Basic Forms of Ownership
Although forms of business ownership vary by jurisdiction, several common forms exist:
- Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person for-profit. The owner may operate the business alone or may employ others. The owner of the business has unlimited liability for the debts incurred by the business.
- Partnership: A partnership is a business owned by two or more people. In most forms of partnerships, each partner has unlimited liability for the debts incurred by the business. The three typical classifications of for-profit partnerships are general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.
- Corporation: A corporation is a limited liability business that has a separate legal personality from its members. Corporations can be either government-owned or privately owned, and corporations can organize either for-profit or not-for-profit. A privately owned, for-profit corporation is owned by shareholders who elect a board of directors to direct the corporation and hire its managerial staff. A privately owned, for-profit corporation can be either privately held or publicly held.
- Cooperative: Often referred to as a "co-op", a cooperative is a limited liability business that can organize for-profit or not-for-profit. A cooperative differs from a for-profit corporation in that it has members, as opposed to shareholders, who share decision-making authority. Cooperatives are typically classified as either consumer cooperatives or worker cooperatives. Cooperatives are fundamental to the ideology of economic democracy.
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