Your brilliant business idea is ready for action! But hold on—have you figured out which type of business structure suits your needs? Picking the right one affects how you’ll handle taxes and your personal liability. It’s an important choice that could affect the longevity of your enterprise.

No need to feel overwhelmed by legal talk. We will simplify various business structures for you, making it easier for you to choose one that fits with what you’re aiming for while protecting your assets. Let’s go over the benefits and drawbacks of each type so you can confidently decide what’s best for starting or growing your business.

Table Of Contents:

What is the Different Type of Business Structures?

Starting a business involves many decisions, and picking the right business structure tops that list. Your decision here affects not just taxes but also how much personal risk you’re taking on.

You have a few common types of business structures, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s break down some of these options for you.

Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Nonprofit Organization

You’ll find that the most common type of business structures include several familiar options.

  • Sole Proprietorship: A business owned and operated by a single individual.
  • Partnership: A business owned by two or more individuals who share profits and liabilities.
  • Corporation: A separate legal entity owned by shareholders, offering limited liability protection.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): A hybrid structure combining aspects of partnerships and corporations.
  • Nonprofit Organization: A business that operates for a charitable, educational, or public purpose.

The choice of business structure plays a significant role in determining your personal liability and fundraising potential. Explore all available options thoroughly, and seek advice from legal and financial advisors beforehand.

Sole Proprietorship: The Simplest Type of Business

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common type of business structure. It’s an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual, and there’s no legal distinction between the business and the business owner.

Running a business as a sole proprietor gives you total control over every decision and operation. However, if your business falls into debt, you’re responsible for covering those costs, which can jeopardize personal income assets such as your home and savings.

“I started my online store as a sole proprietorship because it was the easiest and most affordable option. But as my company grew, I realized I needed more protection for my personal assets. That’s when I decided to switch to an LLC structure.” – Sarah Johnson, founder of Johnson Marketing Solutions

Despite the potential risks, a sole proprietorship business organization can be a good choice for low-risk businesses for entrepreneurs who want to test their business idea before committing to a more formal structure. It’s also the easiest and least expensive type of business to set up, with few legal requirements beyond obtaining necessary business permits and licenses.

Partnerships: General and Limited Liability

A business partnership may be the right structure for you if you’re doing business with one or more partners. Partnerships come in two main types of corporate structure: general partnerships and limited partnerships.

In a general partnership, all partners share equal responsibility for the business’s debts and liabilities. Each partner can be held personally liable for the actions of the other partners. Profits are also shared equally among the partners, and each partner pays income taxes on their share of the business income on their personal tax returns.

Limited Partnerships Offer Some Liability Protection

A limited partnership, on the other hand, has two types of partners: general partners and limited partners. The general partners manage the business and have unlimited personal liability, while the limited partners are typically investors with limited control and limited liability partnerships. 

Limited partnerships can be one of the popular types of businesses that aim to attract investors without losing control. However, they come with more complicated legal and accounting requirements and might not offer the same flexibility as other business structures.

Choosing any type of partnership means you need a solid partnership agreement. Make sure it clearly defines everyone’s roles, responsibilities, and how to share the profits or handle losses. It helps keep misunderstandings at bay later on.

Key Takeaway: 

Choosing the right business structure is key. It impacts your taxes, liability, and ability to raise capital. Consult with professionals before deciding.

Corporations: C Corp, S Corp, and Nonprofit

Picking the right business structure can be tricky, but corporations have much to offer. With various types available, it’s important to figure out which one fits your needs best.

Let’s look at the three main types of corporations: C corp, S corp, and nonprofit. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks depending on your business plan goals.

C Corp

Most businesses choose a C corporation for their structure because it’s so common. This legal entity is independent of its owners and can make deals, take people to court (or get taken there), and hold assets.

A major perk of a C corp is that it provides limited liability protection for its owners. This means if the business faces legal trouble or financial failure, the personal assets of the owners stay safe.

One drawback of a C corp is “double taxation.” This means the company pays corporate taxes on its profits, and then shareholders must pay tax again on any dividends they receive.

S Corp

Think of an S corporation like a C corp with some differences. The main one? For taxes, an S corp passes its income directly to shareholders.

So the company doesn’t have to pay taxes on its own profits. Instead, those profits (and any losses) go directly to the shareholders, who then include them in their personal tax returns.

Small businesses can benefit greatly from avoiding the double taxation that C corps faces. However, S corps come with their own set of rules. Not everyone can be a shareholder; there’s also a cap on how many shareholders you’re allowed to have.

Nonprofit Corporations

Nonprofit corporations are set up to support causes like charity, education, religion, or science.

Unlike a regular corporation, nonprofits don’t have shareholders or pay dividends. Instead, any money they make goes right back into supporting their mission.

Nonprofits get some sweet grant tax-exempt perks. They don’t have to pay federal income taxes, and people who donate can write off those contributions on their own taxes.

Starting a nonprofit can be pretty tough. There’s tons of paperwork, and you must stick closely to specific rules about running things and spending your money.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): Combining Partnership and Corporation Benefits

If you’re after a business setup that mixes the perks of both partnerships and corporations, consider starting a limited liability company (LLC).

An LLC operates independently from its owners, much like a corporation does. It can enter into agreements, initiate lawsuits or face them, and possess property under its identity.

Personal Asset Protection

One major perk of an LLC is that it shields the owners’ personal assets. If the business faces a lawsuit or goes under, their house, car, and other belongings stay safe.

Since an LLC is a separate business entity, its owners—”members”—aren’t responsible for the company’s debts or legal issues.

Pass-Through Taxation

One great perk of an LLC is that it’s a “pass-through” entity for tax purposes. This means the company doesn’t have to directly pay taxes on its profits.

Members of small businesses report profits and losses on their personal tax returns, which can lead to significant tax benefits.

Flexible Management Structure

LLCs give you much freedom in how you want to run things. You can decide if the members will manage it themselves, like partners do, or appoint managers to take care of the business more like a corporation.

Businesses can benefit from this flexibility, allowing them to tweak their management structure so it fits exactly what they need.

Choosing the Right Type of Business Structure for Your Needs

When starting out, picking the right type of business structure is crucial. It influences your personal liability, taxes, and ability to attract investors.

Picking the right setup for your small business involves considering a few critical factors. Let’s break them down:

Personal Liability Protection

Worried about personal liability? Choose a business structure that protects your assets. If your business faces legal trouble or bankruptcy, things like your house and car stay safe.

Corporations and LLCs are your best bet if you’re looking for solid personal liability protection. On the other hand, sole proprietorships and partnerships don’t offer much in this area.


How you’ve set up your business can change how much you owe in taxes. For example, with sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLCs (which are “pass-through” entities), the company itself doesn’t get taxed on its income. Instead of that happening at the corporate level, any gains or losses pass through to individual owners who declare them on their own income tax forms.

For corporations, things work differently since they’re considered separate tax entities. First, the company pays income taxes on its earnings. Then, when those earnings are distributed to shareholders as dividends, the shareholders have to pay taxes again on that money—this situation is called “double taxation.”

Raising Capital

Are you planning to get funding from investors? You should consider setting up a corporation since issuing stocks is the easiest way to raise capital.

LLCs and partnerships can raise money from investors, but it’s a bit more complicated. Sole proprietorships have the toughest time since they can’t issue stock to bring in capital.

Complexity and Cost

When setting up your business structure, consider how complicated and costly it will be. Sole proprietorships and partnerships are the easiest and cheapest to start, while corporations come with more complexity and higher expenses.

An LLC is like the happy medium; it’s got more layers than a sole proprietorship or partnership but isn’t nearly as intricate as managing a corporation.

Choosing the best business structure for your small business depends on what you need and want to achieve. Chatting with a tax specialist or a business attorney can help you sort through your options and pick the right path for your plan.

Key Takeaway: 

Formal business corporations offer varied benefits and structures. C corps provides liability protection but faces double taxation. S corps avoid this by passing profits to shareholders’ tax returns, though they have shareholder limits. Nonprofits focus on charitable missions with tax exemptions but require strict compliance.


Selecting the right type of business structure is crucial in turning your entrepreneurial dreams into a thriving reality. Whether you opt for the simplicity of a sole proprietorship, the partnership potential, the legal protection of a corporation, or the flexibility of an LLC, understanding the advantages and drawbacks of each option is key to making an informed decision.

Choosing the right business structure can impact your personal liability, taxes, and ability to expand. It’s a good idea to talk with legal and financial experts to make sure you’re picking what’s best for your situation.

With the right business structure, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong foundation for your company’s future success. So take the time to weigh your options carefully, and then go forth with confidence, knowing you’ve set your business up for a bright and prosperous future.

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Lomit is a marketing and growth leader with experience scaling hyper-growth startups like Tynker, Roku, TrustedID, Texture, and IMVU. He is also a renowned public speaker, advisor, Forbes and HackerNoon contributor, and author of "Lean AI," part of the bestselling "The Lean Startup" series by Eric Ries.