Sole Trader or Limited Company?
When setting up a new business it is important to choose the correct structure. Two of the most common structures used are Limited Companies and Sole Traders. Although registering yourself as a Sole Trader is easier than setting up a Limited Company, it doesn’t have the limited liability benefits that come with a Limited Company.
As a Sole Trader, you are personally responsible for all liabilities the business has. Being personally responsible, your personal assets could be used/sold to cover unpaid business debt. Although a Limited Company is more difficult to set up in the beginning, your personal finances are protected. The Limited Company is a legal entity in itself, as a result, it is sperate from you personally.
Many people choose to register as a Sole Trader initially, then change to a Limited Company setup later. Although this can seem like an easier route in the beginning, it can lead to the individual paying a higher tax rate over time.
Benefits of setting up a Limited Company
Tax: Limited Companies are subject to an Irish Corporation Tax (CT) rate of 12.5% on its profits. This is very favourable when you compare it to the tax rates associated with being a Sole Trader; Personal income tax is 20% on the first € 34,550 (individuals without dependent children) / € 38,550 (single or widowed persons qualifying for the One-Parent Family tax credit) / €43,550 (married couples) and 40% on the remainder of earnings. When you add PRSI at 4% and USC of up to 11%, it can result in a tax rate of 52% for Sole Traders.
Limited liability: Should a Limited Company incur debts, the personal assets of its directors and shareholders are protected, and it is only in exceptional circumstances, where directors/shareholders have signed personal guarantees or have been trading recklessly, that they may be seized.
Grants and Funding: In Ireland, Limited Companies have more incentives, grants and funding than those available to Sole Traders. One such example being the 3 year tax exemption for Startup Companies.
Company name: When you set up a Limited Company in Ireland no other company is allowed to use the same name that you have registered for your Limited Company. This gives your brand identity valuable protection.
Tax Relief: Limited Companies in Ireland have better personal tax benefits than Sole Traders. One example of this are private pensions. As a director of a Limited Company in Ireland, company directors can put company profits into their private pensions practically tax-free.
Disadvantages of a Limited Company
Setup: Setting up a Limited Company in Ireland is more complicated than registering as a Sole Trader.
Compliance: Keeping a Limited Company compliant with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) requires extra activities that you would not encounter as a Sole Trader. Limited Companies are also required to have a Company Secretary and submit annual returns, where a Sole Trader does not.
Privacy: As a director of a Limited Company in Ireland, your personal details are available to the public via your published accounts in the Companies Registration Office. This can include your date of birth, home address, as well as information about your Limited Company.
Benefits of registering as a Sole Trader
Setup: Registering as a Sole Trader is a simple and straight-forward process.
Compliance: The compliance involved for a Sole Trader is minimal compared to that of a Limited Company. As a Sole Trader you are not required to file annual returns with the CRO, and your accounts are not subject to audits.
Disadvantages of registering as a Sole Trader
Liability: As a Sole Trader you are personally responsible for all business debts. In the event of a claim against your business your personal assets (home) could be at risk.
Bookkeeping: Sole Traders need to maintain their books and records diligently. They are required to file tax returns, as well as pay VAT.
Tax: As highlighted previously, a Sole Trader’s Personal income tax is 20% on the first € 34,550 (individuals without dependent children) / € 38,550 (single or widowed persons qualifying for the One-Parent Family tax credit) / €43,550 (married couples) and 40% on the remainder of earnings. When you add PRSI at 4% and USC of up to 11%, it can result in a tax rate of 52% for Sole Traders.
Social Welfare Assistance: In the event that your business fails as a Sole Trader, it is much more difficult to get social welfare assistance having not been a PAYE employee.
The type of structure you choose for your business can depend a lot on your circumstances.
If you would like to know more about which structure would suit you best you can contact us using the form below: