The Business Partnership

When a proprietor wants to expand a business, one way to do so is to form a partnership, a business formed for profit by two or more co-owners. The rights and duties of a partnership are regulated by laws of the state where it is formed and by a legal agreement entered into by the co-owners. Usually an agreement specifies the amount of money each is investing and the duties each partner assumes. A partnership agreement also may provide for a "silent partner" who does not take part in the management, but who invests money in the business.

The partnership has the advantage of pooling managerial talent. One partner may be qualified in production, another in marketing. The partnership, like individual ownership, is exempt from most of the reporting that the government requires of corporations. Furthermore, it has a favorable tax position when compared with the corporation. Federal taxes are paid by individual partners on their share of earnings; beyond that the business is not taxed.

A major disadvantage of the partnership is that each member is liable for all the debts of the partnership; the act of any partner is legally binding upon all the others. If one partner takes a large amount of money from the business and squanders it, the others must pay the debt. Partnerships suffer another major disadvantage: decision-making is shared. If partners have serious and constant disagreements, the business is bound to suffer.

Nonetheless, the partnership remains a vital part of the overall business economy. The Internal Revenue Service reported that between 1970 and 1982, there were approximately half as many business partnerships as corporations.