Get Unlimited Access to GCSE Tutor Videos & Online Revision Here for £19.99: http://www.revisionapp.co.uk/product/online-gcse-revision. The legal structure a business chooses is fundamental to the way it operates. This legal framework determines who shares in the profits and losses, how tax is paid, where legal liabilities rests. It also determines the nature of a business' relationships with business associates, investors, creditors and employees.
There are three options for a business' legal structure:
Firstly, sole traders. These are individuals who run an unincorporated business on his or her own. Sometimes otherwise known as a "sole proprietor" or (in the case of professional services) a"sole practitioner". Examples of these are mobile hairdressers, plumbers, market traders etc.
Sole traders are legally allowed to have paid staff but have full responsibility in financing them from their own pockets. This may be from loans or savings. However, they'll always have full control of the business and take all the profits!
One of the benefits of being a sole trader is that it's the most straight-forward option. Individuals are taxed under the Inland Revenue's Self-Assessment system, with income tax calculated after deduction for business expenses and personal allowances. One of the disadvantages of being a sole trader is that they face unlimited liability for their debts. There is no legal difference between the business and the owner. If the businesses is in trouble, so is the owner!
An alternative option is to incorporate a company. This will give the business a separate legal identity from the owners. Profits and losses are the company's and it has its own debts and obligations.
Unlike sole trading, the company continues despite the resignation, death or bankruptcy of management or shareholders. An incorporated company also offers the best vehicle for expansion and the potential for investment from outside sources.
The two main types of companies are private limited companies and public limited companies. Private limited companies are often small, family run businesses which are owned by shareholders. Every shareholder must have involvement in the business and none of the shares are allowed to be sold to the public. Public limited companies (also known as PLCs) are a much larger type of joint-stock company. They can sell its shares on the Stock Exchange to the public and can raise a lot more finance.
The third structure is a partnership. A partnership is an association of individuals and generally there will be between 2 and 20 partners. Common examples of a partnership include doctor's surgeries, veterinarians and solicitors. Unlike an incorporated company a partnership does not have a "legal personality" of its own. This means that each partner is responsible for the debts of the partnership. Normally, partners share the profits equally. Therefore the operation of a partnership is usually governed by a "Partnership Agreement" which details the responsibilities and rights of each partner. It is really important that if you enter a partnership, you pick the right people!