Different types of business structure in the UK

company laws

When starting a business in the UK, you will need to choose a business structure.

The most common types of business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations. Each type of business structure has its own advantages and disadvantages.

You will need to consider factors such as your business size, number of employees, and desired level of liability protection when choosing a business structure. This blog post will provide an overview of the different types of business structures in the UK so that you can make an informed decision about which type is right for your business.

Sole trader

A sole trader or business owner is an individual person who operates a business as the proprietor and makes all of their own decisions. Sole traders receive all business profits, but they are also personally responsible for any losses or debts incurred by the business. As such, it is important to understand the legal implications that come with running a sole trader business. Legally, the individual is solely liable for all operations of the entity, including accounting, financial management and recordkeeping responsibilities.

Additionally, obligations to pay taxes for both the business and yourself falls solely on the proprietor. Because these duties and rights are intertwined it is critical for a sole trader to have a clear understanding of their legal standing when running the business in order to stay compliant and protect personal assets from liabilities. Ultimately, being aware of tax requirements, debt obligations and legal responsibilities can help ensure your sole trader endeavour runs smoothly. ​​​​


Partnership is a legal relationship between two or more people or organizations that have committed to working together towards a common goal. The parties involved can benefit from their collective knowledge, resources, and skills for mutual gain.

Partnerships can range from various combinations of individuals or organizations, such as partners in business, members of non-profits, investors in real estate ventures, and much more. These agreements require extensive planning and an honest understanding of the roles each partner is willing to take on. This includes determining how profits will be shared, establishing any liabilities each partner will face in the agreement, and how disputes should be resolved if they arise. In order to create an effective partnership with lasting value, all parties need to be on the same page about their expectations and responsibilities. By doing this carefully and deliberately it can lead to successful partnerships that provide benefits for everyone involved for years to come.

Limited company

A limited company is a type of business structure where liability for the debts of the business is limited to the amount of capital invested. It is treated as a separate legal entity, meaning that it can act independently, enter into contracts, employ workers and own property in its own name.

Typically investors in this kind of company have limited liability, meaning they are only liable for any outstanding debts if they have personally guaranteed them. This means that the shareholders are not held responsible for any deficit in the company’s accounts. Furthermore, any profit within a limited company is taxed according to corporation tax rates applicable at the time, which means paying less tax than those applicable to income earners under the upper-rate income tax bracket.

Whilst there are various responsibilities and restrictions associated with owning a limited company – from VAT registration and filing an annual return to submitting statutory accounts – understanding them can help make sure you get your business off on the right foot.

Charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)

Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) are legal entities with their own legal personality. These organisations are established under the Charities Act 2011 and provide an incorporated form of charitable status that offers the same protection from personal liability as a limited company, but with much less complex registration requirements.

CIOs can hold assets and enter into contracts in their own name, meaning they remain unaffected by changes in trustees and other personnel associated with running the organisation. A CIO will also have a number of regulatory requirements to adhere to, such as filing annual accounts and reports with the Charity Commission.

As such, it is an attractive option for charities who wish to benefit from the convenience of an incorporated body while still preserving its independence and maintaining charity law compliance. An additional benefit is that many grant-making bodies prefer to work with CIOs due to their lower risk profile. So if you are looking for a robust yet flexible structure for your charity, consider forming a charitable incorporated organisation as your ideal solution to meet your organisational needs today!

Community interest company (CIC)

A community interest company (CIC) is an organization set up to benefit the local community. It is regulated by The CIC Regulator – which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – as well as Companies House and the Registrar of Companies.

To become a CIC, a company must meet certain criteria, including having a ‘community purpose’ that any profits generated are reinvested in improving the object of the organisation or shared back to members of the public or organisations in accordance with approved distributions. Member’s capital must also come from widely-held shares and not form any one individual.

This means that while they hold some ownership rights, they do not gain commercial benefits from the activities of a CIC. Such companies are free to undertake commercial activities, however any profits should be used to support their main mission and benefit communities local them rather than going into shareholders’ pockets.

This is why CICs are becoming increasingly popular amongst local businesses looking to combine profit-making with making positive social gains for their local area. By hitting both these objectives, they can be a viable option both financially and socially beneficial solution in many areas. It is also worth noting that any CIC registered in England or Wales may apply for charitable status after five years; meaning access to extra funding opportunities as well as enhanced public trust over time. With all this taken into consideration, it’s clear to see why there have been so many organisations setting up as CICs in recent years.                            

Ultimately, if you’re determined to use business for good and help your local community, setting up an organisation as a Community Interest Company could prove rewarding on all levels.

Cooperative society

A cooperative society is a type of legal entity that acts as a business owned and operated by its members. This model differs from a traditional corporation in both its purpose and organizational structure. Cooperatives are formed to provide economic benefit to their members, often through the pooling of resources, whereas corporations typically prioritize returns for their shareholders. Cooperatives also generally feature democratic management structures that govern based on the one-member, one-vote rule, while many businesses are owned exclusively by those in control of the company. Rather than pursuing profits, cooperative societies focus on providing mutual benefits to their members through products and services such as housing, banking or insurance cooperatives. Although operating a cooperative is more complex than running other types of businesses, it can be an effective way for a group of people to help each other achieve their goals.

If you’re starting a business, you’ll need to choose the right structure for your company. There are several different types of business structures available in the UK, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common types of businesses are sole traders, partnerships, limited companies, and charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs). You should consider all of your options carefully before deciding on the best type of organisation for your needs.

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