A partnership is commonly formed where two or more people wish to come to together to form a business. Perhaps they have a common business idea that they wish to put to the test or have realised that their skills and talents compliment each others in such a way that they might make a good business team. Forming a partnership seems like the most logical option and, in some cases, it is. Running a small business with a reasonably low turnover, a partnership is quite often a good choice of legal structure for a new business. The way a partnership is set up and run as well as the way it is governed and taxed often make it the most appealing form of business. However, there are circumstances where this isn’t the case.
Being a partnership, the business owners necessarily share the profits, the liabilities and the decision making. This is one of the advantages of partnership, especially where the partners have different skills and can work well together. However, it can obviously present some problems. Over the years, many partnerships have turned sour. Family and friends go into business together and end up falling out on a personal or business level and it all ends badly. This is one of the major disadvantages of partnerships over other business models, but it’s important to be able to balance the advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Partnership
- Capital – Due to the nature of the business, the partners will fund the business with start up capital. This means that the more partners there are, the more money they can put into the business, which will allow better flexibility and more potential for growth. It also means more potential profit, which will be equally shared between the partners.
- Flexibility – A partnership is generally easier to form, manage and run. They are less strictly regulated than companies, in terms of the laws governing the formation and because the partners have the only say in the way the business is run (without interference by shareholders) they are far more flexible in terms of management, as long as all the partners can agree.
- Shared Responsibility – Partners can share the responsibility of the running of the business. This will allow them to make the most of their abilities. Rather than splitting the management and taking an equal share of each business task, they might well split the work according to their skills. So if one partner is good with figures, they might deal with the book keeping and accounts, while the other partner might have a flare for sales and therefore be the main sales person for the business.
- Decision Making – Partners share the decision making and can help each other out when they need to. More partners means more brains that can be picked for business ideas and for the solving of problems that the business encounters.
Disadvantages of Partnership
- Disagreements – One of the most obvious disadvantages of partnership is the danger of disagreements between the partners. Obviously people are likely to have different ideas on how the business should be run, who should be doing what and what the best interests of the business are. This can lead to disagreements and disputes which might not only harm the business, but also the relationship of those involved. This is why it is always advisable to draft a deed of partnership during the formation period to ensure that everyone is aware of what procedures will be in place in case of disagreement and what will happen if the partnership is dissolved.
- Agreement – Because the partnership is jointly run, it is necessary that all the partners agree with things that are being done. This means that in some circumstances there are less freedoms with regards to the management of the business. Especially compared to sole traders. However, there is still more flexibility than with limited companies where the directors must bow to the will of the members (shareholders).
- Liability – Ordinary Partnerships are subject to unlimited liability, which means that each of the partners shares the liability and financial risks of the business. Which can be off putting for some people. This can be countered by the formation of a limited liability partnership, which benefits from the advantages of limited liability granted to limited companies, while still taking advantage of the flexibility of the partnership model.
- Taxation – One of the major disadvantages of partnership, taxation laws mean that partners must pay tax in the same way as sole traders, each submitting a Self Assessment tax return each year. They are also required to register as self employed with HM Revenue & Customs. The current laws mean that if the partnership (and the partners) bring in more than a certain level, then they are subject to greater levels of personal taxation than they would be in a limited company. This means that in most cases setting up a limited company would be more beneficial as the taxation laws are more favourable (see our article on the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Limited Company).
- Profit Sharing – Partners share the profits equally. This can lead to inconsistency where one or more partners aren’t putting a fair share of effort into the running or management of the business, but still reaping the rewards.
As you can see, there are several advantages and disadvantages of partnership in terms of a business undertaking. The two main disadvantages are the levels of taxation and the liability. The latter being negated by the ability to form a Limited Liability Partnership (a type of body only available since 2000). The Company Warehouse has a Limited Liability Partnership formation service that we have been running for a number of years, helping people set up their new partnerships. Our specialist team have a good working knowledge of the law and the current advantages of partnership over the other legal forms of business. So they can advise you on the best choice for your new enterprise.
If you decide that setting up a partnership isn’t for you, don’t forget we are currently running a limited time offer of FREE Limited Company Formation, there are many benefits of limited companies so it is worth giving some thought before you decide. Feel free to contact a member of our team for free on 0800 0828 727 for further guidance.