Thursday, November 12, 2015

bonkers? why I'm staying as a sole trader, and not setting myself up as a limited company

Many freelancers and the self-employed are also limited companies – while this isn’t a pre-requisite for anyone wanting to go into business for themselves, many see it as an attractive option for all sorts of reasons including “tax efficiencies”, limiting personal risk, and being able to more easily engage with some procurement systems of other organisations so that they can do business with them.

But I chose a long time ago not to incorporate myself (despite the apparent benefits that doing so would offer me), and I thought it was about time as to why I ‘fessed up as to why this is:

  1. the tax question – although I don’t know of any empirical studies to back this assertion up, my perception is that most self-employed who incorporate themselves do so to take advantage of the different tax rules that apply to companies, and as such are able to reduce the extent of their earnings that are ‘lost’ to tax payments. But I actually feel quite privileged to be able to pay tax, and while I may not fully agree with how the government decides to spend it all, I like knowing that there’s money in the pot to pay for teachers at the schools my boys go to, for hospitals to be able to stay open, and for street lights to be able to stay turned on at night. It’s also a way that I can further manifest some of my Christian values – I can’t practically care for all of my neighbours in need everywhere, but through tax payments, I can know that there’s emergency help available to them when they might need it most (wherever they may be in the world).
  2. the risk question – given that in the eyes of the law, a company becomes a legal person in its own right, then if things start to go ‘pear shaped’, its the company that would take the hit not the individual person. And while this may be more appropriate for some with regards to the types of risk their business may entail, for me, I’d be concerned that it would start to make me less stringent with myself: after all, if I knew that if things didn’t work out I wouldn’t have to take legal responsibility for any fallout from clients, investors, etc, why should I try harder to make sure it works? 
  3. the ability to get work –oddly, most local authorities can’t directly commission me because of the way in which the rules they have to abide by work, yet national government departments and bodies have never had any issue with contracting with me... however, I am aware that in some instances, I can’t bid for contracts because I’m not the ‘right shape’ (i.e. not a company). But there are ways around this that I think are actually more beneficial in the long-term: I can collaborate and partner with other companies to jointly bid for these contracts, and in doing so build more mutual support and resilience into myself and other companies – better relationships all round, rather than trying to do everything by myself (and it can be lonely enough at the best of times in being a freelancer).



So there you have it – the reasons why I’ve no immediate desire to incorporate myself into a company (other than the hassle of the extra paperwork it would entail...)

But maybe I’ve missed the point somewhere? Would be very keen to hear from fellow freelancers and self-employed to know why they are/are not companies themselves...

2 comments:

  1. I'm doing both at the moment Adrian - trading as a sole trader, but as part of a co-operative consortium that is a company. Best of both worlds?

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  2. I was persuaded to incorporate a couple of years ago by my accountant and frankly, I prefered the accountability of just being me with nothing to hide behind

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