Pros and Cons of Setting Up as a Sole Trader or Limited Company

When starting your own business, which structure should you choose – Sole Trader or Limited Company? or Partnership?

What are the differences between a sole trader and limited company?

“This is a key question for many of our clients,” says Accountant Online founder and CEO Larissa Feeney. “To put it simply, the benefit of starting out as a sole trader is that it is quicker and easier if you are doing it all yourself. But it may cost you in higher taxes and greater liabilities for claims against your business.”As a sole trader you will be personally liable for the debts of your business. In other words, your personal assets (such as your home) can be used to settle any financial issues your business is facing. This is a risk many people do not wish to take.

“On the other hand, there are a lot more steps and regulations involved in setting up a company in Ireland, unless you outsource some of this hard work. However, the benefit is that you will pay much lower rates of tax and may be better protected against liabilities.”

To make the sole trader vs limited company decision easier for you, Accountant Online has drawn up a summary of key points of differences, advantages and disadvantages for becoming a sole trader or limited company:

Pros And Cons Of Setting Up A Limited Company In Ireland

Pros Of Limited Company

pros and cons of starting up a business as a limited company
How do limited companies benefit?
  • The main benefit of a limited company is getting a corporate tax rate of 12.5% on profits.
  • This benefit compares very favourably to personal income tax rates of between 20 – 40% as well as PRSI @ 4% and USC of up to 11%
  • Personal tax benefits such as private pension are better. This allows company directors to put profits into their pensions virtually tax-free
  • You have the advantage of more credibility as a business. If you are seeking business from corporate or public sectors, they often insist that you operate as a limited company
  • Limited companies setting up in Ireland benefit from more startup grants and support e.g. the New Frontiers programme.
  • Protection of your company name; nobody else is permitted to use the same name as your limited company
  • Limited liability on claims against your business. Personal assets of directors or shareholders generally cannot be seized to pay off company debts. However, there are exceptions to this e.g. where directors are deemed to have been trading recklessly, or if directors have signed a personal guarantee. It would be normal for banks to ask for a personal guarantee for overdrafts/loans and some trade suppliers may also seek personal guarantees.

Cons Of Limited Company

  • Setting up a company has more steps involved.
  • There are significantly more ongoing statutory requirements in order to keep your business compliant.
  • The formal company secretarial requirements add to the cost of running your business and closing it down
  • A company officer or board member has far more legal responsibilities than a sole trader.
  • Disclosure of personal information and trading information; Once you are a director of a company, any member of the public can find out your date of birth, your home address and information about your business from your published accounts in the Companies Registration Office. However, if the registrar of Companies believes that your home address should remain confidential for any reason, we can arrange this application for you.
  • Even though you do pay less corporation tax as a limited company, you also must pay tax on the salary you pay yourself (if this is how you plan on taking money out of the business), so the benefits here really depend on how much money the business is generating and whether you want to take money out in dividends or salary.

Pros And Cons Of Being A Sole Trader/Partnership

pros and cons of starting up a business as a sole trader
What are the real advantages for sole traders?

Pros Of Sole Trader/Partnership

  • One big advantage of becoming a sole trader/partnership is that it’s the simplest way of setting up a business
  • Closing down the business is very simple
    You don’t need to file annual returns with the Companies Office (CRO)
  • Accounts are not subject to an audit
  • You can use your own name, or register a business name which Accountant Online can take care of for you

Cons Of Sole Trader/Partnership

  • You are personally liable for all debts; your personal assets are at risk if there is a claim against the business
  • You do still need to keep proper books and records and to file tax returns and pay VAT if applicable
  • Income tax is applicable on personal tax rates of between 20 – 40% as well as PRSI of 4% and USC of up to 11%
  • Loss of PAYE Credit: Employees currently have a PAYE credit of €1,650 versus a tax credit of €1,150 for the self-employed (Budget 2018) where applicable; and
  • If your business fails, it may be more difficult to obtain social welfare than if you are an employee who has been made redundant.

What is a Partnership?

Think of a Partnership as being like a Sole Trader, but there is more than one person. A Partnership has the same characteristics of being a sole trader, but it shares the risk between you and the other partners, which you may see as being of benefit. However, keep in mind that just as a sole trader bears all the risk and has no limited liability, a partnership means that each partner is liable in proportion to their share of the business’s gains and losses; however you are each individually liable for the full debt of the business. There is also an additional requirement to file a partnership tax return in addition to your individual form 11 tax returns.

Salary Difference – Sole Trader vs Limited Company

Larissa says that business start-ups often base their choice of business structure on issues such as how they wish to receive payment.  “For example, if you incorporate your company, then you are an employee with a salary.  If you are a sole trader, you describe any money you take from the company as ‘drawings’. These ‘drawings’ include what you pay yourself every week or month, plus personal expenses you take from the business, such as a business lunch”

“Some people start out as sole traders and then change their business structure later to set up a Limited Company. Talking through the options with one of our chartered accountants will help you choose the right option for your business,” she adds.

Sole trader faced with the tough decision to become a limited company
Should I set up a limited company? We offer support for those struggling to make the decision to become a sole trader or limited company. Image Shutterstock

Are Accounting Fees Higher For a Sole Trader or Limited Company?

Accounting fees are generally charged at the length of time it takes the accountant to finish all the work involved. The difference you should look for when choosing an accounting firm however, is to select one with a transparent fee structure. This way you can receive a reliable quote for costs.

Accounting Fees For Limited Companies

We offer limited companies our accounting services for €25 per month + VAT during the first 6 months of trading. After that time, our fees for limited companies vary depending on the complexity of your business and the size of your turnover.

For sales turnover of around €80,000 per year, for example, the cost is €55 + VAT per month. This includes all compliance requirements, Financial Statements, Tax Returns and Annual Returns.

sole trader to a limited company team

Sole Trader Accountant Fees

Accountancy services for sole traders may command a lower fee dependent on the type of turnover and business complexity. If you are just starting out, check out our list of small business packages or let us show you how to save money on accounting fees.

If you simply don’t have the time, skill or staff numbers to keep your accounts up to speed, bookkeeping or outsourcing this could be the best option. Accountant Online operates on a fixed fee basis so that you know how much to budget. We deduct a fee per month to help your cash-flow and to avoid a price shock at the end of the tax year.sole trader in a small startup business

Tax Advantages For Limited Companies

We often get asked the question, will I pay less tax if i’m a limited company? The disadvantage for a sole trader is that you are required to pay between 20 – 40% income tax on your business profits. In addition, you must add USC of up to 11% and PRSI of 4%.

Limited companies on the other hand, benefit, as they only pay corporation tax in Ireland at 12.5% on company profits. Furthermore, new limited companies may qualify for relief from corporation tax for the first 3 years of trading, depending on conditions.

Starting Up A Limited Company. What Are The Next Steps?

When setting up a company online, the next steps are:

  1. Documentation – Identify the documentation required to register an Irish limited company. In summary, you need details of all directors, along with their PPS numbers, addresses and birth dates.
  2. Choosing your company name  Pick a few names that you like. We will do a free company name check for you to make sure it is available.
  3. Where –  If you want to register a company; it must register an address in the Republic of Ireland. If you don’t have an office address and don’t wish to use your home address, Accountant Online can be your registered address for around €25 per month + VAT.
  4. Shares – how do you want to split the shares of the company? We usually advise that you issue 100 shares of 1 Euro in value and have authorised shares of 10,000. This just means that if you want to ‘issue’ shares later, you have lots available to issue. You can change this later at any time.
  5. Directors – you must have at least 1 director and 1 company secretary.  At least one director should be a resident of a Member state of the EEA. If none of the directors are resident in a Member state, a bond of €25,000 is required.

For more information, check out the company formation service guide. This will go through topics such as how much it costs to set up a company, choosing the best company formation service and what steps to take next.

Want To Register A Limited Company In Ireland?

2016 saw the number of new startups in Ireland exceed 20,000 for the first time in nearly two decades and 2017 is on track to be even higher.

Are you ready to turn your business idea into a real limited company and benefit from the advantages linked to it?

Our Company Formation Package Includes

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Company Constitution
  • Share Certificates
  • Schedule of Company Officers
  • Secure Digital Register
  • Corporation Tax Registration
  • First Annual Return
  • Lifetime guarantee of service regarding your new company formation
  • Exclusive startup discounts on workspace, web and logo design, printing services and office supplies.
  • One week formation

 

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Accountant Online is a firm of award winning Chartered Accountants serving Ireland and the UK. We understand how important it is for you to meet your compliance obligations, while minimizing your tax liability. We aim to save our clients money without compromising on the quality of our service.  Get in touch on 01 905 9364  or send an email to hello@accountantonline.ie. Find us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.