There are two types of limited liability company in UK. Private Companies are designated as Ltd or Limited, Public Companies are designated as Plc. I shall just deal with Private Limited Companies in this article as they are the most appropriate for small businesses.
The main point of a limited company is to give personal protection against company liabilities. As long as you comply with the relevant regulations, you will not be personally liable for the debts or other liabilities of your business. It is therefore a more appropriate business structure for any business that might face high risks in business.
There are also tax advantages in operating as a limited company once your business profits exceed the personal higher tax threshold. It may also be possible to get more favourable tax treatment for pension contributions, though this is a complex area needing specialist advice.
Another advantage to a limited company is that it is easier to build up a company as a tangible asset which you can sell in the future, perhaps to retire. This is because it is structured as a separate legal entitity and not entangled with your personal assets in the same way as a sole trader business.
The Companies Act separates out the owners of the company from the managers of the business. The owners of the business are the shareholders, of which there must be at least one. The shareholders’ liabilities are limited to the amount of money they have put into the business as a shareholding.
The managers of the business are the directors, of which there must be at least one. The directors are responsible for the running of the company and compliance with all regulations. They are also responsible for filing of financial accounts and annual return to Companies House as well as filing a corporation tax return to HMRC.
Providing the company is run legally and competently, there should be no liabilities for which the directors are personally responsible.
The regulations can be quite complex, so good legal and financial advice should be sought before proceeding.
Running a limited company can face more red tape and additional costs than a sole trader business, but the benefits usually outweigh the drawbacks.
For more detailed information go to www.companieshouse.gov.uk.