Registering a Business in Ontario, Canada

There is absolutely no doubt that Ontario is the best place to start a business in Canada. It is the biggest local economy with close to 13 million and growing residents. It also has the highest per capita income in Canada. The business infrastructure is well established, making the business registration process much easier to execute.When you decide to incorporate a business in Ontario, you must decide whether you want a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited liability partnership. No matter which you opt for, I will help you navigate the Ontario business registration process in the next few sections.Naming Your Business in OntarioI will discuss registering both a sole proprietorship and a corporation in this section. If you want to run your business as a sole proprietorship you don’t need to formally register your business name. However, as a corporation you must go through the formal Ontario business registration process.Even as a sole proprietorship, if you are going to name your business anything other than your name, you will have to go through the formal Ontario business registration process. A business’ name is registered with the Companies Branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.As a business, you have to make a decision whether you want to incorporate in Ontario only or if you want to incorporate in Canada. If you want the latter, you will have to federally incorporate which establishes you as a corporation in all of Canada. For our purposes however, I will focus on Ontario business registration only, which is called a provincial incorporation that establishes and protects your business’ name in Ontario and Ontario only.WARNING: Be very careful when selecting a name for your business. No matter what business type you start, you cannot use any names that resemble any connection with any entity of the Canadian Government, a province, burrough, the Crown or any entity related to it, any municipality or any other form of legal entity. The only exceptions to this are explicit permissions obtained from the entity whose name is being used itself.Researching Your Business NameAlthough the Ontario business registration authorities will tell you if you have a business name identical to another existing one, they won’t tell you whether your name is similar to an existing one. Only you can do this by searching the business name database. Why is this important? This step is important so that you are not sued by an existing business for infringement of trademark.Searches can be conducted for $12 or less, online or personally by visiting the Companies Branch that is located at 375 University Avenue in Toronto. In addition, you should go through the Electronic Corporate Index to learn about the variations of your contemplated business name. You can also conduct your search online through a couple online resources that are endorsed by the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. Two resources are the following:OnCorp Direct Inc.Cyberbahn Inc.If you are registering a corporation in Ontario, you must submit a copy of a NUANS report with your registration application. A NUANS report is a New Upgraded Automated Name Search report that helps ensure you are not overstepping legal boundaries when naming your business.The NUANS is a country wide business name registry, which will show all corporation business names in the country that resemble your chosen name (similar names). You can obtain a NUANS report through a “Searcher of Records” through one of many private providers that can be found in the yellow pages or on the internet.Filing for Your Business Name – What Do You Need?Like any other legal process, the Ontario business registration process involves some paperwork. If you’re incorporating a company, you must complete the articles of incorporation which is Form 1 defined under the Business Corporations Act.These forms are available online, in stores as well as through attorneys. This is a rather tedious process. An easier process is to file online through Cyberbahn Inc. or OnCorp Direct Inc. for a quicker process.As you can imagine, you need all your personal as well as business details when filing out the forms. You need the name of your business, address, the description of the business as well as your personal information where you can be corresponded with (send and receive mail).Keep in mind that you must have a physical address and not a PO Box. If you have partners, you must include all their information as well unless you have more than 10.Where to File Your Business NameOne of the reasons the Ontario business registration process is so much easier to execute is the number of access points available to you. For example, you can file your business incorporation paperwork in one of many locations.You can register with the public office of the Companies Branch. You can do this via mail or in person. You can get these forms from the office directly or from a Land Registry Office within the province. You can get your business registered for under $100 no matter which method you choose (normally $80 in person and $60 online).The main difference I can think of between registering in person or via mail is the time it takes for you to get your Master Business License, which is essentially the proof of your business’ registration. You get this immediately when you register in person, whereas you get it within 8 weeks if you register via mail. Online registration takes a couple days I believe.Obtaining Your Business LicenseOnce you have registered your business name, you will need the various licenses and registrations specific to your business operations. These are specific to the nature of your business, and have to be obtained and maintained in addition to complying with your Province’s and Canada’s laws.For example, if you employ a workforce, you will need Worker’s Compensation Insurance. This is just one example. Like I said, the licenses you need are specific to the nature of your business. to understand what licenses and registrations are applicable to you, visit the Government’s BizPal website which can help you determine what you need.The Ontario Business RegistrationOnce you have your business name registered, you must file for incorporation next. You will need a complete set of your Articles of Incorporation, a recent NUANS report that shows which names you searched for, a covering letter as well as the fee. The fee, if filed in person at the Companies Branch is $360. Electronically, the fee is only $300.But remember, all of the above steps must be completed before you start the business registration process.Ongoing Maintenance of Registration and LicensesThe Ontario business registration is good for five years, after which it has to be renewed. The tricky part is that the authorities do not send reminders as business registration is the owner or the Company’s responsibility.Other Important InformationThere are a few important things in addition to registering your business in Ontario that I want you to take away with you.Remember that you must re register a business after it has undergone change in ownership (buy / sell). A fee must be paid upon registration once again.It is also important to note that only certified or chartered accountants and practicing attorneys can establish a Limited Liability Partnership.It is also important to reiterate that, as I stated earlier, you cannot use a business name that resembles any legal entity / Government entity. When in doubt, always double check and obtain exclusive permission if you must. Failure to do so can result in fines and penalties of sorts.The Ontario Business Names Act can impose a fine up to $2,000 for individuals and up to $25,000 for corporations if you do not register your business or register it with one of the restricted names such as that with resemblance with a Government entity.Finally, you can contact the Ministry of Government services via their Companies and Personal Property Security Branch for more information on Ontario business registration matters. You can reach them at (416) 314-9151 or 1-800-565-1921. You can also write to them at:Companies and Personal Property Security Branch Ministry of Government and Consumer Services 393 University Ave., Suite 200 Toronto ON M5G 2M2I hope this comprehensive guide helps you as you register your business in Ontario. The process is not too complicated, but it is important to execute all the steps in the process methodically to ensure your Ontario business registration goes as smooth as it can.All the best to you and please let me know if I can help you in any way.