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Sole Proprietorship vs LLC: Deciding Which is Better for Your Business

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Deciding between a sole proprietorship and an LLC is crucial when starting a business. Understanding the advantages and differences of each entity is essential for informed decision-making.

Both structures offer distinct benefits, from simplicity in formation to liability protection. The ownership and management variances can significantly impact your company’s growth.

When considering protection and transition, weighing each option’s pros and cons is imperative. This guide explores how each business structure works and its unique considerations to help you decide which is better for your business goals.

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    What is a Sole Proprietorship?

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    Sole proprietors are individuals who own their businesses outright and are solely responsible for its operations. It is the most accessible business structure to form.

    This is an unincorporated business owned by a single individual. They have complete control over decision-making processes without consulting other owners or partners. However, this also means they bear full responsibility for any debts or legal actions against the company.

    Sole proprietors often find it easier to set up their businesses due to minimal formalities than other business structures. Maintaining compliance with ongoing regulations may be more straightforward for sole proprietors.

    What is an LLC?

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    An LLC, or limited liability company, offers its members limited liability protection, making it a popular business structure for small businesses. Businesses can be a single member LLC or have multiple business owners.

    LLC members are shielded from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the company. The business structure forms a separate legal entity to protect the owner(s)’ personal assets.

    Some small business owners prefer LLCs due to the flexibility they offer in terms of management and taxation. They allow for pass-through taxation, where profits and losses flow through to the members’ individual tax returns, meaning you only pay taxes once and avoid the dreaded double taxation of a corporation.

    One of the critical advantages of an LLC is that it shields its members from being personally responsible for any legal or financial obligations incurred by the business. This protection extends to lawsuits, debts, and other liabilities.

    An LLC must have a registered legal name and obtain a business license to operate as a legal business entity. Depending on state regulations, specific requirements for forming an LLC may need to be fulfilled.

    How do I start a Sole Proprietorship?

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    Starting a business as a sole proprietor is relatively simple compared to other business structures. The first step is to choose a unique business name and register it with the appropriate local government agency.

    Next, obtain any necessary business licenses or permits required for your specific industry. Getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is also essential, even if you don’t plan on hiring employees.

    Finally, set up a separate business bank account to separate your personal and business finances. Keep in mind that as a sole proprietor, you are personally responsible for any debts or legal obligations of the business, so it’s important to consider liability insurance options.

    How do I form an LLC?

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    To form a business as an LLC, you will need to follow several key steps:

    1. Choose a business name: Select a unique name for your LLC that complies with your state’s naming requirements.
    2. File Articles of Organization: Prepare and file the Articles of Organization with your state’s Secretary of State office. This document officially establishes your LLC.
    3. Create an LLC Operating Agreement: While not always required, it’s highly recommended to create an operating agreement that outlines the ownership and operating procedures of the LLC.
    4. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits: Depending on your location and industry, you may need to obtain specific business licenses and permits to operate legally.
    5. Get an EIN: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This unique identifier is used for tax purposes and is necessary if you plan to hire employees or open a business bank account.
    6. Open a Business Bank Account: Separating your personal and business finances is crucial. Open a business bank account to keep your finances organized and secure.
    7. Comply with Ongoing Requirements: Be sure to stay compliant with ongoing requirements such as filing annual reports and paying any necessary state fees.

    By following these steps, you can successfully form your business as an LLC and enjoy the benefits of limited liability and pass-through taxation. The process is more involved than creating a sole proprietorship and may have increased costs. However, that extra legwork in the beginning helps protect your personal assets.

    What’s the difference between a Sole Proprietorship vs LLC?

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    Sole proprietorships and LLCs are different business structures. Understanding the differences between a sole proprietorship and an LLC is essential when forming a business.

    Sole Proprietorship vs LLC Liability Protections

    Sole proprietors have unlimited personal liability. If the business incurs debts or legal action, the owner’s personal assets, such as their home or savings, could be at risk.

    On the other hand, members of LLCs have limited personal liability protection. This means that their personal assets are generally protected from any business liabilities. In the event of legal action or debt, only the assets owned by the LLC are typically at risk.

    Business License Requirement for Both Structures

    Whether operating as a sole proprietorship or an LLC, obtaining a business license is essential to conduct operations legally. This license ensures the business complies with local regulations and operates within the law.

    Profits and Taxation

    In terms of profits, both sole proprietors and LLC members can enjoy similar benefits since both structures allow for pass-through taxation. This means that profits go directly to the owners’ personal tax returns rather than being taxed at both corporate and individual levels, as seen in some other business entities.

    Growth and Expansion Opportunities

    An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, offers more flexibility for growth and expansion compared to a sole proprietorship. This is because an LLC can easily bring in new members or investors to help fund expansion efforts. An LLC can also attract top talent by offering ownership interests in the company. This can help fuel growth and expansion by bringing in new ideas and expertise.

    On the other hand, a sole proprietorship may face limitations regarding growth and expansion. As the sole business owner, the proprietor may have limited access to capital and resources compared to an LLC. This can make it more challenging for a sole proprietorship to take advantage of growth opportunities, such as expanding into new markets or launching new product lines.

    What are the benefits and drawbacks of a Sole Proprietorship?

    Sole proprietorships are popular among small businesses due to their simplicity and low cost. The ease of formation and minimal regulatory requirements make it an attractive option for entrepreneurs looking to start a company without extensive paperwork or high initial expenses.

    Sole proprietors can make all business decisions without consulting partners or board members. This independence allows them to adapt to market changes and customer demands swiftly, enabling quick decision-making processes.

    Many small business owners appreciate the tax advantages of a sole proprietorship. As the sole owner, they report business profits and losses on their personal tax return, simplifying the taxation process. They may be eligible for certain deductions to reduce their overall tax burden.

    A significant drawback for sole proprietors is limited liability. Unlike a limited liability company (LLC), where owners’ personal assets are protected from business liabilities, sole proprietors are personally liable for any debts or legal actions against their business. This means that personal assets such as homes and savings could be at risk in case of bankruptcy or lawsuits.

    Sole Proprietorship Pros & Cons

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    • Easy and inexpensive to start.
    • Complete control over decision-making.
    • Direct access to profits.
    • Minimal government regulations.


    • Unlimited personal liability for business debts.
    • Limited access to capital.
    • Lack of expertise in all areas of business.
    • Difficulty in attracting top talent without competitive benefits and perks.

    What are the benefits and drawbacks of an LLC?

    Members of LLCs enjoy limited liability protection, which means their personal assets are safeguarded in the event of legal action or debts incurred by the company. This shields their finances from being used to settle business obligations, providing a crucial layer of security.

    One significant advantage of an LLC is its flexibility in allocating profits and losses among its members. Unlike corporations, LLCs can distribute earnings based on each member’s contributions or needs rather than being tied to the percentage of ownership. LLCs offer tax advantages as they can choose how they want to be taxed: as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or C corporation.

    Another benefit of forming an LLC is deducting various business expenses before calculating taxable income. This can significantly lower the overall tax burden for LLC members. Common deductible expenses include office rent, utilities, employee salaries, marketing costs, and more.

    While there are numerous benefits to establishing an LLC, it’s essential to consider the associated costs. Setting up an LLC involves filing fees with the state government and ongoing expenses such as annual report filings and franchise taxes. These costs vary by state but should be factored into decision-making when choosing a business structure.

    LLC Pros & Cons

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    • Limited liability protection for owners.
    • Pass-through taxation.
    • Flexibility in management structure.
    • Credibility and professionalism for business.


    • More paperwork and formalities compared to sole proprietorship.
    • Costs associated with forming and maintaining an LLC.
    • Potential for conflicts among multiple owners.
    • Limited life of the LLC.

    How do I know if a Sole Proprietorship vs LLC is better for my business?

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    Selecting the appropriate business structure is crucial for any entrepreneur. It determines how the company operates and its legal, financial, and tax responsibilities. Here are some key considerations when deciding between an LLC or sole proprietorship.

    Flexibility in Decision-Making: When deciding between a sole proprietorship and an LLC, it’s essential to consider flexibility in decision-making. As a sole proprietor, you have complete control over your business decisions without needing approval from others. This autonomy allows you to swiftly adapt to market changes and make decisions based on your vision for the business.

    Unlimited Personal Liability: One crucial aspect to weigh when comparing a sole proprietorship and an LLC is unlimited personal liability. In a sole proprietorship, the owner is personally liable for all business debts and legal liabilities. On the other hand, forming an LLC can provide protection by separating personal assets from those of the company and shielding personal wealth from business-related obligations.

    Simplified Tax Reporting: Another factor to contemplate is simplified tax reporting. A sole proprietorship offers straightforward tax reporting since all income and expenses are reported on the owner’s personal tax return. Conversely, an LLC provides the option to choose how it wants to be taxed – as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or C corporation – offering more flexibility in managing taxes based on the company’s needs.

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    Here are the most common questions about an LLC vs sole proprietorship.

    What are the tax differences between a Sole Proprietorship vs LLC?

    Sole proprietors report business income and expenses on their personal tax returns. This means that all the profits and losses from the business are reported on the owner’s individual tax return.

    Reporting Business Income: For sole proprietors, reporting business income is relatively straightforward. They include all profits and losses from their business activities on their personal tax return. This simplicity can be advantageous for small businesses with uncomplicated financial structures.

    Tax Classification Options for LLCs: Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) have more flexibility in taxing decisions. They can be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or C corporation for federal tax purposes. This flexibility allows LLCs to select a taxation structure that aligns with their financial needs and long-term goals.

    Self-Employment Taxes: LLC members are subject to self-employment taxes on their share of the company’s profits. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%, which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes. While this may lead to higher taxes for some LLC members, it provides access to benefits such as Social Security and Medicare upon retirement.

    Responsibility for Self-Employment Taxes: Sole proprietors pay self-employment taxes on all business income. Since no employer withholds these taxes from paychecks, sole proprietors must ensure they set aside funds to cover these obligations when filing annual tax returns.

    Is it easier to form a Sole Proprietorship than an LLC?

    Forming a sole proprietorship is generally easier than creating an LLC because fewer legal requirements and paperwork are involved. With a sole proprietorship, there is no need to file formal paperwork with the state, whereas forming an LLC requires filing articles of organization and creating an operating agreement.

    Additionally, the ongoing maintenance and compliance requirements for an LLC are more complex and time-consuming compared to a sole proprietorship. The simplicity of forming and maintaining a sole proprietorship makes it a more accessible option for many small business owners.

    What other business structures should I consider?

    When considering business structures, exploring various options beyond sole proprietorships and LLCs is essential. Here are other business structures to consider.

    Partnerships: Partnerships involve two or more individuals sharing ownership of a single business. They can be general partnerships, limited partnerships, or limited liability partnerships (LLPs). In a general partnership, all partners share equal responsibility for the company’s debts and liabilities. On the other hand, in a limited partnership, one partner has unlimited liability while others have limited liability based on their investment. LLPs provide liability protection for each partner against the actions of other partners.

    Corporations: Corporations are separate legal entities from their owners, providing strong liability protection. Shareholders own corporations, and a board of directors manages them. While corporations offer robust asset protection and potential tax benefits, they also involve complex formalities such as holding regular meetings and maintaining detailed financial records.

    S Corporations: S Corporations, or S Corps, offer pass-through taxation like partnerships and LLCs, making them suitable for small businesses. Understanding the implications of each business entity is crucial for small businesses.

    Unincorporated Business: An unincorporated business is a type of business that is not registered as a corporation. This means that the business owner is personally liable for any debts or legal actions taken against the business. Examples of unincorporated businesses include sole proprietorships and partnerships.

    Are there any liability protections for a Sole Proprietor?

    Sole proprietors are personally liable for all business debts and obligations. This means that if the business cannot pay its debts, creditors can come after the proprietor’s personal assets to settle those debts.

    General Liability Insurance

    General liability insurance can offer additional protection for sole proprietors. It helps cover costs associated with third-party bodily injuries, property damage, and advertising injuries. While it doesn’t protect personal assets from business-related lawsuits, it can help cover legal fees and settlements.

    Can I change my Business Structure from Sole Proprietorship to LLC?

    Yes, changing your business structure from a sole proprietorship to an LLC is possible. You must follow the specific legal and procedural steps required in your state, including filing formation documents and obtaining new licenses or permits.

    Is it easier to get business loans as a Sole Proprietor or LLC?

    Limited liability companies (LLCs) often have an advantage over sole proprietorships due to their limited liability protection. This protection means that in the event of financial difficulties or legal issues, the personal assets of LLC members are typically safeguarded.

    Personal Liability Risks: Sole proprietors may face challenges when seeking business loans because they are personally liable for any debts or legal obligations of the business. Lenders may perceive this personal liability as a risk factor when considering loan applications from sole proprietors.

    Preference Among Lenders: Many lenders prefer working with LLCs due to their security and structure. The separation of personal and business assets in an LLC provides a sense of security for lenders, making them more inclined to approve loans for these entities than sole proprietorships.

    Credibility and Establishment: Financial institutions often view LLCs as more established and credible business entities. This perception can positively influence the likelihood of securing a business loan. The formalized structure and operational framework of an LLC can instill confidence in lenders regarding the stability and reliability of the business.

    Small Business Loan Options

    While getting approved for a loan may be more accessible as an LLC, there are still sole proprietor business loan options. In either case, you may be interested in one of the following small business loans:

    Sole Proprietorship vs LLC – Final Thoughts

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    Understanding the differences between a sole proprietorship and an LLC is crucial for making the right decision for your business. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and what works for one entrepreneur might not work for another.

    Consider your long-term goals, financial situation, and risk tolerance before choosing. Don’t rush into it – take the time to weigh your options and maybe even consult with a professional.

    Contact us if you have more questions about deciding between a sole proprietorship vs LLC or to apply for a small business loan. Our alternative funding experts can help you find the best financing options for your business structure.

    We will help you grow your small business.

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