The Basics of Business Structure
Posted by Michael Spadaccini | March 9, 2009
This article is excerpted from Business Structures, by Michael Spadaccini, available from EntrepreneurPress.
The most common forms of business enterprises in use in the United States are the sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Each form has advantages and disadvantages in complexity, ease of setup, cost, liability protection, periodic reporting requirements, operating complexity, and taxation. Also, some business forms have subclasses, such as the C corporation, S corporation, and professional corporation. Choosing the right business form requires a delicate balancing of competing Sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and corporations--learn the differences and which one fits your company best. considerations. Learn how to select, plan, and organize the business form that is a perfect fit for you.
The Sole Proprietorship
The sole proprietorship is the simplest business form under which one can operate a business. The sole proprietorship is not a legal entity. It simply refers to a natural person who owns the business and is personally responsible for its debts. A sole proprietorship can operate under the name of its owner or it can do business under a fictitious name, such as Nancy's Nail Salon. The fictitious name is simply a trade name--it does not Sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and corporations--learn the differences and which one fits your company best. create a legal entity separate from the sole proprietor owner.
The sole proprietorship is a popular business form due to its simplicity, ease of setup, and nominal cost. A sole proprietor need only register his or her name and secure local licenses, and the sole proprietorship is ready for business. A distinct disadvantage, however, is that the owner of a sole proprietorship remains personally liable for all the business's debts. So, if a sole proprietor business runs into financial trouble, creditors can bring lawsuits against the business owner. If such suits are successful, the owner will have Sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and corporations--learn the differences and which one fits your company best. to pay the business debts with his or her own money.
The owner of a sole proprietorship typically signs contracts in his or her own name, because the sole proprietorship has no separate identity under the law. The sole proprietor owner will typically have customers write checks in the owner's name, even if the business uses a fictitious name. Sole proprietorships can bring lawsuits (and can be sued) using the name of the sole proprietor owner. Many businesses begin as sole proprietorships and graduate to more complex business forms as the business develops.