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What is a co-op?

A co-operative is an enterprise which is owned and controlled by its user members and operates for the benefit of its user members.

Co-operatives place considerable emphasis on the ethos of member benefit, member participation and member loyalty.  Transparency openness and democratic accountability are also a part of the co-operative ethos.  If, in the organisation of the new venture, practical measures and policies can be put in place to cultivate and sustain these values, the co-operative corporate form should yield competitive advantages over use of a company structure.

It is perhaps in the area of identity and ownership that both corporate forms differ most.  Co-operatives are uniquely associated with the idea of democratic control and being open accountable businesses accessible to all those who are able to use their services and are willing to accept the responsibilities that being a co-operative entails.  Thus singular emphasis is put on the idea that those members who actively used the services of the co-operative are the persons who should be in control and should benefit from its services.  A corollary to this idea is that these members should also contribute to the financing of the business in proportion to the use they are making of it.

ItemCo-operativePrivate Company
Limited liabilityYes (value of the share capital given by the individual members)Yes
MembershipNo limit99
Perpetual successionYesYes
Can issue share capitalYesYes
Can reduce & expand share capitalYesYes, but with strict criteria
Minimum number of members7 individuals1 or 2
Compliance burden
  • Conduct an annual audit.

  • Submit annual
  • Conduct an annual audit.

  • Submit annual return.
  • Submit returns in regard to changes of directors and officers.
  • Exemption for certain types of company
Back-up servicesSee below - Section 8. ICOS Back-up services and co-operative developmentSeparate legal fees and consultant costs
Power of nomination of sharesYes, up to €15,000No
Taxation statusSame for both co-operatives and private companies Same for both co-operatives and private companies
Are model rules available?YesNo

For further information about starting a co-op please consult the following two documents: