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Forms of Business Ownership

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Business is a commercial enterprise performing all those functions that govern the production, distribution, and sale of goods and services for the benefit of the buyer and the profit of the seller. Since the beginning of the era of economic progress old ways of running business have been modified, and new forms of business organization have been introduced. This has enabled various branches of Industry to adapt to changing conditions and to function more easily, efficiently and profitably, sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation being the main three forms of business ownership.

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person, in which all the profits belong to the owner, the latter being fully responsible for the success and the failure of the business. Unless an activity is specifically prohibited by law, no field of business is closed to an owner. Although advantages for the small business exist in this form, certain drawbacks make it undesirable for larger concerns. In the first place, the single owner is seldom able to invest as much capital as can be obtained by a partnership or a corporation. If single owners are able to invest large amounts of capital, they run great risk of losing it all because they are personally liable for all the debts of their businesses. It is due to unlimited liability that all the personal assets of the owner, including his home and car, can be sold to settle the debts of the business. Unless the owner has much personal wealth, the business may have difficulty borrowing money in critical times. A sole proprietorship may also have difficulty hiring and keeping good employees, because the business will dissolve when the owner retires or dies.

A partnership is an association of two or more persons to carry on a business for profit. When the owners of the partnership have unlimited liability they are called general partners. If partners have limited liability they are "limited partners". There may be a silent partner as well - a person who is known to the public as a member of the firm but without authority in management. The reverse of the silent partner is the secret partner - a person who takes part in management but who is not known to the public.

Any business may have the form of the partnership, for example, in such professional fields as medicine, law, accounting, insurance and stockbrokerage. Limited partnerships are a common form of ownership in real estate, oil prospecting, quarrying industries, etc.

A business corporation is an organization created by law that allows people to associate together for the purpose of making profit. Corporations are also known as joint-stock companies because they are jointly owned by different persons who receive shares of stocks in exchange for an investment of money in the company.

Though corporation is more difficult and expensive to organize than other business forms, it has a number of advantages. First, investors can limit their personal liability to the amount of money they have invested, thus, if the corporation goes bankrupt, they can lose no more than they have put in.

Second, money to operate the business is obtained by the sale of stocks to the general public and this enables the corporation to exist independently of its owners.

But there is one great drawback of corporative form – it is double taxation of profits. However, in terms of size and influence it is the corporation that has become the dominant business form existing in most countries with free market economies.



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