Information About Setting Up Your Own Business

If you are thinking of starting a business in Ireland 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.

Unemployed people

If you are unemployed you may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme. If you participate in this scheme, you retain a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years. If you are starting a business, you also may get extra supports under the scheme, for example grants for training, market research, business plans and access to loans to buy equipment. (please check with Social Welfare as details may have changed)

Non Irish Nationals

Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland do not need permission to set up a business in Ireland. In general non-EEA nationals must get permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in order to set up a business in Ireland. There are also a number of other steps required if you wish to come to Ireland to set up a business.

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.

  • 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 the Revenue Commissioners (see ‘Tax and PRSI’ below). If you wish to use a business name you must register your business name with the Companies Registration Office.
  • 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. 

There is more information about these different structures on the CRO website You can register your business name and file company returns online with the CRO using CORE

Business plan and funding

Your Local Enterprise Offices provide supports including grants to local businesses that are starting up or in development. NB: Grant support is only available to eligible businesses (internationally traded services or manufacturing)

Tax and PRSI

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 it is not incorporated you are considered to be a sole trader and you pay tax under the self-assessment system. Further information is available on the Revenue website.

  • PRSI: If you are self-employed you pay Class S social insurance contributions. There is a guide PRSI for the Self-Employed-SW74 on the website of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Employment rights and employers' obligations

If you are starting up a business and decide to recruit staff you must find out what are 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 paid employees on the website of the National Employment Rights Authority. You can also read our documents on topics such as the minimum wage, social insurance (PRSI),leave and health and safety.

Further information

There is more information in our documents on becoming self-employed and closing or selling a business. The guide to self-employment, Toil and Trouble (pdf), is available on the Department of Social and Family Affairs website.

Your Local Enterprise Office provides information, advice, and financial support to small businesses. 

Enterprise Ireland is an Irish Government agency which is responsible for the development of Irish industry. It provides advice and financial support to High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) businesses.

IDA (Irish Development Authority) Ireland is an Irish Government agency with responsibility for securing new investment from overseas in manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It can provide information about setting up a business in Ireland and may provide grants to companies wishing to locate in Ireland or expand their existing operations in Ireland. 

The following organisations provide their members with advice and information about running a business: Small Firms Association (SFA) and Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME).