I am the sole proprietor of a profitable construction business that I want to expand. I’m nervous about the risk associated with the business and its expansion. Should I incorporate?
We would strongly recommend incorporation. Incorporation provides you with limited liability to protect your personal assets from creditors, and tax advantages that will help you grow your business and your wealth.
A corporation is a legal entity distinct from its shareholders. The obligations, debts and liabilities of the business are those of the corporation and not of its shareholders. The protection from creditors is a significant advantage, particularly for businesses that are inherently risky. As the sole proprietor you are currently liable for every debt, liability, obligation and claim against your business. In your construction business, an inadvertent error or mistake by a sub-contractor, or simply the failure of the project caused by others, could result in huge liabilities for which you are personally exposed to creditors, risking loss of your house, savings and other assets. Incorporation of your business creates a significant barrier of protection. (Note: there are statutory and other limited exceptions to the protection provided by a corporation)
Active business income earned by a corporation is taxed at a much lower tax rate, approximately 15.5% in Ontario on income up to the small business limit of $500,000. This presents two wealth planning opportunities. Firstly, a growing business requires working capital. As a sole proprietorship, growing working capital is hard because profits are taxed at your personal marginal rate of taxation which may be in excess of 50%. By incorporating, you can grow your working capital, and thus expand your construction business, at a much faster rate because of the low rate of corporate tax. Secondly, by leaving profits in the Corporation in excess of your personal needs, you can grow your retirement savings in the corporation at a much faster rate. (In subsequent publications, we will talk about how to creditor-proof these savings).
A corporation provides for legal tax splitting with members of your family, if they are made shareholders of your corporation. The shares of your corporation may be structured so that you remain in control of the corporation notwithstanding shares issued to family members.
Talk to us about your business needs.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This publication is the seventh installment of our firm’s Legal Matters series, which answers a reader’s question every week. If you have a general legal question that you would like to have addressed please send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org