Forest Software

Web, SEO and IT & Business Advice for the Smaller Business

What Business Structure Shall I Use?

Having made the decision to be your own boss, it is important to decide which is the best legal and taxation structure for your new business. The most suitable structure for you will depend on your personal situation and your future plans. The decision you make will have repercussions on the way you are taxed, your exposure to creditors and other matters.

The possible, main, options you have are shown below.

Sole Trader

This is the simplest and cheapest way of trading. There are only a few formalities to trading in this way, the most important of which is informing the Inland Revenue (and Customs and Excise for VAT purposes if your turnover exceeds the current limit). You must prepare accounts each year and they will form the basis of how you pay your tax and national insurance. Any profits generated as a sole trader are automatically yours. The business of a sole trader is not distinguished from the proprietor's personal affairs so that if you incur any business debts, you are legally liable to pay those debts right down to your last brass farthing !


A partnership is an extension of being a sole trader. Here, a group of two or more people will come together, pool their talents, clients and business contacts so that, together, they can build a more successful business than they would individually. The partners will agree to share the joint profits in a pre-determined percentage, normally based on the amount of money put into the partnership or the amount of work each partner does. It is advisable to draw up a Partnership Agreement which sets the rules of how the partners will work together. Partners are taxed in the same way as sole traders, but only on their own share of the partnership profits. There is no restriction on your exposure to business creditors. Indeed, you are 'jointly and severally' liable for the partnership debts, so that if certain partners are unable to pay their share of the partnership debts then those debts can fall on the other partners.

Limited Company

A limited company is a separate legal entity from its owners and is registered at Companies House. It can trade, own assets and incur liabilities in its own right. Your ownership of the company is recognised by owning shares in that company. If you also work for the company, you are both the owner and an employee of that company. When a company generates profits, they are the company's property. Should you wish to extract money from the company, you must either pay yourself a dividend, as an shareholder, or a salary, as an employee. The advantage to you is that you can have a balance of these two to minimise your overall tax and national insurance liability. Companies themselves pay corporation tax on their profits after paying your salary but before your dividend distribution and also pay employers National Insurance on any salary paid to you. Effective tax planning requires profits, salary and dividends to be considered together and you should talk to an accountant about this.

Limited companies also have to prepare annual accounts, tax returns and returns to Companies House, although your accountant may well do much of this work for you for a fee.

There are many advantages as well as disadvantages to operating through a limited company and before forming a limited company you should talk to an accountant about these, and the suitability of using a limited company.

New companies can be purchased relatively cheaply, in a ready-made form usually referred to as 'off the shelf' companies. There are additional administrative factors in running a company, such as statutory accounts preparation, company secretarial obligations and PAYE (Pay as You Earn) procedures. A big advantage of owning a limited company is that your personal liability is limited to the nominal share capital you have invested.

Limited Liability Partnership

A limited liability partnership is legally similar to a company. It is administered like a company in all aspects except its taxation. In this, it is treated like a partnership. Therefore you have the limited liability, administrative and statutory obligations of a company but not the taxation and national insurance flexibility. They are particularly suitable for medium and large-sized partnerships.

NB: Please note that this material is published for the information of our visitors. No action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation and/or seeking professional advice. We do not give professional advice on business startups and therefore can not accept any responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the above material.

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