Types of Business Structures in New Zealand: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

  1. Starting a small business in New Zealand
  2. Business registration
  3. Types of business structures in New Zealand

Starting a business in New Zealand can be an exciting and rewarding venture, but it's important to understand the different types of business structures available before taking the leap. The right structure can not only impact your taxes and liabilities, but also your ability to secure funding and attract investors. In this guide, we'll explore the various business structures in New Zealand and help you determine which one is best suited for your entrepreneurial goals. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand your current business, this article will provide valuable insights and resources to help you make informed decisions.

So let's dive in and learn about the different types of business structures in New Zealand!The main types of business structures in New Zealand are sole trader, partnership, company, and trust. Each structure has its own unique characteristics and legal requirements. Let's take a closer look at each one:Sole Trader:This is the simplest and most common business structure in New Zealand. As a sole trader, you are the sole owner and operator of your business.

You have complete control over decision making and keep all profits after tax. However, you are also personally liable for any debts or losses incurred by the business.


A partnership is formed when two or more people come together to run a business. Partners share ownership, profits, and liabilities according to their agreed upon terms. It's important to have a well-written partnership agreement in place to avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings in the future.


A company is a separate legal entity from its owners, known as shareholders.

It offers limited liability protection to its shareholders, meaning they are only liable for the company's debts up to the amount they have invested. Companies are more complex to set up and require ongoing compliance with regulations.


A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds and manages assets for the benefit of others, known as beneficiaries. This structure is commonly used for holding and protecting assets, such as property or investments. When choosing a business structure, it's important to consider factors such as liability, taxation, and operational requirements. It's also recommended to seek professional advice from an accountant or lawyer to ensure you make the right decision for your business.

Sole Trader

If you're considering starting a small business in New Zealand, one of the most common business structures you may come across is the Sole Trader.

As the name suggests, this structure involves one person operating their business as an individual.


  • Easy and inexpensive to set up: As a Sole Trader, you don't need to register with the Companies Office or pay any registration fees. This makes it a cost-effective option for those just starting out.
  • Complete control and flexibility: As the sole owner of your business, you have complete control over all decisions and operations. You also have the flexibility to make changes and adjustments as needed.
  • Tax benefits: As a Sole Trader, your business income is treated as your personal income for tax purposes. This means you can claim deductions for any business-related expenses, potentially reducing your taxable income.
  • Unlimited personal liability: The biggest downside of being a Sole Trader is that there is no legal separation between you and your business.

    This means that if your business incurs any debts or legal liabilities, your personal assets may be at risk.

  • Limited access to funding: Sole Traders may have a harder time accessing funding or loans from banks or investors, as they are seen as higher risk compared to other business structures.


Company structures in New Zealand are legally required to be registered with the Companies Office, a division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). This is an important step for any business owner, as it provides legal protection and establishes the business as a separate legal entity from its owners. To register a company in New Zealand, there are certain legal requirements that must be met. This includes choosing a unique name for the company, having at least one director who is a New Zealand resident, and having a physical address in the country.

The process of registration can be done online through the Companies Office website, or through a registered agent. It is important to ensure that all necessary requirements are met to avoid any delays or issues in the registration process. Additionally, companies in New Zealand are required to have a constitution, which outlines the rules and regulations for running the company. This document must be filed with the Companies Office and can be tailored to fit the specific needs of the company.

It is important to seek legal advice when drafting a constitution to ensure it complies with all legal requirements. Once a company is registered, it will receive a unique company number and can begin operating as a legal entity. It is important for business owners to familiarize themselves with all legal requirements for running a company in New Zealand to ensure compliance and avoid any potential legal issues.


Partnerships are a popular business structure in New Zealand, as they allow two or more individuals to share ownership and management responsibilities. This type of structure is often chosen by friends or family members who want to start a business together. One of the most important aspects of a partnership is the agreement between the partners.

This is a legally binding document that outlines the rights and obligations of each partner, as well as the terms and conditions of the partnership. It is crucial for all partners to understand and agree to the terms of the agreement before starting the business. The agreement should include details such as the name of the partnership, the contributions of each partner (including capital, assets, and services), the division of profits and losses, decision-making processes, and how disputes will be resolved. It should also outline the process for adding new partners or removing existing ones. Partners should also consider including clauses for situations such as death, disability, or retirement of a partner. This will ensure that the partnership can continue without disruption in case of unforeseen circumstances. It is important to seek legal advice when drafting a partnership agreement to ensure that all aspects are covered and all parties are protected.

This will help avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts in the future.


Trust is a type of business structure that is commonly used in New Zealand. It is a legal entity that is created when a trustee holds and manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries. This structure is often used for family businesses or for businesses with charitable purposes. The main benefit of a trust is its flexibility. As the trustee, you have the power to manage and distribute the assets according to the terms of the trust deed.

This allows you to structure the business in a way that best suits your needs and goals. Another advantage of a trust is that it provides asset protection. Since the assets are owned by the trust, they are separate from your personal assets. This means that if your business faces any legal issues or debts, your personal assets will not be at risk. However, there are also some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a trust as your business structure. One major consideration is the cost involved in setting up and maintaining a trust.

This includes legal fees for drafting the trust deed, ongoing accounting fees, and annual filing fees. In addition, trusts are subject to higher tax rates compared to other business structures. Income earned by the trust is taxed at the highest personal tax rate, which can be a disadvantage for businesses with high profits. It's important to consult with a legal or financial advisor to determine if a trust is the right structure for your business. They can help you understand the legal and tax implications and guide you in setting up and managing the trust effectively. Understanding the different business structures in New Zealand is crucial for any entrepreneur. Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to carefully weigh your options before making a decision.

Remember to seek professional advice and choose a structure that aligns with your business goals and needs.

Ashleigh Webster
Ashleigh Webster

Subtly charming coffee nerd. Passionate beer practitioner. Proud zombie trailblazer. Typical travel nerd. Certified beer evangelist. General beer specialist.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *