Understanding Entity Type: A Small Business Glossary

Entity Type is a crucial concept in the world of small businesses that refers to the legal structure and classification of an organization. It signifies the different types or forms a business can take, which determines its legal rights, obligations, and the way it operates. In this article, we will delve into the details of what Entity Type means, its significance, and the various types of entities that small business owners can choose from.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common form of business entity. In this structure, an individual operates the business as an extension of themselves and assumes complete ownership and liability. Key points to note:

  • A single person owns and controls the business.
  • The business and owner are considered one legal entity.
  • Profits, losses, and tax obligations are the responsibility of the owner.
  • The owner has unlimited personal liability for business debts and obligations.


A partnership is a form of business entity that involves two or more individuals sharing ownership, responsibilities, and profits. Here are some essential features of a partnership:

  • Partners collectively own and manage the business.
  • Each partner shares in the profits, losses, and decision-making.
  • Partners have joint and several liability for the partnership’s obligations.
  • There are different types of partnerships, such as general partnerships and limited partnerships.


A corporation is a legal entity that is separate from its owners, offering limited liability protection and various tax advantages. Consider the following aspects of a corporation:

  • Ownership is represented by shares of stock, which can be publicly or privately held.
  • The corporation’s management is responsible for its operation and decision-making.
  • Shareholders have limited liability and are not personally responsible for corporate debts.
  • Corporations have a complex structure and require compliance with corporate laws and regulations.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a hybrid business structure that combines characteristics of a corporation and a partnership, providing liability protection and advantageous taxation. Here are some characteristics of LLCs:

  • LLCs have members instead of shareholders or partners.
  • Members have limited liability, protecting their personal assets.
  • LLCs offer flexible management structures, with options for member-managed or manager-managed.
  • Profits and losses are usually passed through to the members, who report them on their individual tax returns.


A cooperative, often referred to as a co-op, is a special form of business entity that is member-owned and operated to meet the common needs of its members. Let’s explore the essential characteristics of cooperatives:

  • Members are both owners and customers of the cooperative.
  • Cooperatives operate for the mutual benefit of their members.
  • Each member has an equal say in the cooperative’s decision-making process.
  • Profits are distributed among members based on their level of involvement or patronage.

Deciding the most suitable entity type for your business is a crucial step in the journey of becoming a small business owner. Each entity type comes with its own advantages, disadvantages, legal responsibilities, and tax implications. Understanding these various entity types is vital to make informed decisions that align with your business goals and aspirations. Consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure you choose the entity type that best suits your specific needs and circumstances.