A Guide: What Is a Master Limited Partnership (MLP)?

Jul 20, 2022 By Susan Kelly


A partnership agreement, often a private investment entity, is how an MLP is set up. But it is traded every day on open stock markets. Investors purchase MLP shares as units on a local securities exchange. Investors are always free to check the value of their units and sell them.

What is a Master Limited Partnership (MLP)? To encourage capital in some capital-intensive businesses, MLPs were developed, giving investors the opportunity for higher returns and broader diversity than simply a single company. MLPs have some potential for development and profit. Still, their main claim to fame is their ability to generate sizable income through distributions, which are monthly payouts. These payments are typically made quarterly.

Workings Of Master Limited Partnerships

In an MLP organisation, common shareholders and limited partners make up most of the partners. In exchange for a tiny ownership position, general partners (GPs) run the MLP's daily operations while retaining board and management authority. The term "limited partners" or "unitholders" refers to regular outside investors. They don't participate in management decisions but contribute money to the MLP's purchases.

MLPs are renowned for their consistent revenue streams and substantial profits. The yields of several individual MLPs are greater than 10%. How are they so tall? Due to the requirement that MLPs contribute 90% of their revenue to shareholders. They cannot invest as much money as they like in the business or spend as much on expansion as conventional corporations may. These returns take the shape of gains from selling the investment properties or income produced by them.

The Benefit Of A Master Limited Partnership For Tax Exemption

The limited partnership's tax benefits, in which the companies are free from paying corporate tax on their earnings, are also available to master limited partnerships. However, the unitholders produce the tax on the profits from their respective partnerships.

Therefore, unlike corporations, these enterprises are not subject to corporate tax on their income or personal tax on the profit from their holdings paid by the shareholders. This suggests that a master partnership agreement produces greater yields than a regular stock because the tax exemption allows more funds to distribute to unitholders.


Because master limited partnerships would not pay federal income taxes, the U.S. government has implemented regulations to reduce the loss of corporate tax income. Therefore, a master limited partnership must derive 90 percent or more of its revenue from sources that qualify to benefit from the tax advantages.

Qualified income includes earnings from property investment, exploration, the transportation of natural resources, and the processing of goods. As a result, a corporation can only generate no more than 10% of its revenue from sources like raw materials and commodities. The criterion restricts the industries in which master limited partnerships are permitted to operate.

The Advantages Of Purchasing MLPs

Dealing in master limited partnerships has benefits and drawbacks, just like any other investment. Among the benefits:

  • large yields
  • Returns from MLPs are above average.
  • Reliable results
  • MLPs are fairly reliable investments because they operate in sectors with consistent returns.
  • Liquidity/transparency
  • Comparatively speaking, the prices of MLPs are more accessible than those of a standard private, limited partnership, and their units can be easily traded on a public exchange.

The Problems With MLPs

MLP disadvantages include:

Unexpected Tax Repercussions

Your distributions may be considered taxable income if you store your stock in a tax-deferred financial account, such as an IRA, necessitating the payment of annual taxes on unrelated company profits (UBI).

Failing To Diversify

These funds don't provide a diversified investment because they are restricted to select specific industries—the majority of contemporary MLPs concentrate on fossil fuel companies. They are a somewhat relevant industry play, to put it another way.

Low Potential For Growth

MLPs disperse most of their income to investors, so there isn't much left for expansion or reinvestment. MLPs risk needing to incur more debt to pay for operations or cover expenses if they are not adequately managed.

Complex Tax Returns

MLPs submit a particular tax form known as a K-1 to record their payouts. These are infamous for being provided to investors late and might be challenging to understand. All of this makes filing your tax return more difficult.


Master limited partnerships have some tax advantages due to their particular structure, which enables them to report exceptionally large yields. Additionally, they are more open and liquid than conventional partnerships. But not everyone should use this novel investing structure. Researching the MLP itself should be your first step if you consider taking this path.

To guarantee that the MLP has stable cash flow, you should consider how it raises money. However, it would help if you also thought about the MLP's financial position about its dividends. The IRS could revoke the MLP's classification if it fails to comply with the requirement to distribute 90% of its profits. The partnership and its unitholders may potentially be hit with significant tax liabilities.

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