Benefits of Operating as a Sole Proprietorship

UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

Forming a sole proprietorship can be a great way for a single business owner to get a business up and running, especially if they are starting out with very little capital. A sole proprietorship is fairly unstructured so it will allow you to concentrate on building your business without the business formalities that are required to form a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC). However, while there are benefits to forming a sole proprietorship, there are some disadvantages to operating as a sole proprietorship.

Sole Proprietorship Advantages: Simplicity and Cost

One of the biggest advantages of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple to form. Many states do not even require that you register your business to start a sole proprietorship so that means that if you are already doing business, you will be automatically considered to have formed a sole proprietorship. However, it is important to remember that even if you are not required to register your business, it may be a good idea to protect your trademark rights.

Because formation is so easy, this also makes a sole proprietorship the cheapest business entity to set up. Further, there are no continuing formalities in a sole proprietorship as there are in a corporation. In a corporation, you must keep your business entity in “good standing,” which means strict accounting and lots of paperwork.  There are very few formalities that go into forming a sole proprietorship, which means that you can fully concentrate on getting your business off the ground without worrying about the extra paperwork that goes into running a business using a corporate format.

Sole Proprietorship Advantages: Ease of Tax Preparation

Another advantage of a sole proprietorship is taxation. With a corporation, you must file your own income taxes separately from the business. A sole proprietorship offers “pass through” taxation, which means that the taxes on the business profits or losses pass through the business entity to the business owner. When tax time arrives, all you need to do is to calculate your net loss or profit along with your self-employment tax, report it on the Schedule SE, and attach it to your personal income tax return (Form 1040).

Sole Proprietorship Advantages: Uncomplicated Management

Additional advantages of a sole proprietorship include ease of management and lack of government control. In a sole proprietorship, you may manage your business as you see fit. A sole proprietorship is owned and controlled exclusively by you, so you face none of the hassle involved in tiered-management business entities, which often require voting on important management or financial decisions for the business. You are the owner and the final decision-maker. This can also benefit your employees because they will always know where to turn to for answers to business questions.

Sole Proprietorship Disadvantages: Liability

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to owning a sole proprietorship is that you are personally liable for all of the debts of the business. For example, if your employee gets into a car accident while making a delivery and the injured person receives a judgment against your business, you will have to pay for this out of your personal assets if your business does not have the funds. This differs from a corporation or an LLC, where the business is treated as a separate entity and your personal accounts and home are protected from business debts. You should be especially wary of this “risky business” if you sell items that are subject to higher litigation, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and toys.

Sole Proprietorship Disadvantages: Low Attractiveness to Investors

Because a sole proprietorship is a business owned by one, you are not able to sell an interest in your business for investment purposes. Additionally, owning a sole proprietorship can appear less professional than owning an LLC or corporation. Because the formation and management is unstructured, outside investors may not take your business seriously and may hesitate to invest their money. Further, as a single-owner business, you may have fewer assets than a combined ownership. This will usually make it more difficult to raise capital or secure loans for your business needs.

Sole Proprietorship Disadvantages: One-tiered Management

While there is an advantage to being the one decision-maker in your company, this can sometimes create obstacles to productivity. Many businesses thrive on different viewpoints and ideas. Creativity can often spawn from different minds engaging collectively to solve problems. Having a business run by only one person, while easy for you, may not be beneficial in the long run. Further, while a sole proprietorship is not subject to piles of paperwork and accounting requirements, this can easily be the demise of your business if you do not maintain tight control over bookkeeping and record-keeping.

You can always change your business entity down the road as your business expands. Your business can begin as a sole proprietorship and evolve into a partnership, LLC, or corporation if you would like liability protections and investors.

Case Studies: Benefits and Disadvantages of Operating as a Sole Proprietorship

Case Study 1: Simplicity and Cost

John runs a small graphic design business from his home. He decided to operate as a sole proprietorship due to its simplicity and low cost. By not having to register his business formally, John saved time and money. He was able to focus on growing his client base and delivering quality design services without the burden of complex administrative tasks.

However, John was mindful of protecting his trademark rights and considered registering his business voluntarily to safeguard his brand.

Case Study 2: Ease of Tax Preparation

Sarah is a freelance writer who operates as a sole proprietorship. She appreciates the ease of tax preparation that comes with this business structure. As a sole proprietor, Sarah enjoys “pass through” taxation, meaning her business profits or losses are reported on her personal income tax return.

This simplifies the tax filing process as she only needs to calculate her net income and self-employment tax, reporting them on the appropriate forms. Sarah finds this tax advantage helpful in managing her freelance writing business effectively.

Case Study 3: Uncomplicated Management

Mike runs a small landscaping business as a sole proprietorship. He values the uncomplicated management style that this business structure offers. As the sole owner, Mike has full control over his business decisions and enjoys the flexibility to manage operations as he sees fit.

This streamlined decision-making process benefits his employees as they know exactly where to turn for guidance. The absence of tiered management structures allows Mike to focus on immediate business needs without delays caused by multiple decision-makers.

Case Study 4: Liability

Emily owns a bakery and operates it as a sole proprietorship. While she enjoys the freedom and control that comes with this business structure, Emily is aware of its major disadvantage—personal liability. In the event of a lawsuit against her business, Emily would be personally responsible for all debts incurred. This risk is higher in industries prone to litigation, such as food production.

Emily understands the importance of implementing measures to protect her personal assets and considers transitioning to a limited liability company (LLC) for enhanced liability protection.

Case Study 5: Low Attractiveness to Investors

Alex runs a small software development company as a sole proprietorship. While he appreciates the autonomy of sole ownership, he encounters challenges when seeking investments. Investors tend to perceive sole proprietorships as less professional compared to limited liability companies or corporations.

Alex understands that expanding his business and attracting investors might be easier if he transitions to a more structured business entity. He explores the possibility of converting his sole proprietorship into an LLC to enhance credibility and access potential funding opportunities.

Case Study 6: One-Tiered Management

Lisa operates a photography studio as a sole proprietorship. While she enjoys the independence of running her business alone, Lisa realizes that the lack of diverse perspectives can hinder long-term growth and problem-solving.

She acknowledges that having a team with different viewpoints could foster creativity and lead to better outcomes. Additionally, Lisa recognizes the importance of maintaining rigorous bookkeeping and record-keeping to ensure the success of her business and avoid potential complications.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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