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Starting a business

How to register a business

As a new entrepreneur, you may have a solid business plan that you've been meaning to get off the ground for some time. If you've done some market research and you're ready to jump-start your business—but you're not sure where to start—look no further.

We've created a simple, step-by-step guide on how to register your business in Canada.

How to register a business in Canada

Before you begin operating your new business, you'll need to register it with the federal government.

Prepare to register your business

As exciting as it is to make it official, there are a few things you'll need to figure out, including:

  • The location of your main office
  • Whether you plan to operate in other provinces or territories
  • Your business name

Select the type of business

An important decision you'll need to make is the type of business that's most suitable. There are a few options to choose from:

There are pros and cons for each business structure, so it's vital to evaluate which one matches your needs.

Obtaining a federal business number and tax accounts

Once you figure out which type of business is a good fit, you can move on to the next step by registering your business. Your new business may require a federal business number (BN), which is a 9-digit number (for example, 123456789) that helps identify your business.

If you register as a sole proprietor and your business is in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, or Nova Scotia, you'll automatically receive your federal business number as part of your provincial registration. However, if your business is in another province or territory and you require a business number, you'll need to register with the federal government.

Other ways you'll receive a business number include:

  • Registering using Business Registration Online
  • Registering for any Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) program accounts (such as Goods and Services Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), payroll deductions, or a registered charity)
  • Incorporating your business federally
  • Registering or incorporating your business in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island

Each business will only have one BN. You will need to keep a record of your BN when you interact with the CRA.

Registering your business with your province or territory

Once you register your business with the CRA, determine whether you're required to register within your province or territory based on your business type. Each province and territory has its own set of rules. We've provided examples below of how you can register your business with a few of the major provinces.

How to register a business in Ontario

Step 1: Search the Ontario Business Registry to check if your business name is already taken.

Step 2: Choose which business type you're registering. You will create a My Ontario Account and a ServiceOntario account.

Step 3: If you plan to incorporate, create an import/export account, or register an account with the CRA, you must register for a 9-digit Ontario Business Identification Number (BIN) from ServiceOntario. Remember, this is separate from the BN you'll receive from the CRA.

Once you register your business, it will be valid for 5 years. You will have the opportunity to renew it 60 days prior to the expiry date.

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How to register a business in British Columbia

Step 1: If you are a sole proprietor or partnership, you can register your business at BC Registries and Online Services, which accepts credit card payments.

Alternatively, you can visit a Service BC location, which accepts cash, debit cards or cheques. You can also download the Name Request form and mail your application.

If you're looking to incorporate, you're required to file an Incorporation Application with BC Registry Services.

Step 2: It can take up to 56 days to issue your Name Request Number (NRN). Once you receive it, you must register at one of the following registries:

When you've successfully registered, you will be given a Business Number (BN). The BN can be used for a variety of processes, including remitting your taxes, Canada pension premiums, Employment Insurance (EI) premiums, and WorkSafeBC payments.

Step 3: You may need to register through other government agencies:

How to register a business in Alberta

Step 1: Select your business name. It doesn't have to be unique, but keep in mind that other businesses with the same (or similar) business name could take you to court.

Step 2: Obtain a business name report from a Nuans service provider. This report will include registered businesses, corporations, or trademarked names that are similar to your preferred business name. This way, you can compare your business name with what already exists in the market.

Step 3: Depending on your business type, you may need to fill out additional forms, which you can find on the Government of Alberta website.

Step 4: Bring your Alberta registration info to a Corporate Registry service provider. You'll need the following documents: your business name, business name report (if you purchased one), valid ID, and proof of payment. Once your application has been approved, it will be entered into the Corporate Registry, and you'll receive a confirmation.

For other provinces or territories, you can find more information on how to register your business on the Government of Canada website.

Taking your business to new heights

Once you successfully register your business, you can start building it from the ground up. As a business owner, you can discover your true potential by offering valuable products and services to your customers and testing which ones make the largest impact.

QuickBooks helps new entrepreneurs from coast to coast manage their businesses efficiently and effortlessly. Get started today!

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