Sole trader advantages and disadvantages

If you are a sole trader or starting a business as one, you must understand its advantages and disadvantages in the UK.

They are the simplest business structure, with owners operating their businesses single-handedly and are responsible for anything happening in the business.

However, sole traders have entire control over their business, which is a plus point for individuals willing to start their one-person bands.

Let’s dive into the guide to understand more about sole traders.

Table of contents

Who is a sole trader?
How to set up as a sole trader in the UK
What are the advantages of working as a sole trader?
What are the disadvantages of becoming a sole trader?
How much tax do I need to pay as a sole trader?

Who is a sole trader?

As the name suggests, a ‘sole’ trader is the sole owner of a business. So, when you register as a sole trader, you are not just an owner but a self-employed individual.

For instance, if your business suffers from financial debt, the law classifies you and your business as the same, and you are responsible for paying off any business debts with personal finances.

How to set up as a sole trader in the UK?

You must register as a sole trader if your income is more than £1,000 from self-employment in a tax year.

1.  Choosing a trading name
Though not compulsory, choosing a trading name is necessary if you wish to trade under a name other than your name.

2.  Create a government gateway account
You can create your online account with your full name, email, and password on a government gateway. You will receive a user ID to your email address on successful account creation.

3.  Login to your account
To register as a sole trader, you must log in to your government gateway account using your user ID and password. Next, search and select the “add a tax” option on your account.

4.  Select ‘Self Assessment
For self-employed, partnerships and trusts, you must select a Self-Assessment category.

There are numerous other ways of registration, like contacting HMRC and completing a CWF1 form.

What are the advantages of working as a sole trader?

Most people in the UK prefer setting up as sole traders today, as high living costs and inflation make people look outside of their ordinary salaried professions. Moreover, it gives you complete control over what you do in business, when you do it, and how you do it.

Listed below are a few advantages of sole trader

●  Easy to set up and fewer statutory obligations
Becoming a sole trader is a simple process. you don’t have to register a company name or complete any Companies House forms. By registering for self-assessment, you need to inform HMRC about your self-employment as a sole trader.

●  Easier accounting tasks
Sole traders don’t need to fulfil complex accounting standards like limited companies, including filing corporation tax returns and creating annual accounts. You need only to maintain a record of your income and expenses and send details of your profits in your self-assessment tax return annually.

●  Keep your profits in your pocket
Unlike limited companies, sole traders don’t have to share their profits with shareholders. You can keep the entire profit with you after paying your taxes and deductions like salary (if you have employees). Additionally, you personally own all your business assets.

●  Keep financial figures private
Being a sole trader, you don’t need to share financial information with the Companies House, which means there is little chance of these figures going public. It benefits you as your competitors won’t notice how good or bad your company is doing presently.

What are the disadvantages of becoming a sole trader?

Setting up as a sole trader comes with a few drawbacks. Listed below are a few of them

●  Personal and unlimited liability
You and your business will be considered the same legal entity, which means any problem with your business is your responsibility. Your business’s debts and liabilities are yours, both financially and legally.

●  They aren’t attractive
Some clients don’t prefer working with sole traders because of their higher risk and lower reputation. However, it still depends on your industry and client type. Therefore it is worth doing your research before deciding on a company structure.

●  Face tax planning limitations
For limited companies, you can enjoy more tax benefits than sole traders, though you can claim tax allowances on business expenses and assets. Additionally, employed owners in limited companies can draw dividends with less tax rate. You can use a limited company vs sole trader tax calculator to understand the difference before choosing a business structure.

●  Risk a break in business continuation
As a sole trader, if you encounter a terrible accident or fall seriously ill, the responsibility of fulfilling your business contracts stands stagnant. It results in stressful situations leading to increased business debt due to work discontinuity.

How much tax do I need to pay as a sole trader?

Sole traders must pay income tax along with Class 2 and 4 NIC (National Insurance Contributions) on their taxable business profits. However, they receive a yearly personal tax allowance from the government, which for the present year is £12,570. Any income above the tax-free threshold is subject to income tax.

Sole trader tax rate:

● Basic rate: 20% for an income range of £12,571 – £50,270
● Higher rate: 40% for an income range of £50,271 – £125,140
● Additional rate: 45% for income range over £125,140

If your profits exceed £6,475, you must pay Class 2 NI contributions of £158.60 yearly.

You must also pay 9% Class 4 NI contributions on profits between £12,570 and £50,270 and 2% on profits over £50,270.


It is good to start a business as a sole trader, and when profits grow, you can always decide to register the business as a limited company. Sole traders have unique advantages and disadvantages, as discussed in the article.

The best way to survive these complexities is to speak with an expert and gain the maximum benefit out of your business structure.