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Understanding Business Structures in Australia for Small Business Owners

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When starting a small business in Australia, choosing the right business structure is crucial as it affects your legal obligations, tax liabilities, and the level of control you have over the business. Each structure has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on your specific business needs, goals, and circumstances. This page outlines the main business structures defined in Australia, helping small business owners make an informed decision.

Sole Trader

A sole trader structure is the simplest form of business ownership in Australia, where the individual owner is legally responsible for all aspects of the business.

  • Advantages:
    • Simple and inexpensive to set up and operate.
    • Full control over business decisions and operations.
    • Easy tax preparation as business income is treated as personal income.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Unlimited liability, meaning personal assets can be at risk if the business incurs debt.
    • Can be more challenging to access financing or business credit.


A partnership involves two or more people (up to 20) running a business together. Partnerships are governed by the Partnership Act in each state and territory and can be of two types: general and limited.

  • Advantages:
    • Shared responsibility and decision-making.
    • More capital available for the business.
    • Relatively easy and inexpensive to form.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Joint and several liabilities for business debts, meaning each partner can be held responsible for the full amount of any business debt.
    • Potential for disputes among partners.


A company is a separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) and is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

  • Advantages:
    • Limited liability for shareholders, meaning personal assets are generally protected from business debts.
    • Easier to raise capital by issuing shares.
    • Perceived as a more established and credible business structure.
  • Disadvantages:
    • More complex and costly to set up and maintain, with ongoing compliance and reporting obligations.
    • Profits are taxed at the company rate, and shareholders are taxed on dividends.


A trust is an entity that holds property or income for the benefit of others (beneficiaries). A trustee (either an individual or a company) manages the trust.

  • Advantages:
    • Potential tax advantages, as income can be distributed to beneficiaries in lower tax brackets.
    • Provides asset protection and estate planning benefits.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Complex and costly to establish and maintain.
    • Requires a formal trust deed that outlines how the trust operates.


Choosing the right business structure is a pivotal decision for small business owners in Australia. It’s essential to consider the implications of each structure in terms of liability, tax obligations, control, and the potential for growth and expansion. Consulting with professionals such as accountants, financial advisers, and legal experts is highly recommended to ensure that the chosen structure aligns with your business goals and offers the flexibility and protection you need. Bottrell Accountants & Tax Agents is here to guide you through the process, providing expert advice to help you establish the foundation that best supports your business aspirations and operational needs.

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Bottrell Accountants & Financial Advisors

Established in June 2012 by Director Gavin Bottrell, our firm provides comprehensive advisory services spanning Personal Tax Returns, Accounting, SMSF, and Business Consulting. Catering to a diverse clientele from small enterprises to large corporations, as well as individual clients throughout Australia, we are dedicated to facilitating business expansion and financial prosperity.

Why Bottrell Accountants & Tax Agents?

At Bottrell Accountants & Tax Agents, our commitment to providing personalised, expert service is unwavering. Whether you’re a small business owner, property investor, or looking to manage your superannuation effectively, our team is equipped with the expertise and dedication to support your financial journey.

Our holistic approach ensures that every aspect of your financial life, from business operations to personal investments and superannuation, is managed with professionalism, precision, and a forward-thinking strategy. Contact us to explore how our services can be tailored to meet your unique needs, ensuring your financial well-being and success.

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