Guide of the Legal Forms of Companies in Spain

Guide of the Legal Forms of Companies in Spain

The legal form of a company is a key aspect in its establishment and development. In Spain, there are different options, such as the self employed, the public limited company, and the cooperative society, each with its characteristics, advantages, and requirements. Choosing the right legal form is crucial, as it affects aspects like liability, legal procedures, and business management. Furthermore, complying with regulations and laws in the commercial field and considering intellectual property is essential. This article explores the most common legal forms and their impact on business success.

Before proceeding, if you’re thinking of starting a company or need legal advice, it’s essential to consult with a specialist in commercial law.

What is the Legal Form of a Company?

The legal form of a company refers to the legal structure under which it is established and operates. It is the regulatory framework that defines the rights and obligations of the partners or owners, as well as the legal and fiscal responsibilities it entails.

Definition and Characteristics

The legal form of a company determines its legal nature and defines aspects like the type of liability of the owners, the management and administrative structure, and how it is organized and operated. For example, a company can be structured as a self employed, a public limited company, or a cooperative society, among other options.

Each legal form has specific characteristics. For instance, in the case of a self employed, the company is owned and managed by a single person. In a public limited company, ownership is divided into shares, and there can be multiple shareholders. In a cooperative society, partners share ownership and make decisions collectively.

Importance of Choosing the Right Legal Form

Choosing the right legal form for a company is crucial, as it has legal, fiscal, and business management implications. The legal form will determine, for example, the level of owner liability, how financial resources are managed, and the relationship with partners or shareholders.

Additionally, choosing the right legal form can affect the company’s image and its access to financing or business agreements. Therefore, it’s important to conduct a detailed analysis of the available options and consider factors such as the type of business, the company’s size, and long-term goals before making a decision.

Key Legal Forms of Companies

Self Employed

The self employed is one of the available legal forms for operating a company. In this modality, a person engaged in economic activity does so individually, without establishing a separate legal entity or society.

Characteristics and Requirements

  • The self employed can be a natural person engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activity independently.
  • There is no minimum capital requirement for its establishment, as it does not involve forming a separate entity or society.
  • This type of persons has unlimited liability with their personal assets for the company’s debts and obligations.
  • The activity conducted by the self employed is governed by the current legal regulations and must comply with the established tax, labour, and accounting obligations.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The self employed has both advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when choosing this legal form:


  • Simplicity and ease in establishing and managing the company.
  • Autonomy and decision-making without relying on partners or shareholders.
  • Quick decision-making and flexibility in adapting to the market.


  • Unlimited liability with personal assets, which implies higher financial risk.
  • Limitations in obtaining external financing and accessing certain tax benefits or public assistance.
  • Challenges in competing on equal terms with commercial companies.

Responsibility of the self employed

In the case of the self employed, the responsibility for the company’s debts and obligations rests directly on their personal assets. This means that in case of insolvency or unpaid debts, creditors could claim the personal assets of the entrepreneur to cover these obligations.

Public Limited Company (PLC)

The Public Limited Company (PLC) is a legal form used by many companies in Spain. The following are the main aspects related to this form of business organization.

Formation and Requirements

The formation of a Public Limited Company requires compliance with various legal requirements. This includes drafting the articles of association, which must be registered in the Commercial Register, and establishing the share capital. Additionally, a minimum of three founding partners is required.

Management and Administrative Bodies

The Public Limited Company has different management and administrative bodies. Among them is the General Shareholders’ Meeting, which is the highest body of the company and makes important decisions. In addition, a Board of Directors is established for the day-to-day management of the company.

Liability of Shareholders

In a Public Limited Company, the liability of shareholders is limited to the capital contributed, meaning they are not personally liable for the company’s debts. This feature attracts many investors and builds confidence in this legal form.

Advantages and Limitations of the PLC

The Public Limited Company offers advantages such as the ability to raise significant capital through the issuance of shares. It also allows for a more professional management structure and can attract third-party investments. However, its establishment and compliance with legal obligations can be more complex than in other legal forms.

Cooperative Society

The cooperative society is a legal form based on principles of solidarity, cooperation, and the participation of its members. The following details the characteristics and requirements of this type of society, as well as the governing bodies and member participation.

Definition and Principles

A cooperative society is defined as an entity in which members voluntarily come together to meet their common economic and social needs. The fundamental principles on which cooperative societies are based include voluntary and open membership, democratic management, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training, and information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for the community.

Characteristics and Requirements

  • A cooperative society consists of a minimum of three members who can be natural or legal persons.
  • The liability of members is limited to the capital contributed to the cooperative.
  • Management and decision-making are carried out democratically, with each member having one vote, regardless of their capital contribution.
  • The cooperative has an economic and social purpose, which can involve the production, distribution, or consumption of goods and services.
  • Profits generated by the cooperative are distributed among members based on their participation in the cooperative’s activities.
  • The cooperative must maintain proper accounting and present annual financial statements.
  • The legal requirements for the establishment of a cooperative society must be met, including drafting the articles of association and registering them in the relevant registry.

Governing Bodies and Member Participation

In a cooperative society, the governing and management bodies are the Board of Directors and the General Assembly. The Board of Directors is responsible for representing and managing the cooperative, making strategic and administrative decisions. The General Assembly is the supreme body of the cooperative, where members make significant decisions and exercise their voting rights. In addition, members have the opportunity to actively participate in the cooperative, contributing their work and experience to the development of business activities.

Legal Forms of Companies in Spain

In the business field in Spain, there are various legal forms that a company can adopt. These legal forms determine the company’s legal structure and its implications in terms of liability, management, and regulations.

Comparison of Advantages and Disadvantages

Self Employed

Advantages of being an self employed include simplicity and agility in establishing and managing the company. The entrepreneur has total control and makes all decisions. However, the main disadvantage is that the entrepreneur has unlimited liability, putting personal assets at risk in case of business debts or legal issues. External financing options may also be limited.

Public Limited Company (PLC)

Public Limited Companies offer the advantage of limited liability for shareholders. This means that the personal assets of shareholders are protected from the company’s debts and obligations. PLCs can also attract external investors through the issuance of shares, but they come with more complex formation and management requirements.

Cooperative Society

Cooperative societies operate based on principles of cooperation and solidarity. They allow for democratic decision-making and the sharing of profits among members. The main challenge is that they require a minimum number of members to form and may be less suited to certain business models.

Choosing the Right Legal Form

When choosing the right legal form for your company in Spain, it’s essential to consider various factors, such as your business model, the level of personal liability you are willing to accept, the need for outside investors, and your long-term goals. Additionally, consulting with a legal expert or advisor is recommended to ensure you understand the specific legal requirements and implications of your chosen legal form.

Compliance with Regulations

No matter the legal form you choose, it’s essential to ensure your company complies with all relevant regulations and laws. This includes tax obligations, labor laws, intellectual property rights, and other legal requirements specific to your industry. Ignorance of or failure to comply with these regulations can lead to legal issues and financial penalties.


The legal form of a company in Spain is a crucial decision that impacts its structure, management, and legal responsibilities. Entrepreneurs and business owners should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of different legal forms, such as the self employed, public limited company, and cooperative society, to make an informed choice that aligns with their business goals and needs.

Additionally, staying informed about relevant regulations and consulting with legal experts is essential for ensuring compliance with Spanish commercial laws and operating a successful business.

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