Business 101

Whether you have invented the greatest thing since the Post-It Note, have a booming dog-walking business, or believe that "working for yourself' is the way of the future, here are three of the most common business structures you should consider:

The Sole Proprietor

Register a business name, and begin doing business!

A sole proprietorship is an inexpensive and fast way to get your business running. You and the business are treated as the same person for legal and tax liability purposes, and as such, the sole proprietor should be wary of personal liability. Any person or entity who is owed a debt by the business can initiate a claim against you personally to recover that debt. Your house, car, or personal savings may be at risk.

A sole proprietorship is not particularly suited for long-term growth, but its not difficult to sell your business or incorporate it, once you are ready to expand.

A Corporation

The Corporation is a separate "legal person" that has many of the same rights and responsibilities as an actual person. It can enter into contracts, borrow money, sue and be sued, pay taxes etc. A Corporation is owned by its shareholders, and run by its directors and officers, thus having the effect of insulating the actions of shareholders, directors and officers in the event of a lawsuit (subject to certain exceptions).

A corporate tax rate is much lower than the individual tax rate. An accountant can work with your lawyer to set the business up in a way that minimizes your business and personal tax costs.

The Partnership

A partnership is an agreement, typically in writing, between two or more people (or even a corporation) to carry on business together. No separate legal person is created so creditors can still look to each partner's personal assets to satisfy debts owed by the partnership, subject to the written or legal relationship between the partners. Partnership income is paid out to the partners, and you're each taxed at your individual rate.

This article is not to be construed as legal advice. You are encouraged to consult a professional.