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Starting A Business - Limited or Sole Trader?

Starting A Business - Limited or Sole Trader?

Choose from these popular options when starting a business...

1. Sole Trader - Most Flexible for One Person Starting a Business

It’s easy to inform HMRC you are starting a business as self-employed. You can withdraw money for personal use from your business bank account easily. If you decide you want to transfer the business to a limited company later, that’s quite easy.

You will be personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business. Tax is assessed on the net profit of the business whether or not you take it out of the business. In addition to tax on the business profits, you must pay National Insurance on some of your profits.

Depending on the business you’re in, clients may insist that they will only deal with limited companies. There may be a market perception that you don’t have the clout/professionalism of a limited company.

2. Business Partnership - Most Flexible for More than One Person

This is in effect a group of sole traders. You should draw up a partnership agreement before starting in business, agreeing on how profit is shared, whether you will pay interest on money lent to the business by partners and set up other rules for new partners and leaving partners. Again, it’s quite easy to transfer the business to a limited company.

Responsibility for debts and liabilities of the business are per the Partnership agreement or equally if there is no agreement. It’s really important to keep good relationships with fellow partners, as in a marriage. This could be an area of great difficulty if there are lots of disagreements. Tax and NI are assessed on your share of the partnership profits as for Sole Traders.

You’ll find the same drawbacks as for Sole Traders. You could also fall out with your fellow partners and that is where a well drawn up partnership agreement could protect all concerned.

3. Limited Company - No Personal Liability and - often - less Tax and NI to Pay

The company is a separate legal entity registered at Companies House and therefore responsible for its debts and taxes. You would be a shareholder and a director, and could take a salary and also dividends out of the profits. You could pay less NI and Tax by operating a limited company as opposed to a Sole Trader. There may be one or many shareholders. There can be more than one director. You should set up a shareholders agreement if you are setting up the company with other people.

You should not just take money for your own use from the company bank account without following some strict rules. If there are no profits available, any money taken from the bank account and given to a shareholder could be taxable later, so it is very important that you get good advice on how to withdraw money from the company.

Accounts and other paperwork must be filed at Companies House in a particular format. There are laws governing directors’ actions, and lots of other red tape. You may have particular business circumstances which would rule out the limited company option. It can be quite expensive/difficult to revert back to a sole trader from a limited company. Accountancy fees are more expensive as there is more for your accountant to do. Doing this work yourself could cost you a fortune in tax if you don’t understand all the rules.

So - what to do?

You should get advice from an accountant before setting up in business. Everyone’s circumstances are different and will influence what’s right for you. Call us if you would like us to help.

We specialise in small business tax and accountancy. If you need tax help and advice, call Frances on 01737 559211.