Terminology of Spanish Business Vehicles

There is often much confusion in the translation of the five principal types of Spanish “business vehicles” (formas jurídicas de la empresa). The simplest form of business entity in which a person goes into business for himself is the empresa individual, tantamount to the “sole proprietorship” in the United States. The owner is known as an empresario individual or comerciante individual, called “sole proprietor” in the US and “sole trader” in  the UK.

A second type of business entity includes three forms of sociedades personalistas (a generic term for “partnerships”), including the sociedad colectiva or S.C. (also called sociedad regular colectiva, or S.R.C.), which is a “general partnership;” the sociedad comanditaria (simple), or S. Com. (also known as a sociedad en comandita or S. en Com.), which is a “limited partnership;” and the sociedad comanditaria por acciones, or S. Com. P.A., a “partnership limited by shares” that has some of the features of a sociedad anónima. In sociedades colectivas (“general partnerships”) all partners (called socios colectivos) are “general partners,” sharing management duties and unlimited liability, unless the partnership agreement provides otherwise. In addition to the general partners, sociedades comanditarias likewise have socios comanditarios (“limited partners”) whose libility is limited to the amount of their contributions to the partnership. Sociedades comanditarias por acciones have at least one general partner (socio colectivo) in addition to the other socios who may be called accionistas (“shareholders”), given that partner interests in this type of entity are divided into shares (acciones).

The sociedad de responsabilidad limitada or S.R.L. (also termed simply sociedad limitada, or S.L.) is Spain’s “limited liability company,” while the sociedad anónima, or S.A. is a “corporation.” (In British English they may perhaps be described respectively as a “private limited company” and a “public limited company.”) Both sociedades limitadas and sociedades anónimas may be formed by a single member under the names sociedad limitada unipersonal or S.L.U. (a “single-member limited liability company”) and sociedad anónima unipersonal or S.A.U. (a “sole shareholder corporation”). Both S.L.s and S.A.s may likewise be partially employee owned, and will operate as either a sociedad limitada laboral or S.L.L. (“employee-owned limited liability company”) or a sociedad anónima laboral or S.A.L. (“employee-owned corporation”). Corporations whose shares are traded on the stock market are called sociedades anónimas cotizadas.

Other, perhaps less common forms of doing business in Spain include:

  • sociedades profesionales (“professional entities”)
  • sociedades cooperativas (“cooperatives;” “co-ops”)
  • agrupaciones de interés económico (“economic interest groupings”)
  • uniones temporales de empresas (“temporary business alliances”)
  • asociaciones (“associations”)
  • fundaciones (“foundations”), etc.


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