A Guide on How to Register Your Business in Canada
You’ve made it through the hard part—coming up with a winning business idea and making it a reality. Now that you’ve made the decision to dive headfirst into entrepreneurship, registering your business is a crucial next step to getting your venture off the ground.
How you register your business in Canada will be based on where your business operates and what type of business you’re running. Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia all have similar processes for registering your business, and you will need to access the appropriate documentation based on the province where your business will be operating. The registration process is also slightly different depending on if you own a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.
Below we outline what’s required so you can register your business and get started.
Why register your business?
Anyone can own and operate a business—in the simplest terms, running a business is providing a good or service to consumers for a fee. However, registering your business helps to ensure you are running a legitimate operation in the eyes of the provincial and federal government, as they will have your business on record. As a registered business, you can file taxes as a business and reap business tax benefits.
Having a registered business will also give you access to applying for a business loan and opening a business-specific bank account to keep your finances in order. It will make hiring employees feasible to help your business grow, and provide access to business-specific discounts with suppliers in your industry. It will also boost your profile with your customers, as they are more likely to trust a registered business and view your venture as a reputable option in the marketplace.
Basically, registering your business is a great way to access benefits and support in many different ways, and help you grow as a small business owner.
What type of business will you be registering?
In Canada, there are four different business types: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, and a cooperative. A sole proprietorship is the most basic form of business ownership, where you are the sole owner, and you make all the business decisions. Many small businesses start as sole proprietorships.
A general partnership is similar in structure, but rather than just one owner, there are two or more owners of the business operating it together. A limited partnership is when there are different responsibilities among the two partners, and they do not share the same access to the business.
A corporation is often formed when a sole proprietor decides to incorporate their business to increase business growth and access a different tax rate. It also often occurs when a business grows from one owner to many owners or stakeholders, who all have a say on how the corporation is run.
Incorporating your business in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and other provinces across Canada can be a time-consuming process. Still, many growing businesses find this transition valuable for their bottom line.
In a cooperative, you are a member of a private business where decisions are made through consensus and voting among members. Ownership is controlled by who accesses and provides services in the business. This is the least common business type and will only be touched on here.
Registering a sole proprietorship and a partnership are similar processes at the provincial level. If you are registering a corporation, you will be following a slightly different, but still relatively straightforward process.
What’s the difference between registering a business name and registering your business?
It’s easy to get the registration process confused. You only complete one registration, but you will need to choose your business name first before you can register your business in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. Naming your business can feel like a pretty major step as an entrepreneur, but there are some techniques to find the perfect business name that will help you settle on a winner — the team at Now Creative Group offers branding support which includes the naming process.s
Once you’ve landed on the perfect name for your business, you’re ready to register your business.
If you’re incorporating, you can also do so as a numbered corporation without choosing a name. You will be assigned a number by the government, and this number will be the name of your business.
Registering your business in BC
If your sole proprietorship or partnership is operating in British Columbia, you’ll need to follow a few steps to register.
You will first need to request approval to use your business name with the province online, by mail, or in person, as noted on the British Columbia government website. As part of the application, you will need to provide three possible business names you’d like to register for, listed in order of preference, to ensure you have options if your first choice is rejected. This submission will cost $31.50.
Once your business name has been approved, you will receive a notification from the provincial government and receive a Name Request (NR) number. You will then have 56 calendar days to register your business in British Columbia.
To register your business as a sole proprietor or partnership, you will need to pay a $40 one time fee. In the application, you will provide your registered business name, your business address, and your name. If you use Ownr to register your sole proprietorship, it costs $120.50 plus GST, which includes the cost of registration and up to 30 preliminary name searches. Ownr is not able to register partnerships at this time.
You can register online through OneStop Business Registry, where your form is automatically submitted to the provincial government. You can also register in person using a paper form at your local Serve BC Centre or OneStop Service location, as well as mail-in your form along with a cheque or money order. It normally takes five working days for your Statement of Registration to be processed.
If you are registering as a corporation, you will need to approve your corporation’s name first, and then create a Corporate Online account. You will need to create your Articles and prepare an incorporation agreement. You can then submit the incorporation application online or by mail. The government will charge a $350 filing fee in addition to the $31.50 name reservation fee. This process can be time-consuming and confusing, so many corporations consult with a lawyer to ensure they are registered properly in British Columbia. Registering with the government directly will not provide your company formation legal documents, which often requires a lawyer to create.
You can incorporate for a fraction of what a lawyer would cost, and with much less hassle through Ownr. You will receive a complete incorporation package that includes your name search report, Articles of Incorporation, company formation documents (Minute Book) and business number. The cost is $700.50 plus GST.
Registering your business in Alberta
To register a sole proprietorship or partnership in Alberta, you will need to register your business name first. You will then need to compile important information, including your approved business name, your business address, and the provincial license type you are applying for. You can register your business at your local business registry in person or online through the government of Alberta website. It costs $50 to register a sole proprietorship or partnership in Alberta.
If you use Ownr to register your sole proprietorship, it costs $99 plus GST, which includes the cost of registration and up to 30 preliminary name searches. Ownr is not able to register partnerships at this time.
If you would like to register a corporation in Alberta, you will first need to order a NUANS name search for your business name. After receiving the name reservation, the government will charge $275 to register the corporation. Many corporations in Alberta will register through a lawyer to reduce confusion and paperwork on their end, as well as to ensure it is done properly. Registering with the government directly will not provide your company formation legal documents, which often requires a lawyer to create.
You can incorporate for a fraction of what a lawyer would cost, and with much less hassle, through Ownr . You will receive a complete incorporation package that includes your name search report, Articles of Incorporation, company formation documents (Minute Book) and business number. The cost is $594 plus GST.
Registering your business in Ontario
If your sole proprietorship or partnership is based in Ontario, you can register online, in person, or by mail. You will need to provide your name, address, a valid email address, a description of what your business will be doing, the name of your partners (if any), as well as the partnership agreement you have in place, if applicable.
You will need to pay a $60 fee to register your business online, or an $80 fee if you register by mail. There is an additional charge for name searches of $8-$26, depending on your search type. However, if you use Ownr to register your sole proprietorship, it costs $89 plus HST, which includes the cost of registration and up to 30 name searches.
Once your business has been registered, you will receive a nine-digit Business Identification Number (BIN), which will identify your business as registered in Ontario. You can then use your BIN number to open a business account, access a business loan, and tap into wholesale prices from your suppliers.
If you register a corporation in Ontario, you will first need to order a NUANS name search for your business name. After receiving the name reservation, the government will charge a $300 fee to register the corporation. This process can be more cumbersome than anticipated. Many corporation owners opt for hiring a legal professional to register their business. You can also incorporate for a fraction of what a lawyer would cost, and with much less hassle, through Ownr. You will receive a complete incorporation package that includes your name search report, Articles of Incorporation, company formation documents (Minute Book) and business number. The cost is $619 plus HST. Registering with the government directly will not provide your company formation legal documents, which will likely require the use of a lawyer to create.
Now that we’ve covered registering your business in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, you should be ready to register and begin operations. In just a few steps, you’ll be all set to run your business in a responsible and reputable way and own your role as an entrepreneur.
Note that the prices mentioned in this article are of course subject to change by the various governments who provide them.
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