How to understand the difference between sole trader, partnership and LLP in 60 seconds

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 for work done.

Your business format is not set in stone forever and you can change between them. It is fairly simple for a sole trader to take on a partner and become a partnership and for a partnership to become a Limited Company. There are however more complications with changing from a Limited Company to a sole trader or partnership.

Partnership

A partnership is two or more people carrying on business together with a view to making profit.

The partners are all joint and severally liable for partnership debts, although this does not apply to personal tax bills based on partnership profits.

It is advisable to have a partnership agreement to document the agreement between the partners. However, the partnership is often between husband and wife and there is no agreement.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

LLP’s are treated like a normal partnership for tax purposes but have the protection of Limited Liability.

A LLP is a separate legal entity and can enter into contracts and deeds, sue and be sued. With normal partnerships every partner has to be party to certain documents and litigation.

Floating charges can be granted over its assets in its own name, which normal partnerships can’t do. As with Limited Companies, there is public availability of accounts.