Running a business has its risks, especially as many fail in their early years of operation. The question as to which stakeholders associated with the business bear the loss is an important issue, which will largely depend on the business structure used. Accountants play a central role in the choice of business structure with their clients, with research demonstrating that liability issues are a central consideration.
The Australian undergraduate accounting curriculum is heavily focused on sole proprietors, partnerships and companies, with scant coverage of trusts despite them being a popular business structure in Australia. This article goes back to first principles and examines whether there is justification for the differential coverage in the accounting curriculum on the liability issues concerning the various business structures. It will be argued that the liability issues with respect to trusts are just as important as that for the other popular business structure used to reduce liability exposure, being the company.