Registration with licensing board.

No professional corporation shall open, operate, or maintain an establishment for any of the purposes set forth in this Chapter without first having obtained a certificate of registration from the licensing board or boards. Applications for such registration shall be made to the licensing board or boards in writing and shall contain the name and address of the corporation and such other information as may be required by the licensing board or boards. If the board finds that no disciplinary action is pending before the board against any of the licensed incorporators, officers, directors, shareholders or employees of such corporation, and if it appears that such corporation will be conducted in compliance with the law and the regulations of the board, the board shall issue, upon the payment of a registration fee, not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00), a certificate of registration which shall remain effective until January 1 following the date of such registration or until such other expiration or renewal date as may be established by law or by the regulations of the licensing board. (1969, c. 718, s. 10.)

 

55B-11.  Renewal of certificate of registration.

Upon written application of the holder, accompanied by a fee not to exceed the sum of twenty-five dollars ($25.00), the licensing board shall renew the certificate of registration of a professional corporation as required by law or the regulations of the licensing board if the board finds that the corporation has complied with its regulations and the provisions of this section. If the corporation does not apply for renewal of its certificate of registration within 30 days after the date of the expiration of such certificate, the certificate of registration shall be automatically suspended and may be reinstated within the calendar year upon the payment of the required renewal fee plus a penalty of ten dollars ($10.00), if such corporation is then otherwise qualified and entitled to a renewal of its certificate of registration. (1969, c. 718, s. 11.)

 

55B-12.  Application of regulations of licensing boards.

A professional corporation shall be subject to the applicable rules and regulations adopted by, and all the disciplinary powers of, the licensing board as herein defined. Nothing in this Chapter shall impair the disciplinary powers of any licensing board applicable to a licensee as herein defined. No professional corporation may do any act which its shareholders as licensees are prohibited from doing. (1969, c. 718, s. 12.)

 

55B-13.  Suspension or revocation of certificate of registration.

A licensing board may suspend or revoke a certificate of registration issued by it to a domestic or foreign professional corporation for any of the following reasons:

(1)        Upon the failure of such corporation to promptly remove or discharge an officer, director, shareholder or employee who becomes disqualified by reason of the revocation or suspension of his license to practice; or

(2)        Upon a finding by the licensing board that the professional corporation has failed to comply with the provisions of this Chapter or the regulations of the licensing board.

Upon the suspension or revocation of a certificate of registration issued to a professional corporation, such corporation shall cease forthwith to render professional services, and the Secretary of State shall be notified to the end that the corporation may be removed from active status and remain as such until reinstatement. (1969, c. 718, s. 13; 1995, c. 351, s. 17.)

 

55B-14.  Types of professional services.

(a)        A professional corporation shall render only one specific type professional service, and such services as may be ancillary thereto, and shall not engage in any other business or profession; provided, however, such corporation may own real and personal property necessary or appropriate for rendering the type of professional services it was organized to render and it may invest in real estate, mortgages, stocks, bonds, and any other type of investments.

(b)        Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, in the case of architectural, landscape architectural, engineering or land surveying, geological, and soil science services, as defined in Chapters 83A, 89A, 89C, 89E, and 89F respectively, one corporation may be authorized to provide such of these services where such corporation, and at least one corporate officer who is a stockholder thereof, is duly licensed by the licensing board of each such profession.

(c)        A professional corporation may also be formed by and between or among:

(1)        A licensed psychologist and a physician practicing psychiatry to render psychotherapeutic and related services.

(2)        Any combination of a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, certified clinical specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing, certified nurse midwife, and certified nurse anesthetist, to render nursing and related services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(3)        A physician and a physician assistant who is licensed, registered, or otherwise certified under Chapter 90 of the General Statutes to render medical and related services.

(4)        A physician, a licensed psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, or each of them and a certified clinical specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed professional counselor, or each of them, to render psychotherapeutic and related services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(5)        A physician and any combination of a nurse practitioner, certified clinical specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing, or certified nurse midwife, registered or otherwise certified under Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, to render medical and related services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(6)        A physician practicing anesthesiology and a certified nurse anesthetist to render anesthesia and related medical services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(7)        A physician and an audiologist who is licensed under Article 22 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes to render audiological and related medical services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(8)        A physician practicing ophthalmology and an optometrist who is licensed under Article 6 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes to render either or both of ophthalmic services and optometric and related services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide.

(9)        A physician practicing orthopedics and a podiatrist who is licensed under Article 12A of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes to render either or both of orthopedic services and podiatric and related services that the respective stockholders are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved to provide. (1969, c. 718, s. 14; 1971, c. 196, s. 2; 1973, c. 1446, s. 9; 1985, c. 251; 1991, c. 205, s. 4; 1995, c. 382, s. 1; 1997-421, s. 1; 1997-500, s. 1; 1999-136, s. 1; 2000-115, s. 6; 2001-487, s. 40(e); 2003-117, s. 4; 2006-144, s. 3.1; 2007-451, s. 2(a).)

 

55B-15.  Applicability of Chapter.

(a)        This Chapter shall not apply to the following:

(1)        A corporation which prior to June 5, 1969, was permitted by law to render professional services or the corporate successor of that corporation by merger or otherwise by operation of law, provided there is no substantial change in the direct or indirect beneficial ownership of the shares of that corporation as the result of the merger or other transaction.  For purposes of this subdivision, a change of twenty percent (20%) or less shall not be considered substantial.

(2)        A corporation authorized in this State to render primary services governed by Articles 1, 2, 4, or 5 of Chapter 87 of the General Statutes, if the corporation renders services as defined in Chapter 89C of the General Statutes, that are reasonably necessary and connected with the primary services performed by individuals regularly employed in the ordinary course of business by the corporation.  The professional services may not be offered, performed, or rendered independently from the primary services rendered by the corporation.  This subdivision does not restrict, limit, or modify the requirement that professional services must be provided by individuals regularly employed in the ordinary course of business by the corporation and duly licensed to render these professional services in this State.  Nothing in this subdivision shall be interpreted to abolish, modify, restrict, limit, or alter the law in this State applicable to the professional relationship and liabilities between licensees furnishing the professional service and the person receiving the professional service, or the standards of professional conduct applicable to the rendering of the professional service.

(b)        A corporation or its successor exempt under subsection (a) of this section may be brought within the provisions of this Chapter by the filing of an amendment to its articles of incorporation declaring that its shareholders have elected to bring the corporation within the provisions of this Chapter and to make the same conform to all of the provisions of this Chapter. (1969, c. 718, s. 15; 1991, c. 645, s. 20; 1997-244, s. 1.)

 

55B-16.  Foreign professional corporations.

(a)        A foreign professional corporation may apply for a certificate of authority to transact business in this State pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter and Chapter 55 of the General Statutes provided that:

(1)        The corporation obtains a certificate of registration from the appropriate licensing board or boards in this State;

(2)        With respect to each professional service practiced through the corporation in this State, at least one director and one officer shall be a licensee of the licensing board which regulates the profession in this State;

(3)        Each officer, employee, and agent of the corporation who will provide professional services to persons in this State shall be a licensee of the appropriate licensing board in this State;

(4)        The corporation shall be subject to the applicable rules and regulations adopted by, and all the disciplinary powers of, the appropriate licensing board or boards in this State;

(5)        The corporation's activities in this State shall be limited as provided by G.S. 55B-14; and

(6)        The application for certificate of authority, in addition to the requirements of G.S. 55-15-03, shall set forth the personal services to be rendered by the foreign professional corporation and the individual or individuals who will satisfy the requirements of G.S. 55B-16(a)(2) and shall be accompanied by a certification by the appropriate licensing board that each individual is a "licensee" as defined in G.S. 55B-2(2) and by additional certifications as may be required to establish that the corporation is a "foreign professional corporation" as defined in G.S. 55B-16(b).

(b)        For purposes of this section, "foreign professional corporation" means a corporation for profit that:

(1)        Is incorporated under a law other than the law of this State;

(2)        Is incorporated for the purpose of rendering professional services of the type that if rendered in this State would require the obtaining of a license from a licensing board pursuant to the statutory provisions referred to in G.S. 55B-2(6); and

(3)        Has as its shareholders only individuals who:

a.         Qualify to hold shares of a corporation organized under this Chapter;

b.         Are licensed to provide professional services as defined in G.S. 55B-2(6) in a state in which the corporation is incorporated or is authorized to transact business, provided that such professional services are the same as the professional service rendered by the corporation;

c.         Are nonlicensed employees of a corporation rendering services of the type defined in Chapters 83A, 89A, 89C, and 89E of the General Statutes, provided that all such nonlicensed employees own no more than one-third of the total issued and outstanding shares of such corporation in the aggregate; or

d.         With respect to a professional corporation rendering services under Chapter 93 of the General Statutes, are persons who own not more than forty-nine percent (49%) of the stock in the professional corporation as long as:

1.         Individuals who meet the requirements of sub-subdivision a. or b. of this subdivision own and control voting stock that represents at least fifty-one percent (51%) of the votes entitled to be cast in the election of directors of the professional corporation; and

2.         All licensees who perform professional services on behalf of the corporation in this State comply with Chapter 93 of the General Statutes and the rules adopted thereunder.

(b1)      With respect to a professional corporation rendering services as defined in Chapters 83A, 89A, 89C, and 89E of the General Statutes, an employee retirement plan qualified under section 401 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or any successor section), is deemed for purposes of this section to be an individual licensee if at least one trustee of the plan is a licensee and all other trustees are licensees or are individuals who are licensed under the laws of a state in which the corporation maintains an office to perform at least one of the professional services, as defined in Chapter 83A, 89A, 89C, or 89E of the General Statutes, rendered by the corporation.

(c)        A foreign professional corporation with a valid certificate of authority has the same but no greater rights and privileges as, and is subject to the same duties, restrictions, penalties, and liabilities now or later imposed on, a domestic professional corporation of like character, except that the provisions of G.S. 55B-6 and G.S. 55B-7 do not apply. (1995, c. 351, s. 18; 1997-485, s. 23; 1999-440, s. 2.)