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Starting a business

Introduction

If you are thinking of setting up a business there are a number of issues you need to consider. Different supports and regulations apply, depending on your particular situation. You may be employed, unemployed or someone who is coming from outside Ireland to set up a business. This document highlights some of the important information you need to know with links to relevant topics. You can read more in our documents, Sources of information on starting a business and Becoming self-employed.

Business planning

Local Enterprise Offices provide supports to local businesses that are starting up or in development. Their role is to stimulate economic activity at local level and to promote microenterprises (10 or fewer employees). You can find information about their training programmes and start your own business courses as well as mentoring and financial supports on localenterprise.ie.

New Frontiers is a development programme for potential entrepreneurs, funded and coordinated by Enterprise Ireland, which is delivered locally by Institutes of Technology.

Unemployed people

If you are unemployed you may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) or the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA). If you are starting a business, you also may get extra supports under these schemes, such as grants for training, market research and business plans as well as access to loans to buy equipment.

The Start Your Own Business Relief provides relief from income tax to people who are unemployed for at least 12 months and who set up a qualifying business. It runs from 23 October 2013 to 31 December 2016.

Foreign nationals

Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland do not need permission to set up a business in Ireland. Generally, non-EEA nationals must get permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality in order to set up a business in Ireland. They may be eligible to apply for the Immigrant Investor Programme or the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. If they wish to start a retail, catering, personal services or similar business they should apply for the business permission scheme.

Legal structures

You can set up a business as a sole trader, as a partnership or as a limited company. The type of structure you choose depends on the kind of business you are running, with whom you will be doing business and your attitude to risk. It is advisable to get the advice of a solicitor or accountant when considering the structure for your business. The Companies Registration Office (CRO) has information about these different structures on its website, cro.ie.

Sole trader

It is relatively simple to set up as a sole trader but if your business fails, your personal assets could be used to pay your creditors. Your main legal obligation is that you must register as a self-employed person with Revenue (see ‘Tax and PRSI’ below). If you wish to use a business name you must register your business name with the Companies Registration Office (CRO).

Partnership

This is where 2 or more people agree to run a business in partnership with each other. The partnership agreement should be drawn up by a solicitor. The partners are jointly responsible for running the business and if it fails all partners are jointly responsible for the debt.

Limited company

If you set up your business as a limited company, the business is a separate legal entity. If the company gets into debt, the creditors generally only have a claim on the assets of the company. The company must be registered with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) and the company reports and accounts must be returned to the CRO each year.

Companies Act 2014

The Companies Act 2014, which replaced the Companies Acts 1963-2013, came into effect on 1 June 2015. Under the Act, all existing private companies limited by shares must choose to convert to either an LTD (private company limited by shares) or a DAC (Designated Activity Company). Apart from certain exemptions, guarantee companies and unlimited companies are required to change their names under the Act.

You can register your business name and file company returns online with the CRO using CORE (Companies Online Registration Environment).

Funding

Microfinance Ireland provides loans to small businesses with no more than 10 employees, including sole traders and start-ups. The loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 are for commercially viable proposals. Since September 2015, under the Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme 2015, there is no longer a requirement to have been refused credit by the banks. Forms and details of how to apply are available on microfinance.ie.

JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register. There are 2 levels of incentive: €7,500 for recruits unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months and €10,000 for recruits unemployed for more than 24 months. Eligible employers who recruit full-time employees on or after 1 July 2013 may apply for the incentive. JobsPlus has replaced the Revenue Job Assist and Employer Job (PRSI) Exemption Scheme both of which ended on 30 June 2013, but existing participants on these schemes will not be affected.

Under the Trading Online Voucher Scheme vouchers of up to €2,500 may be available to businesses who demonstrate that they have a credible plan for trading online. Further details are available from your Local Enterprise Office.

Credit difficulties

If you have a small or medium business and your application for credit is refused by one of the participating banks you may apply to the Credit Review Office to have your case reviewed. To be eligible for a review your application must have been in writing. There is an application form on the website of the Credit Review Office. The fee for the review ranges from €100 up to a maximum of €250.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme aims to encourage additional lending to small and medium businesses who are commercially viable but have difficulty in accessing credit. Under the Scheme eligible applicants will be assisted in obtaining a loan and in establishing a favourable credit history. Since 23 February 2015, changes to the Credit Guarantee Scheme include increasing the maximum length of the guarantee from 3 to 7 years. Also, the Scheme now allows for refinancing loans where the business’s bank is exiting the Irish credit market.

If you are having difficulties with your creditors the Chartered Accountants Voluntary Advice service - CAVA (pdf) can give free advice and assistance on your business affairs. Contact your local Citizens Information Service or Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) to see if they offer the service.

Tax, PRSI and employing staff

Tax

How your business is taxed depends on whether it is incorporated as a company. If it is a company then it is liable for corporation tax. If your business is not incorporated you are considered to be a sole trader and you pay tax under the self-assessment system. Further information on tax is available in our document on tax for self-employed people and from Revenue.

Earned Income tax credit: Starting in 2016, taxpayers earning self-employed trading or professional income may claim a new Earned Income tax credit of €550. It is also available for business owners or managers who are not eligible for a PAYE credit on their salary income. If a taxpayer also qualifies for the PAYE tax credit, the combined value of these 2 tax credits cannot exceed €1,650.

SURE tax refund: The Start Up Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) is a tax refund scheme that allows eligible people to get a refund of up to 41% of the capital they invest in starting a business. Under the SURE scheme you may be entitled to a refund of PAYE income tax that you paid over the 6 years before the year in which you invest. You can read the Revenue guide IT15 for further details of the SURE scheme. You can use the online calculator on sure.gov.ie to estimate your potential refund.

Start-up companies: New companies may get tax relief on the first 3 years of corporation tax and the value of the relief will be linked to the amount of employers’ PRSI paid by a company in an accounting period subject to a maximum of €5,000 per employee. In the Finance Act 2013, the tax relief was extended to allow any unused relief arising in the first 3 years of trading to be carried forward for use in subsequent years. The relief was extended to companies that started trading in 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 and, in the Finance Act 2015, to companies that start trading in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) relief: If you sell your business on or after 1 January 2016, a lower CGT rate of 20% will apply to the net chargeable gains arising from the sale of all or part of your business, up to a lifetime limit of €1 million.

PRSI

If you are self-employed you pay Class S social insurance contributions. There is a guide, PRSI for the Self-Employed on welfare.ie.

If you are an employer and you created new and additional jobs in 2012 you may have qualified for an exemption of employer’s PRSI for those jobs. In 2013 this scheme was replaced by the JobsPlus incentive, which aims to encourage employers to hire individuals that are long-term unemployed - see 'Funding' above.

Employing staff

If you are starting up a business and decide to recruit staff you must register for PAYE and PRSI with Revenue. You can find information in our document about your obligations and duties as an employer and what are the rights of employees. There is a guide for employers who are starting a new business with a paid employee (pdf). You can also read our documents on topics such as the minimum wage, social insurance (PRSI), leave and health and safety.

Further information

You can find more information in our documents on sources of information on starting a business, becoming self-employed and closing or selling a business.

Action Plan for Jobs

The Action Plan for Jobs 2016 includes the following measures:

  • All Government transactions with business will be available online by 2017
  • A single Government web portal to highlight job opportunities to returning emigrants
  • A new National Skills Strategy
  • Measures to double the jobs impact from start-ups

Page edited: 22 April 2016

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.