The Differenent Business Structures in the UK

If you are starting a new business venture in the UK, one of the critical decisions you’ll need to make is selecting the appropriate business structure.

Your chosen structure will have significant implications for your legal and financial responsibilities, tax obligations, and the overall growth potential of your business. A survey carried out by Go Self Employed showed business structure type was the most confusing topic for people starting a new business.

In this article, we will discuss the four main types of business structures in the UK: Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company, and Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), along with the pros and cons of each – hopefully making things clearer for people starting out.

Sole Trader

A sole trader is the simplest business structure, often favoured by small businesses and self-employed individuals. As a sole trader, you are the sole owner of the business and personally responsible for its debts and liabilities.


  • Easy to set up and operate, with minimal paperwork and administrative requirements.
  • Complete control over your business, allowing for quick decision-making.
  • The ability to keep all profits after tax.


  • Unlimited liability for business debts and obligations, potentially putting your personal assets at risk.
  • Limited access to funding and investment opportunities.
  • Potential difficulty in separating personal and business finances.


A partnership is a business structure where two or more individuals come together to form a business. Partners share the profits, losses, and responsibilities of the business.


  • Shared responsibility, which can lead to a more diverse skill set and improved decision-making.
  • Greater access to funding and resources compared to a sole trader.
  • The potential for increased motivation and commitment due to shared goals and a sense of camaraderie.


  • Unlimited liability for all partners, meaning each partner is responsible for the business’s debts and liabilities.
  • Potential conflicts and disagreements between partners can hinder decision-making.
  • The need for a partnership agreement to define roles, responsibilities, and profit sharing, which can involve legal costs.

Limited Company

A limited company is a separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) and has its own rights and responsibilities. The company’s finances are separate from the personal finances of the owners, and the liability of shareholders is limited to the value of their shares.


  • Limited liability for shareholders, reducing personal financial risk.
  • Improved access to funding and investment opportunities.
  • A professional image, which can enhance credibility and customer confidence.


  • Increased administrative requirements and paperwork, such as the need to file annual accounts with Companies House.
  • More complex tax and legal obligations, which may require professional advice.
  • Potential conflicts of interest between shareholders and directors.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

An LLP combines elements of a partnership and a limited company. It is a separate legal entity, and the partners have limited liability for the business’s debts.


  • Limited liability for partners, providing protection for personal assets.
  • Flexibility in profit distribution and decision-making, similar to a traditional partnership.
  • A professional image, similar to a limited company.


  • More stringent reporting requirements compared to a traditional partnership.
  • The need for a formal LLP agreement, which can involve legal costs.
  • A potentially higher tax burden, as partners are taxed as self-employed individuals.


Choosing the right business structure for your UK business is crucial for its success and growth. By understanding the pros and cons of each structure, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals, risk tolerance, and financial requirements.

It is always advisable to consult with a legal or financial professional when making such decisions to ensure you have considered all the relevant factors.