Corporation vs. Partnership

What's the Difference?

Corporation and partnership are two different types of business structures. A corporation is a legal entity that is separate from its owners, known as shareholders. It is formed by filing articles of incorporation with the state and is governed by a board of directors. Corporations offer limited liability protection to shareholders, meaning their personal assets are not at risk in case of business debts or lawsuits. On the other hand, a partnership is a business owned and operated by two or more individuals who share the profits and losses. Partnerships can be formed with a simple agreement and do not require formal registration. Unlike corporations, partners in a partnership have unlimited liability, meaning their personal assets can be used to satisfy business obligations.


Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
Legal StructureSeparate legal entityNot a separate legal entity
LiabilityLimited liabilityUnlimited liability
TaxationDouble taxation (corporate and individual)Pass-through taxation (individual)
ManagementBoard of DirectorsPartners
FormationRequires filing Articles of IncorporationRequires a partnership agreement
ContinuityPerpetual existenceDepends on partnership agreement
Transferability of OwnershipShares can be bought and soldPartnership interest can be transferred with consent
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to business structures, corporations and partnerships are two common options that entrepreneurs consider. Both have their own unique attributes and advantages, which can significantly impact the way a business operates and its legal obligations. In this article, we will explore the key differences and similarities between corporations and partnerships, shedding light on their respective attributes.

Formation and Legal Structure

One of the fundamental differences between corporations and partnerships lies in their formation and legal structure. A corporation is a separate legal entity that is formed by filing articles of incorporation with the appropriate state authority. It requires the appointment of directors, officers, and shareholders, who collectively manage and own the corporation. On the other hand, a partnership is formed when two or more individuals come together to carry on a business for profit. Partnerships can be created through a simple oral agreement or a written partnership agreement, depending on the jurisdiction.


Liability is another crucial aspect to consider when comparing corporations and partnerships. In a corporation, the owners, or shareholders, generally have limited liability. This means that their personal assets are protected from the debts and liabilities of the corporation. The corporation itself is responsible for its obligations, and shareholders' liability is typically limited to their investment in the company. Conversely, in a partnership, the partners have unlimited liability. This means that each partner is personally liable for the debts and obligations of the partnership, even if it exceeds their initial investment.


When it comes to taxation, corporations and partnerships are subject to different rules. A corporation is considered a separate taxable entity, and it must file its own tax return and pay taxes on its profits. This is known as double taxation since the corporation's profits are taxed at the corporate level, and then any dividends distributed to shareholders are taxed again at the individual level. On the other hand, partnerships are not subject to double taxation. Instead, the profits and losses of the partnership "pass through" to the individual partners, who report them on their personal tax returns. This allows for a single level of taxation, often resulting in a more favorable tax treatment for partnerships.

Management and Decision-Making

The management and decision-making structure also differs between corporations and partnerships. In a corporation, the board of directors is responsible for making major decisions and overseeing the company's operations. Shareholders, who elect the board, typically have limited involvement in day-to-day management. On the other hand, partnerships are generally more flexible in terms of management. Partners have the authority to make decisions collectively, unless otherwise specified in the partnership agreement. This can lead to a more hands-on approach to management, with partners actively involved in the business's daily operations.

Transferability of Ownership

Transferability of ownership is an important consideration for many business owners. In a corporation, ownership is represented by shares of stock, which can be easily transferred or sold to other individuals or entities. This allows for greater flexibility in changing ownership and attracting investors. Conversely, partnerships often have restrictions on the transferability of ownership. The consent of all partners may be required before a partner can sell or transfer their interest in the partnership. This can make it more challenging to bring in new partners or sell a partnership interest.

Continuity and Succession

Continuity and succession planning are crucial for the long-term viability of a business. Corporations generally have a perpetual existence, meaning they can continue to operate even if shareholders change or pass away. Ownership can be easily transferred, ensuring the business's continuity. In contrast, partnerships often face challenges in terms of continuity and succession. A partnership may dissolve upon the withdrawal, retirement, or death of a partner, unless otherwise specified in the partnership agreement. This can disrupt the business's operations and require the formation of a new partnership or conversion to another business structure.


In summary, corporations and partnerships have distinct attributes that entrepreneurs must carefully consider when choosing a business structure. Corporations offer limited liability, a separate legal entity, and the potential for double taxation. Partnerships, on the other hand, provide flexibility in management, pass-through taxation, and potential challenges in terms of liability and continuity. Ultimately, the choice between a corporation and a partnership depends on the specific needs and goals of the business, as well as the preferences of the owners.

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