Sole Trader

This is the simplest form of business to start where you carry on business on your own account. You are liable to income tax and Class 4 National Insurance on your profits. You can employ people including your spouse, as long as they are paid only for the value of work actually performed.  Setting up as a sole trader is very simple and you would be liable to tax under the self assessment tax system.  However, if you have high taxable profits then looking at operating through a Ltd Company could save you some cash!

Limited Company

One of the main advantages of trading through a Ltd company is likely to be the tax savings.  For example, if you were to have taxable profits of £27,000 as a sole trader, you’d probably save £1,843 by incorporating.  If your taxable profits were £35,000 you’d probably save around £2,563 by incorporating.  If you take that up to taxable profits of £55,000 as a sole trader you’d save a massive £5,991 by incorporating.  These tax savings are achieved by taking a carefully calculated combination of salary and dividends from the company.
Below are some general details about being a Ltd company that you’ll need to know about too:

A limited company is a separate legal entity from its owners. These are the basic facts…

1.    The business is owned by the limited company, not you.
2.    The company must have at least one shareholder.
3.    It must also have at least one director. There is no longer a requirement for private companies to have a company secretary.
4.    The shareholders do not have to be directors. Directors are treated as employees of the company, but they do not have to draw a salary form the company.
5.    If you are the only shareholder, you will have sole ownership of the company, and are likely to also be the director who runs it.
6.    The company pays corporation tax on its profits.
7.    The company is governed by company law.

Main advantages of using a Limited Company…

1.    A Limited Company may appear more credible and substantial although in reality this is not necessarily the case.
2.    The liability of its shareholders is limited to the amount of the share capital issued and so offers protection to the shareholders’ personal assets. In the event of company failure and not being able to pay its creditors, your personal assets are protected. However, banks, landlords and others will often require personal guarantees from the shareholders or directors when dealing with small limited companies.
3.    A Limited Company may have better borrowing potential than an unincorporated business as it can use current assets as security by creating a floating charge over its assets.
4.    You can use shares to enable different people to hold different proportions of ownership of the business that they can pass onto the next generation.
5.    You can have different classes of shares with different rights, such as non-voting shares for someone who wants to invest some money into the company but doesn’t wish to take part in the management.
6.    Having a limited company can create significant tax advantages by having profits taxed at Corporation Tax rates which are a lot lower than the higher rates of personal tax. However when the funds are extract from the company extra tax or national insurance charges may arise.

Main disadvantages of using a Limited Company…

1.    Your annual accounts have to be filed at Companies House and are available for public inspection as is other information about the company.
2.    Directors are personally subject to regulations and can be fined or found guilty of a criminal offence for failing to comply.
3.    A company is more complicated to wind up.
4.    Generally involves higher accountancy fees as there is more paper work to deal with.
5.    Any losses made by the company cannot be used against the owner’s other income.

If you are trading through a Ltd company and taking dividends then it is important that you have regular management accounts to make sure that your dividends are legal!  Make sure that you take professional advice before deciding to incorporate.