What Is a Sole Proprietorship?

What Is a Sole Proprietorship explained by professional Forex trading experts the “ForexSQ” FX trading team. 

What Is a Sole Proprietorship?

Definition:

A sole proprietorship is a unincorporated business owned by one individual, making it the simplest form of business to start and operate. There are over 20 million sole proprietorships operating in the United States and Canada, making it by far the most popular form of business ownership.

The key feature of the sole proprietorship definition is that unlike an incorporated business or a partnership there is no legal separation between the business and the owner in a sole proprietorship – the business is considered to be an extension of the owner and as such the owner is personally responsible for any debts or liabilities incurred by the business.

Advantages of a Sole Proprietorship

  • A sole proprietorship is the easiest form of business to set up. If you operate your business under your own name, with no additions, you don’t even need to register your business name to start operating as a sole proprietor. This makes the sole proprietorship ideal for the business startups, self-employed contractors, and part-time and home-based businesses.
  • As a sole proprietor you own 100% of the business and get to make all the decisions. Unlike corporations, sole proprietors are not required to hold shareholder’s meetings or take votes on management issues.
  • Sole proprietorships are much simpler to operate from a tax and accountingperspective. As a sole proprietor you do not need to file a separate business tax return – all income generated from the business is reported on the personal tax form. See Reporting Business Income or Loss on Form 1040 for how to report income from a sole proprietorship in the U.S., or How to Complete Your T1 Income Tax Form for Canadian sole proprietors.
  • As with other forms of business, as a sole proprietor your expenses related to the cost of doing business are fully deductible from income tax, as are travel expenses, automobile expenses, advertising, and a portion of your home expenses if you are operating a home-based business.
  • Business losses can be deducted against other forms of income or carried forward or backward, so a sole proprietorship that loses money in the early years can deduct the losses against personal income, making it ideal for those wishing to transition from employee to self-employed over a period of time.

Disadvantages of a Sole Proprietorship

  • As mentioned above, with a sole proprietorship there is no legal separation between you and the business. This means that as a sole proprietor if the business fails and incurs debts or if you are sued for damages caused by accident or negligence in the course of your business activities, your personal assets (including your home and any other assets registered in your name) could be seized to discharge the liabilities. With an incorporated business or partnership the personal assets of the owner(s) are separate from the assets of the business and as such are protected from seizure for debt obligations or liability. As with all forms of business, having sufficient business insurance is very important.
  • While tax simplicity can be an advantage for sole proprietorships, it can also be a disadvantage in terms of flexibility, as all business income must be reported as regular income in the year in which it was earned. Incorporated companies have much more flexibility in terms of how and when the owners are paid. (See Salary or Dividends – How Do I Pay Myself?)
  • Some businesses, government agencies, consulting groups, etc. will not deal with unincorporated businesses, either because they view a sole proprietorship as not having the same level of legitimacy and professionalism as an incorporated business, or that hiring a sole proprietor increases the risk of the tax authorities treating the person as an employee rather than an independent contractor.
  • Raising capital is more difficult for sole proprietorships – incorporated companies can raise equity financing from angel investors or venture capitalists by selling shares in the business.
  • Sole proprietorships can be difficult to sell as the business is completely tied to the owner. Since there is no distinction between the assets of the owner and the assets of the business proper valuation of the business can be hard to achieve. Death or long term illness of the owner can render the business worthless. Customer loyalty resides with the original owner of the business and may not readily transfer to a new owner.

A Good Starting Point?

It should be noted that you don’t have to keep the same form of business ownership for the life of a business. Many small businesses start out as sole proprietorships, for example, and then become corporations later on (see Incorporating a business in the U.S. or How to Incorporate in Canada).

Examples: The sole proprietorship is the most common form of business in Canada and the United States.

See also:

Choosing a Form of Business Ownership

Should You Incorporate Your Small Business?

Thinking of Starting a Small Business?

Top 10 Tips for Starting a Business

What Is a Sole Proprietorship Conclusion

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