Types of legal structures in Colombia: A guide

Want to know how to incorporate a company in Colombia? The country is increasingly capturing the attention of foreign investors. We can guide you through the complexities of the types of legal structures in Colombia. From sole proprietorships to corporations, understanding the various types of legal structures in Colombia is essential to establishing a successful and compliant business presence in this dynamic and promising market.

Frequently overlooked, Colombia has countless attractive industries that have been buoyed by strong foreign direct investment (FDI). This extends to all types of legal structures in Colombia. A rapidly developing mining sector has led to Colombia’s well-known emerald industry representing over 2% of its GDP.

Colombia’s immense number of free trade agreements (FTAs), along with access to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, gives access to markets representing a value of USD$43 trillion. This article will give you an overview of the most common types of legal structures in Colombia to help you determine which is the best fit for your business model.

types of legal structures in Colombia: a guide
A guide to the types of legal structures in Colombia

The most common types of companies in Colombia are:

  1. Simplified stock companies (SAS).
  2. Limited liability companies (LTDA).
  3. Corporations (SA).

Each will be discussed in more detail below.

Generally speaking, there is no minimum capital contribution required to incorporate a commercial company – this is set by the shareholders or partners. Following the liquidation of the company or capital reduction, foreign investments can easily be repatriated. Additionally, if certain capital requirements are met, investors are eligible to apply for a Migrant type of visa. The main steps to incorporate a company in Colombia include:

  • Formalization of company bylaws.
  • Application for a NIT (company tax ID number).
  • The opening of a Colombian bank account.

1. Simplified stock companies (S.A.S)

The S.A.S is the most common type of legal entity in Colombia and is popular within the business community for businesses large and small. Compared to other types of legal structures in Colombia, it has been praised by investors for its flexibility, specifically regarding the incorporation process and the large freedom afforded to shareholders to establish their own terms and conditions.

A large advantage of a simplified stock company is the ability to make the articles of incorporation a private document. Other key characteristics that distinguish a SAS include:

  • Only (1) one shareholder (either a natural or legal person) is required, with no maximum limitation.
  • Liability limited which equals the amount of the company’s equity.
  • The social purpose may be left undefined, allowing the company to participate in almost any business activity.
  • No requirement for a board of directors.

2. Limited liability companies (LTDA)

4 Types of legal entities/companies in Colombia
4 types of legal structures in Colombia, including a branch office

Under a Colombian LTDA, a partner’s liability is limited to the amount of the capital contribution (unless otherwise stipulated by the company bylaws), and partners are not liable for the payment of debt. The key considerations of an LTDA include:

  • Minimum of two partners with no more than 25.
  • Partner contributions shall be paid in full upon incorporation of the company.
  • Typically must be incorporated by a public deed. However, the document can be kept private if:
    • The company has fewer than ten employees OR
    • The company has assets below 500 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia (approximately USD$140,000).
  • The social purpose must be defined, limiting the company’s commercial activities.
  • No requirement for a board of directors.

3. Corporations (S.A.)

Among the types of legal structures in Colombia, a corporation is another option to consider, especially if dealing with a larger number of shareholders. Under a corporation, the shareholder’s liability is limited only to the amount of the shareholders’ equity, except if fraud is committed. The important aspects of a corporation include:

  • Minimum of five shareholders, none of which can have more than 95% of the outstanding capital stocks.
  • Just like an LTD, this company is typically incorporated by a public deed. However, the document can be kept private if:
    • The company has fewer than ten employees OR
    • The company has assets below 500 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia (approximately USD$140,000).
  • The social purpose must be defined.
  • The corporation must have a board of directors.

Our recommendation: Simplified Stock Company (SAS) offers a streamlined and efficient incorporation process, making it attractive for foreign businesses seeking to establish a presence in Colombia. In addition, SAS entities are subject to simplified corporate governance requirements compared to other legal entity types, making them a practical choice for foreign investors.

How to form a company S.A.S. in Colombia? infographic by biz latin hub
One of the most popular types of legal structures in Colombia

Another option: Branch office of a foreign company

Opening a foreign branch office could be an attractive option for a company that has its head office (Casa Matriz in Spanish) headquartered in another country. Colombian legislation recognizes foreign branch offices as an extension of the parent company, so branches and the parent company are viewed as the same legal entity. Key documentation required to establish a foreign branch office include:

  • Certificate of incorporation document and legal representation of the parent company

Authorization of a representative to act on the company’s behalf by the power of attorney Bylaws of the parent company

Each of the legal entities discussed has its advantages and disadvantages. SASs are the most popular among investors due to their flexibility and ability to keep their articles of incorporation private. Limited liability companies and corporations are more traditional routes.

1. Can a foreigner register a company in Colombia?

Yes, foreign nationals can register a company in Colombia. The process involves complying with specific legal requirements and regulations set forth by the Colombian government.

2. What type of legal entity is recommended in Colombia?

The recommended legal entity in Colombia is the Simplified Shares Company (S.A.S), known as Sociedad por Acciones Simplificada. This legal structure offers a combination of speed, flexibility, and investor-friendly features, making it an ideal choice for both domestic and foreign businesses.

3. How do I create a company in Colombia?

Creating a company in Colombia involves several steps, including selecting a legal structure, registering with the Chamber of Commerce, obtaining a tax identification number (NIT), and fulfilling any additional requirements based on the chosen legal entity.

4. What is an LLC in Colombia?

In Colombia, there is no specific legal entity equivalent to the Limited Liability Company (LLC) commonly found in other jurisdictions. However, the closest equivalent would be the Simplified Shares Company (S.A.S), offering limited liability protection to its shareholders while allowing for simplified management and operations.

5. What is the business structure of a Simplified Shares Company (S.A.S) in Colombia?

The Simplified Shares Company (S.A.S) in Colombia offers a combination of speed, flexibility, and investor-friendly features that make it a suitable choice for both domestic and foreign businesses. This legal entity provides limited liability protection to its shareholders and allows for streamlined administrative procedures, facilitating ease of operation and growth.

Are you interested in the types of legal structures in Colombia?

Choosing the right entity to set up your business in Colombia is a complex decision, and that’s why we recommend working with a local partner. Headquartered in the heart of Bogotá, our team of local experts and professionals can help answer your questions and get your business started in Colombia. Our services range from commercial representation to market entry to company formation services to accounting and taxation support.

Given the favorable conditions in the country and the region as well as the economic growth, Biz Latin Hub through its company Colombian Business Services offers the experience and support necessary for investors to have a successful market entry in Colombia. Feel free to contact us now.

Check out the video below for more information about forming a company in Colombia!

YouTube video
All types of legal structures in Colombia can be formed with the help of Biz Latin Hub

The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.
Legal Team Colombia

Legal Team Colombia

Legal Team Colombia is the Biz Latin Hub leading experts on doing business in Colombia The Team writes on the news, doing business, law, and changing regulations. The team are experts in corporate law, Administrative law, Employment law, Immigration law and legal advisory services. Read more about them here. You can contact Legal Team Colombia via our "contact us page".

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