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Sole Proprietorship: The Simplest Form of Business

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one individual. The owner takes all the profits or losses of the business and is liable for all its obligations.



A sole proprietorship is the oldest form of business organization. It is also known by other names such as Single Proprietorship, Individual Proprietorship, Sole Trader Business, etc. 

sole proprietorship

You may be a sole proprietor of business without knowing it!

An individual may do house repair work on a part-time basis or be a full-time barber who operates on his own. Both are sole proprietorships.

The owner of a sole proprietorship is called ‘proprietor’ or ‘sole trader’.

This form of business is used by small businesses because it is easy to start and cheap to organize.

Businesses providing direct services, e.g., small retailers, hairdressing saloons, tailors, restaurants, etc., and professional services, e.g., doctors, law­yers, etc. depend for their success upon personal attention to customers and the per­sonal knowledge or skill of the owner and are, therefore, generally organized as sole proprietorships.

A sole proprietorship is basically the business arm of an individual who decides not to do business as a separate legal entity i.e company.

As the sole owner (proprietor), you have unlimited liability, meaning that if your business can’t pay all its liabilities, the creditors to whom your business owes money can come after your personal assets.

There is no separate registration procedure for proprietorships. All you need is a government registration relevant to your business.

If you’re selling goods online, a proprietor would only need a sales tax registration. Therefore, starting up as a sole proprietor is relatively easy.

Characteristics of proprietorships

1. Single owner

There is only one owner of the business.

2. No separate existence

A sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity apart from owner.

3. No limitation on legal liability

The owner is personally liable for any debts or legal claims against the business. Thus, creditors can take the personal assets of the owner, if the business debts exceed the owner’s investment in the company Not taxable. 

Advantages over other business forms

1. Simple to form

The sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business structure. It is easy to form and operate. It does not require any legal registration. An individual can operate this business under the name other than their own name. 

2. Decision-making

The proprietor alone takes all the decisions pertaining to the busi­ness. He is not required to consult anybody. Ownership and management are vested in the same person. Some persons may be employed to help the owner but ultimate con­trol lies with him.

3. Share of Profit

If the business generates profits, the sole owner need not share it, just like in case of partnership and company.

Disadvantages over other business forms

1. Limited life

When the owner dies or retires, the proprietorship ceases to exist.

2. Limited Resources

Limited ability to raise capital (funds). The ability to raise capital (funds) is limited to what the owner can provide from personal resources or through borrowing.

3. Unlimited personal liability

The sole proprietor has unlimited personal liability. In case the assets are insufficient to meets their debts, the personal property of the propri­etor can be attached.

4. Share of loss

If the business has a loss, the sole proprietor suffers all of it.

Cases in which proprietorship is suitable

In spite of some disadvantages it is suitable in the following cases:

1. Low capital investment

Businesses that require low capital investment is suitable under sole proprietorship concerns. Therefore, small-scale units or units which do not involve production on a large-scale can be conveniently carried on under sole proprietorship.

2. Requirement of personal touch

Businesses requiring personal touch and supervision like the service sector- transport, advertising, etc. are best suited under sole proprietorship. The owner can develop direct contact with the ultimate consumers to market the products.

3. Involves personal service

Businesses engaged in the rendering of personal services like solicitors, doctors, architects, chartered accountants, etc. are suitable under sole proprietorship. Individually, he can extend all required services to the parties.

Accounting of Sole Proprietorship

You know a sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity but for accounting purposes, a business organization is a separate entity, distinct not only from its creditors and customers but also from its owners.

It should have its own set of financial records, and its records and reports should refer only to its own affairs.

The primary financial statements of a proprietorship are the income statement, the statement of owner’s equity, the balance sheet, and the statement of cash flows. The order in which the financial statements are prepared.

  1. Income statement
  2. Statement of owner’s equity
  3. Balance sheet
  4. Statement of cash flows

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