Is there a partnership?

Produced by Tolley

The following Owner-Managed Businesses guidance note Produced by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Is there a partnership?
  • Introduction
  • The Partnership Act
  • Guidance from case law
  • Accidental partnerships
  • Documentation

Is there a partnership?


It is not always clear whether a partnership exists. Some guidance can be found in the Partnership Act 1890, and the courts have provided a significant volume of case law.

It is, however, not uncommon to find that people have been trading in partnership without realising it. Care is thus needed, as the special tax rules which apply to partnerships can give unexpected results, particularly where losses are concerned. See the General rules for partnership losses guidance note.

The Partnership Act

The Partnership Act excludes the following business relationships from being partnerships, if there are no other factors:

  1. the existence of a joint tenancy, tenancy in common, joint property, common property, or part ownership of property (this remains the case whether or not the tenants or owners share any profits arising from the use of the property)

  2. the sharing of ‘gross returns’ (turnover), whether or not the individuals jointly own any property from which the returns arise

Partnership Act 1890, s 2(1), (2); PM131800

In contrast to the mere sharing of turnover, sharing profits is evidence that a

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