Sole Trader vs Limited Company

Jordan Macey

April 21, 2021

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Registering a Limited Company Guide

  • What is a Limited Company
  • 10 step process for setting up a Limited Company
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Sole Trader vs Limited Company

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Key considerations when you register a Limited Company

As a freelancer, contractor, or small business, it is typical to start with the simple structure of operating as a Sole Trader.

While taxes and other administrative work may be relatively easy when you are a Sole Trader, as your volume of business goes up, there are more and more reasons to take on the task of becoming a Limited Company.

For instance:

  • A Limited Company protects your personal assets. If you are found liable in a lawsuit, only your business assets are at risk.
  • A Limited Company is usually more tax efficient than being a Sole Trader.
  • Once you have your name chosen as a Limited Company registered through Companies House, no one else can take your company name.

Luckily, running a Limited Company doesn't have to be exceedingly complex, though following a set plan will help to keep the complexity to a minimum.

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3 Ways to Register Your Company for Free

Registering a company is a one off cost of £12 and done through Companies House. However, there are a few different ways that you can get this fee waved with other business services that you need.

We'll walk you through how to register your company for free and the perks that you'll get with each.

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How to set up a Limited Company

When you set up a limited company, you'll enjoy many advantages you don't get as a sole trader. Not only is it a tax-efficient way to run your business, it's also a great way to limit your personal liability and increase your credibility with customers. Additionally, it could open new avenues of work that wouldn't be open to you if you were operating as a sole trader, especially some contractor roles.

One of the disadvantages of running a limited company is that it involves a lot of paperwork, but with the help of this guide, we'll clear away the jargon and tell you exactly what you need.

If you're unsure about whether a limited company is right for you, check out our handy article comparing the differences between Limited companies and Sole Traders to see which business entity is right for you.

If you've got more important things to do than dealing with extra admin, you can always take advantage of one of our accountancy packages and we'll do all the forms and applications for you.

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Deciding between Sole Trader vs Limited Company vs Umbrella

If you're planning to start out on your own, one of the most important decisions you'll need to make is figuring out how you should structure your business.

As a freelancer, contractor or small business owner, there are three main types of legal structures you should consider:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Limited company
  • Working through an umbrella company

It's a decision that requires careful consideration, and it's important that you seek advice from qualified professionals when you weigh out the pros and cons of each business structure. To begin with, you need to have a good grasp of the basics - and here's where our guide comes into the picture.

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What type of business structure is best for you?

If you're looking to the future with the hopes of beginning a journey running your own startup, chances are you're feeling some mixture of excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty when it comes to the finer details of your plan.

Starting your own business is an immensely fulfilling process and an excellent means to flex your creative muscles, but there's a lot of humdrum of business behind the process of turning a vision into a dream.

One of the most important (and one of the earliest) decisions in this process will centre around your business's formation. You'll have to select which type of business structure best suits your goals for the future.

While the choice may sound easy, you'll be well-served by giving the decision ample consideration. The business structure you select will have measurable implications on the way you make money and do business. It'll impact:

  • How much tax you pay
  • Your degree of personal liability should the business fail
  • How much administrative work is involved in the business (both before it comes to fruition and over the course of its life)
  • Your ability to finance and fund your efforts

If you make the wrong selection when it comes time to choose a business structure, you could be faced with a myriad of complications in the future.

Paying professionals for guidance and advice once things go wrong is costly and, for many, an embarrassing affair-performing research well in advance will ensure you're making the best choice for your company and that you can avoid losing out on money or pride later on.

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5 disadvantages of a limited company

What are the advantages of a private limited company?

In the UK, the majority of self-employed people operate as sole traders. While there are many advantages to being a sole trader, you could take home more money and give your business a professional edge by setting up as a limited company.

In this article, we'll look at the advantages of operating as a private limited company to see how it could benefit you. If you're interested in seeing whether a limited company could be a good option for your business, check out our Business Structure guide. If you're already operating as a sole trader, making the jump to a limited company is more straight forward than you think.

Advantage 1 ‚- You pay less tax and National Insurance Contributions

Who can turn their nose up at the prospect of increased take-home pay? Well, that's the principle benefit of setting up a limited company and one of the main factors that drive people to switch from a sole trader.

As a director of a limited company, the way you pay tax is different from how you pay as a sole trader. As a sole trader, you'll pay 20% or more on everything you earn over the tax threshold. As a limited company, you typically pay yourself a small salary so you incur as little personal tax as possible. The majority of your income will come in the form of dividends that are taxed at a much smaller rate, meaning you're able to maximise your take-home pay.

As well as the tax benefits, paying the majority of your income through dividends means that you're able to pay less National Insurance Contributions (NICs) as these do not apply to dividend payments.

Example - Here's a quick comparison of the difference in take-home pay for a sole trader and a limited company.

  1. Sole Trader
    Revenue: £40,000
    Expenses: £1000
    Tax at 20%: £5,300
    Class 2 NIC: £158.60
    Class 4 NIC: £2,655
    Take-home pay: £30,886.40


  2. Limited Company
    Revenue: £40,000
    Expenses: £1000
    Corporation tax: £5741.04
    Dividend tax at 7.5%: 1,406.92
    Take-home pay: £ 31,852.04

As you can see, you save £965.64 as a limited company. What's not to like?

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5 advantages of a limited company

The advantages of operating as a limited company are well known. It can be a great way to maximise your take-home pay, improve your credibility with customers and limit your personal liability. Like most things in life, it's a case of what's best for your situation. While the positives outweigh the negatives for most people, there are a few things you should know before you make the jump to a limited company.

In this article, we'll outline the disadvantages of operating as a private limited company. Bear in mind that there are many advantages to a limited company and in many cases, these advantages will outweigh the disadvantages, so don't think of this as a report of doom and gloom.

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What is a Limited Company?

Limited companies provide numerous benefits, from tax savings to limiting your liability.

But the first step is to understand what a limited company is exactly, and whether setting up such a company can help you achieve your goals. This article will clearly explain the pro's and con's so you can make an educated decision.

In a nutshell, a limited company is a private company that's a separate legal entity from its owner(s). For freelancers and contractors, a limited company is one of the three main business structures that you may use to run your business (the others being sole trader and umbrella companies).

In this article, we walk you through:

  • What a "separate legal entity" means
  • The different types of Limited Companies
  • The pros and cons of setting up a Limited Company
  • How to start a Limited Company
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How do I find my company number?

A company number (also known as a company registration number) is an eight-digit number that is assigned by Companies House to a company upon incorporation.

You can locate the number on your certificate of incorporation. The first digit of the company number is usually a zero, and is omitted in most instances. As such, your certificate of incorporation will show a seven-digit company number.

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How do I register a limited company?

There are a couple of ways to go about registering a limited company:

  • Register directly through Companies House
  • Go through a third party: An accountant or company formation service can help you process your application, significantly lessening your admin burden. Beyond the application, a good third-party service can also provide accounting advice, help you fulfil your filing obligations and assist with other admin tasks.

We've included further details in our guide on setting up a limited company.

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How do I register my business?

To register a business as a sole trader, you need to:

Once you've registered, you need to fulfil your responsibilities as a sole trader. These include:

  • Keeping records of your sales and expenses
  • Submitting a Self Assessment tax return each year
  • Paying income tax and National Insurance Contributions

To set up a limited company, you need to:

  • Decide what type of limited company you need
  • Choose a business name
  • Choose how to set up your limited company
  • Complete the company formation process
  • Open a business bank account
  • Inform your stakeholders
  • Get your VAT registration or transfer sorted out
  • Set up your payroll
  • Update your company details
  • Get your books sorted out

To set up a business partnership, you need to:

  • Choose a business name
  • Choose a ‚Äònominated partner'
  • Register with HMRC
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How do I restart a dormant business?

To restart a dormant business, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Tell HMRC that your business has restarted trading by registering for Corporation Tax again.
  2. Send accounts to Companies House within 9 months of your company's year end.
  3. Pay any Corporation Tax due within 9 months and 1 day of your company's year end.
  4. Send a Company Tax Return - including full statutory accounts - to HMRC within 12 months of your company's year end.
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How do I transfer/ change a company directors?

You can appoint a new director, terminate the appointment of a director or change the director's personal details online, or by downloading the relevant forms and submitting it to Companies House by post.

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How do I transfer/ change a company name?

You can change the name of your limited company through a third party (such as a company formation service), or directly with Companies House.

If you're opting for the latter, you need to complete form NM01. There is a £10 fee payable to Companies House to file the form.

If you're trading as a limited liability partnership, you need to file form LL NM01. A £10 fee applies.

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What are the advantages of a Limited Company?

The advantages to setting up a limited company are:

  • Owners aren't fully liable
  • Tax savings
  • Using a limited company structure lends credibility to your business
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What are the differences between Directors, Shareholders & Employees?

Directors

  • Directors have the responsibility of running and managing a Limited company;
  • Directors are responsible for ensuring all company accounts are filed with HMRC and Companies House;
  • Directors must have board meetings to decide on company activities ‚- including taking a dividend.

Shareholders

  • Shareholders are not involved in the running and managing of the Limited company;
  • Shareholders are involved in some decisions, like the change of company name, however not day to day running;
  • Shareholders are entitled to take dividends from the company, as long as these can be justified from their role in the company.

Employees

  • Employees work for the Limited company and are employed. They will receive a monthly salary from the Limited company.
  • They are not part of any decision making process and do not have any rights to dividends.
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What are the disadvantages of a Limited Company?

The drawbacks to setting up a limited company include:

  • There are additional filing and reporting requirements to adhere to.
  • Reduced privacy
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What are my Limited Company Directors Responsibilities?

As the director of a limited company, your responsibilities include:

  • Your company must be registered at Companies House
  • Your company's annual accounts must be filed at Companies House
  • A Confirmation Statement must be submitted annually. This can be done online or via post. This is a filing requirement introduced in 2016 to replace the Annual Return (Form AR01).
  • Submit an annual Corporation Tax to HMRC. Any outstanding tax must be paid within nine months and one day of your company's year-end accounting.
  • Register for Self Assessment with HMRC, and submit your personal tax return each year.
  • If you have employees and are running the company payroll, you need to report your employees' payments and deductions to HMRC on or before your employees' payday. You need to pay what you owe to HMRC each month.
  • If your VAT taxable turnover exceeds the VAT threshold, you'll need to register for VAT and complete your VAT returns online at the end of every financial quarter.
  • Maintain proper company records.
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What are Personal service companies?

While there isn't a legal or formal definition of the term, personal service companies (PSC) refer to limited companies that are owned by a contractor, who is also the only shareholder and sole director. In some instances, the company may also be owned by a very small group of individuals.

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What do I need to do as a Company Director?

Your responsibilities as a limited company director include:

  • Your company must be registered at Companies House
  • Your company's annual accounts must be filed at Companies House
  • A Confirmation Statement must be submitted annually. This can be done online or via post. This is a filing requirement introduced in 2016 to replace the Annual Return (Form AR01).
  • Submit an annual Corporation Tax to HMRC. Any outstanding tax must be paid within nine months and one day of your company's year-end accounting.
  • Register for Self Assessment with HMRC, and submit your personal tax return each year.
  • If you have employees and are running the company payroll, you need to report your employees' payments and deductions to HMRC on or before your employees' payday. You need to pay what you owe to HMRC each month.
  • If your VAT taxable turnover exceeds the VAT threshold, you'll need to register for VAT and complete your VAT returns online at the end of every financial quarter.
  • Maintain proper company records
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What is a Limited Company?

A limited company is a type of business structure where the company has its own legal identity. The assets and liabilities of the company are separate from the personal finances of its owner.

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What is a SIC code?

The SIC code is a five-digit Standard Industrial Classification code. These codes are used by government bodies and agencies to systematically identify and categorise the principal business activities of companies operating in the UK.

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When do I need a Limited Company?

There is no clear cut time as to when you should start working through your own limited company. With other routes available-such as operating as a sole trader, or working through an umbrella company-it is always worth weighing up what is best for you and your circumstances.

With that being said, if you plan to work as an independent contractor for the foreseeable future, opening your own limited company at the early stages can maximise your opportunities for reaping the benefits of having your own company straight away.

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How do I set up a Limited Company?

To set up a limited company, you need to take the following steps:

  • Decide what kind of limited company you need
  • Choose a business name
  • Choose how to set up your limited company
  • Complete the company formation process
  • Open a business bank account
  • Inform your stakeholders
  • Get your VAT registration or transfer sorted out
  • Set up your payroll
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When do I need a Limited company as a contractor?

There is no clear cut time as to when you should start working through your own limited company. With other routes available-such as operating as a sole trader, or working through an umbrella company-it is always worth weighing up what is best for you and your circumstances.

With that being said, if you plan to work as an independent contractor for the foreseeable future, opening your own limited company at the early stages can maximise your opportunities for reaping the benefits of having your own company straight away.

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