Ask an accountant: Sole Trader vs Limited Company

August 20, 2018

 

Now that you're going ahead with your amazing and exciting new business, you do need to decide what type of business it should be.  There are quite a few different types – but most suitable for a new or a small business is Sole Trader or perhaps Limited.  There are also Partnerships: they're kind of like having 2 sole traders bound by a legal agreement drawn up by a solicitor.  I won’t go into Partnerships here but do let me know if you would like more info on them.

 

 

Sole Trader

 

Pros

 

  • Really straightforward

  • Minimum record keeping

  • Easy to set up as you don’t need solicitors or accountants if you don’t want them

  • Smaller penalties than Limited for getting paperwork wrong

  • Can easily take money out of the business for your own use.

  • Can 'get away' with using a personal bank account if you want to. (there's no legal requirement to ever have a 'business bank account' product to be honest)

 

 

Cons

 

  • Business not separated from your personal finances – your personal assets (including your home if you are a homeowner) could be at risk if the business fails

  • Raising finance can be difficult as many banks are reluctant to fund a sole trader

  • Anyone can have a business the same name as your business.

 

 

 

Limited Company

 

Pros

 

  • Owners (shareholders) are have limited liability if the business fails and so their assets are largely protected.

  • Looks 'more professional' with Ltd at the end of the company name.

  • Some business customers have a policy of only trading with Ltd companies (i.e. not sole traders)

  • No other limited company can be called the same name as your limited company or, to some extent, anything that even looks/sounds like yours.

  • You can sell shares to family, employees or other businesses and acquaintances to raise funds for the business (you cannot float on the stock market)

  • Generally more tax-efficient than a sole trader once you get to the £20K / £30K earnings mark.  

 

 

Cons

 

  • More difficult to set up

  • Year-end reporting more labour intensive so more likely to need an accountant

  • Company profit has to be shown on Companies House – some do not like this transparency

  • More record keeping

  • Pay corporation tax on profits

  • Pay income tax on salary (as you will legally be an employee as well as the owner)

  • Must register with and report annually to Companies House & pay their annual fees.

  • Greater penalties than sole trader if you get your paperwork wrong

  • Can't just withdraw money from the business without formally recording it as a salary, dividend or loan

  • Banks probably won’t let you have a personal bank account with 'Limited' in the name – they will all but force you to have a business bank account product. 

 

 

 

 

 

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