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Doing Business in Canada / registering a business / small business advice

Registering your business

Registering your business

So you have your business idea and you have developed a good business plan, now what? The purpose of this post is to give you granular details on where to find the information and online registration portals to make the registrations and get the proper licensing for your business. The earlier post tells you to think about and this post helps you determine what registrations and licensing requirements your business may need now and in the future and where to get your business registration and licensing requirements from your municipal, provincial and federal governments. Information for US businesses wanting to do business in Canada may also be of interest in addition to this how to register your business post.

Licensing Requirements

You will find a lot of very useful information on the Government of Canada site:

Registering Your Business Name

In order to register your business name you first need to figure out the best corporate structure to work under and then the best name to use to implement the business structure you chose. In a past post we discussed how to choose a business structure for US companies wishing to do business in Canada.  Canadian businesses have the same decisions to make the only real difference being that US companies have restrictions on ownership. For information on choosing a name for your company the Canadian government site has some excellent information to help with this decision.

Before you start the process of registering a business, you should do a Canada Business Search to make sure that someone else has not previously registered that name or has incorporated it. The federal government has a Canada Company Registry that you can use to search for the names of other companies that may be using the name you have selected for your new business. If that name is taken, you may want to consider re-branding before registering your business.

One thing to remember is that in order to do business in all provinces it is not required to register there so be sure to research when your business has to register in a province. It is more about where you are located than whether you have sales. Here are Provincial and Territory websites that you may need to register with to find the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal permits and licences that you may need to start or manage your new business (some provinces have a separate provincial tax and some have harmonized their taxes with the federal GST):

Provincial Business and Corporate Registries

Alberta (AB) — To conduct business in Alberta, you need register your corporation, extra-provincial company, non-profit company, cooperative, trade name and/or a business operating under a partnership.

British Columbia (BC) — The BC government website will guide you through the steps of registering your small business as a sole proprietorship or as a general partnership business operating in BC.

Manitoba (MB) — Business name registration and provincial incorporation in the province of Manitoba requires your to register your provincial incorporation with them.

New Bruinswick (NB) – NB has it’s own rules, procedures and fees to form a limited partnership or extra-provincial limited partnership in order to conduct business in NB.

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) — To operate your business in NL, you must register with the Registry of Companies, especially if you decide to incorporate provincially.

Nova Scotia (NS) — To find out how to register your business, obtain required permits and licences required in Nova Scotia, as well as to get information on provincial government programs and services, you need to visit their business registration website.

Northwest Territories (NT) — If you are going to conduct business and set up a business in NT, you need to learn the requirements for registering your business in the NT.

Nunavut (NU) — In order to do business in Nunavut, you must register with the territory, even if you live in or have a business established in another part of Canada.

Ontario (ON) — in order to start, run and change a corporation in Ontario, you need to visit the Ontario provincial website for corporations, limited partnerships as well and not-for-profit organizations. In Ontario, you can register your business name online, in person or by mail.

Prince Edward Island (PE) — Business name registration in PEI is required, to prevent other companies or organizations from using the same business name while operating in PEI. If you are looking to do business in PEI, but are incorporated elsewhere, you must register as an extra-provincial corporation.

Quebec (QC) — If you are planning to operate a business in Quebec, you must register with the enterprise register and declare that you are creating a business, corporation, non-profit corporation or other types of organizations.

Saskatchewan (SK) — In order to register your business name as a sole proprietorship in Saskatchewan, including the fees, the forms required and the turn-around time. Many businesses opening in SK are co-oprerative in nature, to find out how to register a co-operative in Saskatchewan (including information on fees and required forms) visit this site.

Yukon (YT) — In order to register your business in the Yukon, you will need to contact the Yukon Corporate Affairs office.

Registering a Business Number

Once you have determined the type of business registration best meets your needs and it’s licensing needs you have to register for a GST/HST business number, but, review your projected sales for your first year and you may not need to register for GST/HST right away. Note that if you go over the limit and have not charged the GST/HST then you are liable for the tax on those sales and many companies require a GST/HST business number in order to do business with them.

The Canada Revenue Agency’s Business Number Registration Online for business registration as well as HST/GST is the one-stop shop for all of your federal business registration requirements, but you may have to additionally register with the province you are operating in. For instance If you operate in the province of Quebec, you will not use the CRA website, you will instead need to register your business using Revenu Québec’s Businesses Portal.

Additional resources

Whether you are a new or experienced business owner or entrepreneur, you can never be too informed when it comes to your business and the changes that occur in order to register a business in Canada. The Canada Business Network has offices across the country that can offer you guidance, information and resources to help make you in opening a business in Canada and making your business a success.

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