When starting a business in Ontario, you have a lot of things to think about as part of the setup process. One thing you will not want to forget is registering your business with the Ontario provincial government.
By registering, you inform the government about the legal structure you are using with the business. This legal structure plays a role in how much personal liability you have for the operation of the business, as well whether your personal finances intertwine with the business’ finances. It also plays a role in the calculation of your taxes.
In this complete guide on how to register a business in Ontario, we cover everything you need to know about Ontario business registration, including the taxes you may need to pay. (We promise most of the other topics will be more enjoyable to consider than taxes.)
Do I Need to Register My Business in Ontario?
According to the Ontario provincial government, you must register your business with Ontario if you have employees, if you are operating facilities, or if you open an office within the province. This applies to almost any kind of business in operation in Ontario.
However, if you are operating a sole proprietorship in Ontario and if you are using your own name as the business name, you do not have to register. You only must register a sole proprietorship in Ontario if you are using a distinct business name.
Get a complete list of answers to this question here: “Do I have to register my business in Ontario?“
Types of Business Registration in Ontario
You can select among four different legal structures when registering your new business in Ontario.
1. Sole Proprietorship
The sole proprietorship legal structure works best for a single owner operating a small business. Such businesses are easy to set up and typically do not have a significant amount of expenses and income.
With a sole proprietorship, the finances of the business and your personal finances mix together. No separation exists for the liability of the business and your personal life, either.
Partnerships in Ontario can have two or more owners. Each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business, typically dividing them equally among all partners. (The partnership agreement can specify a different division, though.) Multiple types of partnerships are available in Ontario, including:
Partnerships do not require a lot of time in the setup process. The partners’ finances and liability on a personal level are not separate from the business’ finances and liability.
Co-operatives are businesses that typically consist of many owners, each of whom has an equal vote in the operation of the business. Co-operatives can be for-profit or non-profit businesses.
The finances and liability of the owners personally remain separate from the finances and liability of the co-operative.
A corporation is a common legal structure for a business in Ontario. The corporation requires some extra work in the setup process, and you must file forms annually. However, it offers numerous benefits, including that the owners’ personal finances and liability remain separate from the business.
Corporations can have one or multiple owners, and each owner can have a particular ownership percentage of the business, specified through ownership shares. Ownership shares can be privately held or publicly traded on a stock exchange.
Why Register a Business? Benefits of Registering a Business in Ontario
Although registering your business involves some expense and takes a bit of extra time, there are benefits to fulfilling the process, including:
When Do You Have to Register a Business in Ontario?
The Ontario provincial government requires that you register your business name within 60 days of opening your business.
Most people will want to register the business name before opening it, though, as registration is the only way to be certain that you have protection for your business name. With that protection, you then can register a website domain name and social media accounts that match.
You don’t want to obtain your website domain before officially claiming your business name, because some other business may have already taken your business name for its website.
Ultimately, if you want the benefits that come with registering your business in Ontario, you cannot receive those until you go through the registration process. So, we recommend registering your business before you open the doors.
How Much Does It Cost to Register a Business in Ontario?
The cost for registering your Ontario business will depend on the type of legal structure you want to use with the business. Filing online or by mail will carry the same cost. The costs include:
You may have to pay up to $26 to do a NUANS search for the availability of the business name you want to use.
In addition to the actual filing costs with the Ontario provincial government, you may have costs related to having a lawyer prepare your documents. Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a lawyer to do this work for you.
Where to Register a Business in Ontario
DIY (Register an Ontario Business Yourself)
You can register your business online, via email, via mail, or potentially in person in Ontario.
You also have the option of registering through a third-party business registration service. This service walks you through the process of registering, which simplifies the process, but you will have to pay a little extra for this help. Some third-party business registration services in Ontario include:
Get Help (Business Registration Services in Ontario)
If you feel a little overwhelmed by the process of registering a business, there are companies that can make it quicker and easier:
Ownr is a business registration service that helps entrepreneurs register their businesses quickly and easily. The service simplifies the registration process by offering step-by-step guidance and support, and you can register a business in less than 15 minutes.
Ownr allows you to register your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, and also provides additional features such as a free name search and the ability to register for a business number and tax accounts.
Ownr is owned by RBC, so it offers a nifty bonus: if you use Ownr to register a business and then sign up for an RBC business banking account within 60 days, RBC will give you a refund ($300 refund for a corporation; $100 refund for a sole proprietorship).
OntarioBusinessCentral has been providing business registration services for decades, and online feedback of their services tends to be positive. The company’s customer service and fast turnaround times get positive comments, and their fees are generally considered to be reasonable and competitive.
One criticism of Ontario Business Central is that their website could be more user-friendly – and one look at their site confirms this! The website looks like it was designed in the 1990s…
There are lots of other business registrations in Ontario. If you’d like to check out more than the two mentioned above, a simple Google search will do.
Steps to Register a Business in Ontario: Follow These 3 Steps
These are the steps to register a business in Ontario:
Let’s cover each step in detail:
Step #1: Name Your Ontario Business
The first thing you’ll want to do is settle on the business name, you’ll need to state it when registering.
Check if an Existing Business Has the Name
Before registering, it’s a good idea to know if there are already existing businesses with that name. While Ontario does not prohibit more than one non-incorporated business from having the same name, to avoid confusion and protect yourself from legal liability it’s usually a good idea to have a unique name.
Restrictions on Business Names
When deciding on a name, there are a few restrictions on naming your business you should be aware of:
It is your responsibility to make sure your business name doesn’t violate these rules. Even if you are granted a registration, it could be revoked at any time if it is in violation.
Step #2: Decide the Type of Ontario Business
When registering your business, you need to understand what kind of legal entity you are registering. You can register a business name as a sole proprietorship, a general or limited partnership, or for an existing corporation.
1. Starting a Sole Proprietorship in Ontario
With a sole proprietorship, one individual owns all the assets, is responsible for any debts, and receives all the profit.
Registering a Sole Proprietorship in Ontario
If you are running your sole proprietorship under your personal name in Ontario, you do not have to register with the provincial government (although you can). However, if you want to run the sole proprietorship under another name, you must register.
The registration process for becoming a sole proprietorship involves obtaining a master business licence. You will receive a Business Identification Number (BIN) from the Ontario government with your master business licence. It will describe your business name and address, too.
Start by selecting a unique name for your business. Log in to your ServiceOntario account and complete the online form, which includes your contact information and other information about the business.
You then must pay the $60 fee to register the sole proprietorship.
2. Starting a Partnership in Ontario
With a partnership, ownership is shared by two or more people who are either general partners or limited partners. The general partner or partners are fully responsible for all debts, liabilities, and obligations, while limited partners have limited liability based on their investment in the business.
Registering a Partnership in Ontario
You can register your partnership as a general partnership or as a limited type of partnership online. As with a sole proprietorship, your partnership will obtain a master business licence through the registration process.
Select your business name and register it through your ServiceOntario account. (With some limited partnerships, you may have to agree to a certain type of naming format.) You’ll need to pay anywhere from $60 to $210 to register your partnership.
3. Starting a Corporation in Ontario
Registering a corporation (also called “incorporating” your business) creates a legal entity that separates owners from the business. You can incorporate at the provincial or federal level.
Registering a Corporation in Ontario
Registering your business as a corporation in Ontario requires you to obtain a NUANS name search for Ontario.
Once you have your name selected, sign in to your ServiceOntario account and complete the online form. You also will need to submit your Articles of Incorporation. The fee is $300 to register a corporation in Ontario.
4. Starting a Co-Operative in Ontario
A co-operative is a type of business organization that is owned and democratically controlled by its members, who can be either individuals or other businesses. The purpose of a co-operative is to provide goods or services to its members, rather than to generate profits for shareholders.
In Ontario, co-operatives are governed by the Co-operative Corporations Act, which outlines the rules and regulations that co-operatives must follow in order to operate in the province. Under this Act, co-operatives must have at least three members and are required to have a board of directors that is elected by its members.
Co-operatives in Ontario can take many different forms, including consumer co-operatives, worker co-operatives, and housing co-operatives. These different types of co-operatives operate in various industries, including agriculture, finance, and retail.
Registering a Co-operative in Ontario
You may need to obtain a NUANS name search report to verify the name you want to use with your co-operative.
You will need to complete the Articles of Incorporation of a Co-operative. The exact form you use will depend on whether you are filing with share capital or without share capital. You also must file a cover letter that includes your contact information, that describes the activity that the co-operative will do, and the company key (if applicable).
When submitting your registration for an Ontario co-operative, you only can file by mail or email. You cannot file in person or through online forms. The cost is $335 for a for-profit co-operative and $155 for a non-profit co-operative.
Step #3: Register Your Ontario Business – Online, By Mail, or In-Person
Once you know your business name and the type of entity you want to form, you can apply for business registration with the government.
You will need to provide:
Registering Your Ontario Business Online
Registering your Ontario business online can be done in as little as five minutes. You’ll need a Visa or MasterCard credit card for payment, as well as an email address.
If you’re going to register your business through the Ontario Business Registry, you need to:
Some business structures need additional forms, such as Articles of Incorporation when you are incorporating a business. The required forms will depend on the business legal structure you are using.
Finally, you’ll need to have your registration fee available at the time of registration.
To register online you use the “Integrated Business Services Application” service. You can register online at any time, however, if it’s done between 8:30 am. – 5 p.m. you’ll get a temporary printable Master Business License you can use right away.
You’ll receive your MBL via email within 2 days if you provide an email address. If you don’t provide an email it will arrive by mail within 10 business days.
If you need access to a computer, you can use a ServiceOntario centre to find a public computer near you.
Registering Your Business by Mail
To register by mail or in person, fill out Form 1. Complete the form and mail it with a payment of $80 in check or money order made out to “Minister of Finance.” Mail your completed forms and payment to:
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Central Production and Verification Services Branch
393 University Avenue, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M5G 2M2
It will take 6 – 8 weeks to receive your MBL.
Registering Your Business in Person
You can register and search business names in person from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. on normal business days at the following address:
Central Production and Verification Services Branch
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Second floor, 375 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 2M2
For in-person payment, you can write a cheque or money order, cash, or a Visa or MasterCard. Service time is immediate, and your Master Business License will arrive within 20 days.
Call for Help
If you need help or have questions about registering or conducting business in Ontario, you can call ServiceOntario at 416-314-9151 in Toronto or Toll-Free 1-800-565-1921.
Other Important Considerations When Registering a Business in Ontario
Will you have employees or hire contractors?
During the application process, you’ll have to answer if you have, or plan to have, employees or hire contractors.
If you answer “yes” to either of those, you’ll need to register with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board within ten days of hiring a worker. This provides employees with workplace insurance coverage. Note that you will still be able to register your name if you haven’t yet registered for insurance.
Do you need Employer Health Tax?
During the registration process, you’ll be asked if your estimated annual payroll is greater than $450,000. If so, you need to file for an Employer Health Tax number. Note that you will still be able to register your name if you haven’t filed yet.
Potential Issues When Registering a Business in Ontario
While you are in the process of completing your business registration there are several potential issues to keep in mind.
Make Sure You Renew Your Business Registration
Business registration expires in five years. The expiration date will be printed on your MBL. It is your responsibility to make sure you renew it, CPVSB does not provide a reminder. Note that you can renew your business up to 60 days after it expires, but don’t let it get to that point!
Checklist for Registering a Business in Ontario
Resources for Registering a Business in Ontario
- Business ownership structures in Ontario
- Cost and time required to register
- Ontario Business Registry
- Register a Business Corporation
- Register a Limited Partnership
- Register an Extra-Provincial Limited Liability Partnership
- Register an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership
- Register a General Partnership
- Register a Sole Proprietorship
- Search Business Name in the Ontario Business Registry
- BizPal Ontario
- Business Corporations Act
- Business Names Act
- Not-for-Profit Corporations Act
- Extra-Provincial Corporations Act
- Co-operative Corporations Act
- Partnerships Act
- Income Tax Act
- Corporations Information Act
- Names and Filings Regulation
- Employment Standards Act
- Articles of Incorporation
- Register a Sole Proprietorship (PDF)
- Register a Business Name for a Corporation (PDF)
- Register a Firm Name for a General Partnership (PDF)
- Register a Business Name for a General Partnership or for a Limited Partnership
- Register an Extra-Provincial Limited Liability Company Name
- Register a Firm Name for an Extra-Provincial Limited Liability Partnership
- Register a Firm Name for General Partnership
- Register a Firm Name for an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership
- Consent to Act as a First Director