You’ve come up with a winning business idea and are ready to make it a reality. Now that you’ve decided to dive headfirst into entrepreneurship, registering your business is an important next step to getting your venture off the ground. Understanding how to register a business in Canada will depend on your location and the type of business. Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec all have similar processes for registering new businesses. There will be some differences in how you register based on whether you own a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.
Let’s go through 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 means providing a good or service to consumers for a fee. However, registering your business ensures you are running a legitimate operation in the eyes of the provincial and federal governments, as they will have a formal record of your business. Registering your business also has implications for how you file taxes and can open up the option of accessing business tax benefits.
There are lots of good reasons to register your business aside from the legal requirement to do so. Having a registered business makes it possible to apply for business loans and open business-specific bank accounts to keep your finances in order. As a registered business, you can also hire employees if necessary, and you may be able to access business-specific discounts from suppliers in your industry. Finally, it can boost your profile with your customers, as they are more likely to trust a registered business and view your venture as reputable and legitimate.
In short, registering your business is a great way to legitimize your business and access the benefits and support that will enable you to grow.
What type of business will you be registering?
In Canada, there are four different business structures you can choose from; sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships, and cooperatives. 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, limit liability, 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.
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?
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, Ontario, and Quebec. Naming your business can feel like a major step as an entrepreneur, but there are some techniques to find the perfect business name that will help you settle on a winner.
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.
Register your business in Canada with Ownr
Registering your business is an exciting step toward making your dreams of entrepreneurship a reality. If you’re in BC, Alberta, Ontario, or Quebec, you can complete your business registration without the hassle by letting Ownr do the heavy lifting. Ownr has helped over 120,000 new businesses hit the ground running quickly—and affordably. If you have questions about how to register or incorporate your business, email us at [email protected].
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 obtain 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 $49 plus GST, which includes the cost of registration and up to 30 preliminary name searches.
You can register online through the BC 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 Service BC Centre, or 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 of Incorporation 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 generally need to be created by a lawyer.
You can incorporate for a fraction of what a lawyer would cost, and with much less hassle through Ownr’s incorporation services. 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 $699 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 some requested information, including your approved business name, 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 $49 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. This isn’t the total cost, however, as many corporations in Alberta will register through a lawyer to ensure everything is done correctly. A lawyer is generally required to provide your company formation legal documents.
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 or Minute Book, and business number. The cost is $599 plus GST.
Registering your business in Ontario
If your sole proprietorship or partnership is based in Ontario, you can register online or by mail through the Ontario Business Registry, or in person at a Service Ontario location. 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 Ontario business online, or an $80 fee if you register by mail. There is an additional charge for name searches ranging from $8 to $26, depending on your search type. However, if you use Ownr to register your sole proprietorship, it costs $49 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 access 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 cumbersome, leading many business owners to opt for legal assistance to register their businesses. It’s important to remember that fee won’t complete your incorporation. You’ll likely have to pay a lawyer to complete your documentation and start a full compliant corporation.
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, and business number. The cost is $499 plus HST for federal incorporations, and $599 plus HST for provincial. Registering with the government directly means you’ll likely have to hire a lawyer to create your company formation legal documents.
Registering a business in Quebec
If your sole proprietorship or partnership is based in Quebec, you must submit a registration declaration online, in person, or by mail to the Registraire des Enterprises (REQ). You’ll need to provide some basic information such as your name, business name, address, and primary business activities. Just like in Ontario, this step covers both the reservation of a name and the registration of a business.
The fees to submit a registration declaration are $38 for sole proprietorships or $58 for partnerships. After registering, you will be issued a Québec enterprise number (NEQ). This number is unique to your business and will remain associated with you for life even if your business activities change.
To incorporate your business in Quebec, use a name search service like NUANS to confirm that your desired business name is available. Once you have this confirmation and have assembled all of the necessary application documentation, you can apply to receive a certificate of incorporation and an NEQ. The application fee is $367. Much like in other provinces, a lawyer is typically required to prepare the articles of incorporation and other documentation.
You can avoid the headache of navigating incorporation on your own, and save on costly legal fees, by registering your corporation in Quebec with Ownr for $699. You can also register your sole proprietorship in Quebec for $49.
Frequently asked questions
How much does it cost to register a business in Canada?
The cost of registering a business in Canada depends on the province or territory in which you are registering, and the business structure. Registering sole proprietorships and partnerships is less expensive than registering corporations.
How can I register my company in Canada?
To register your company in Canada, go through your province or territory’s government services office responsible for business registration. For an easy and affordable alternative, you can also register your company in Canada using Ownr.
Can you run a business without registering it?
You can run a business without registering it if you are operating solely under your legal name. Most businesses have unique business names and must be registered.
What documents do you need to start a business in Canada?
The documents you need to start a business in Canada depend on the type of business and the business structure. To register a corporation you need articles of incorporation, company formation documents, and sometimes a name search report.
How do I register my company for the first time?
To register your company for the first time, go through your province or territory’s government services office responsible for business registration. You can also register your company without the hassle through Ownr.
Do I need to register a small business in Canada?
Most small businesses in Canada need to be registered. The only exception is usually businesses that operate under someone’s legal name, without any added words.
Ready to start your business? Ownr has helped over 100,000 entrepreneurs hit the ground running quickly—and affordably. If you have questions about how to register or incorporate your business, email us at [email protected].
This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.