Overview: Setting up a business

When you become self-employed it means you are carrying on your own business rather than working for an employer. Much of the process of preparing for self-employment is about setting up a business.

Different supports and regulations apply, depending on your particular situation. You may be employed or unemployed or you may be someone who is coming from outside Ireland to set up a business. If you are an EEA or a Swiss national you do not require a business permission to establish a business in Ireland. If you are a non-EEA national you can establish a business in Ireland but must have permission to do so.

You can read about sources of information on self-employment.

Business structures

If you are interested in becoming self-employed you can set up as a sole trader. However if your business fails, your personal assets could be used to pay your creditors. Your main legal obligation is that you must register for income tax as a self-employed person with Revenue.

You could run a business as a partnership where the partners are jointly responsible for running the business and if it fails all partners are jointly responsible for the debt. An alternative structure is for you to set up a limited company. The company must be registered with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) which has published information about these different structures.

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


There is a range of supports to help you when you are setting up a business. Local Enterprise Offices provide supports to microenterprises (10 or fewer employees) that are starting up or in development. You can find information about their training programmes, start your own business courses and financial supports on localenterprise.ie.

If you are unemployed, you may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) Scheme or the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) Scheme. These schemes aim to encourage people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed.

The Start Your Own Business scheme provides a two-year exemption from income tax for people who have been unemployed for at least 12 months before starting their own business. It runs from 23 October 2013 to 31 December 2016.

Page updated: 18 September 2014