A sole practitioner, also known as a sole proprietor, is a proprietor of a professional practice. The sole practitioner is the owner of the business and is responsible for its debts and obligations. Sole practitioners also are responsible for paying their own personal income taxes.
Doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists and those in any other profession whereby an individual can operate a business as a proprietor of a professional practice are known as sole practitioners.
In general, sole practitioners do not operate their businesses as a partnership or a corporation. There is no distinction between the sole practitioner and the business. A sole practitioner can hire employees; however, the sole practitioner maintains full responsibility for the debts and losses of the business.
To operate a professional business as a sole practitioner, individuals must have the proper business licenses, permits or certificates. For instance, many lawyers operate as sole practitioners; lawyers are required to maintain a state license to practice law. Most of these professions include specific educational prerequisites, and most states require individuals to meet certain educational qualifications before applying for professional licenses in particular professions.
A sole practitioner may use her legal name as the business name or register a “doing business as” name, or fictitious name, usually with the secretary of state's office. A fictitious name is an assumed name or trade name that a sole practitioner may use to operate her business, which is separate from her legal name. However, a sole practitioner is not legally separated from her proprietorship; sole practitioners are required to use their legal name on all government forms, regardless their registered business name.
A sole practitioner conducts his business as a solo practice rather than a group practice. There are several advantages to having a solo practice. A sole practitioner sets his own work hours and schedules as well as conducts every facet of his business as he sees appropriate. The practitioner maintains full control of the profits of his business. There may also be disadvantages to a solo practice. There is no set salary for sole practitioners. At times, a solo practitioner may have a lack of coverage for such things as unexpected emergencies and illnesses.
Marie Huntington has been a legal and business writer since 2002 with articles appearing on various websites. She also provides travel-related content online and holds a Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School.