Company Formations

Company Formations

When starting your own business, company formation is one of the most important things to consider: i.e. how the company is going to be legally structured.

You can either:

Self employment can be set up as a sole trader or a partnership with one or more other people. If you form a Limited Company, you are not technically classed as self-employed: you become an employee of your own company.

Sole Trader

Becoming a Sole Trader is the simplest business formation to run and set up. It is easier to set up the records and accounts. You are responsible for making any decisions. You will also be responsible for any debts which the business occurs. This means that your own personal assets including your home may be at risk if the business runs up debts.

As a sole trader you have to complete an annual self assessment and keep records of your business income and expenditure. Profits on a sole trader are taxed as income. You will be required to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions and also Class 4 contributions on any profits the business makes.

If you are self employed then you must register as self employed with HM Revenue and Customs.


A partnership is where two or more people set up a business. Each partner of the company needs to register as self employed. It is also a good idea to get a written agreement drawn up with a solicitor. The partnership is responsible for any debts incurred

The partnership and each partner must make self assessment returns and keep records of the businesses income and expenditure. Each partner takes a share of the profits and will be required to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions and also Class 4 on any share of the profits.

In a partnership, you are responsible for any debt run up by the business. If the business gets into trouble, each partner is liable for the debt in the business. If one partner cannot pay, the other partners are legally responsible for making up the shortfall.

Limited Liability Partnership

A Limited Liability Partnership is formed when two or more partners set up a business. A partner can either be an individual or a company. In an ordinary partnership you share the risks and profits. In a Limited Liability Partnership the risks are restricted to the amount of money invested and to any personal guarantees used to raise finance. A written agreement should be drawn up with a solicitor.

Limited Liability Partnerships must be registered with Companies House and file annual accounts, for which a fee is payable. The LLP and each individual must make self assessment returns.

Each partner takes equal shares of the profits, unless the written agreement states otherwise. If the partner is a company, then the company pays Tax and NI according to their business structure. An individual will pay income tax and NI, and a Limited Company will have to pay corporation tax.

Limited Liability Company

Limited Companies exist in their own right, so the company's finances are distinct from the personal finance of the owners. The shareholders can be either individuals or other companies. Limited Companies must be registered with Companies House and have at least one Director and a Company Secretary. Money is raised by shareholders, borrowing and retained profits.

There are two main types of Limited liability companies:

In both instances, accounts must be filed with Companies House and also an annual return completed. Profits are paid out to shareholders by dividends. Companies pay corporation tax. Company directors must pay Class 1 National insurance and tax on their salaries.

There are companies who can do the complete process of company formation for you. This normally will only take a couple of days to complete.

If you are unsure of the best company formation then request some help from either your local tax office or Business Link.

Return from Company Formation to Starting a small Business page

Related Links

Bookkeeping Basics
Bookkeeping basics is at the centre of all your business accounting reports. Without bookkeeping you will not be able to keep control of your company finances.

Starting a Small Business
If you're starting a new business and you want some advice about where to start, our section on Starting a New Business will tell you everything you need to know in order to get your business on its feet and running!

Small Business Advice
If you are already running a business and want help with day-to-day issues like accounts, bookkeeping, invoicing, chasing up late-paying customers, cash flow, insurance, health and safety or even marketing - you'll find our running a business section invaluable.

Free Guides
We've written a number of free accounting guides and free business guides to help you get on top of your accounts.

Lots More Free Stuff
If you want free help with marketing, or want business cards and promotional materials without spending a fortune, where do you go? There are hundreds of places to go to get all this and more. Here's our guide on what is available and where to get it.