ENTREPRENEURSHIP / AUG. 21, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Get a Copy of the Articles of Incorporation

A business structure can take many forms. Sole proprietorship. Partnership. Limited Liability Company. And corporation. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, from taxes to liability and ease of setting up. The most difficult is establishing a corporation, but it does offer the best protection and tax incentives, so it (hopefully) balances out in the end.

No matter where you find yourself, setting up a corporation typically involves filing certain documents with the appropriate government agency. In the United States and Canada, this can be done at the state or provincial level, as well as federally (Corporations Canada, for example). In the United Kingdom, you must register with Companies House.

Once you have filed and registered, you may decide that you want a copy of the Articles of Incorporation. This document serves as a constitution, if you will, explicitly outlining the details of your new company. It goes by several other names, including Articles of Association (primarily in the UK), and Certificate of Incorporation.  

Getting a copy of these documents is straightforward and easy.

Articles of Incorporation - Canada

If your company was incorporated at the national level, you will need to contact Corporations Canada. You can reach them at 1-866-333-5556. A formal request is made by either fax, email, or mail, and must include your corporation name and number, contact details, how you want the document(s) sent, and payment. The cost for uncertified copies is $1.00/page, while certified copies run $35/page.

Provincially registered companies will need to contact the provincial agency in charge of incorporations, such as the Companies and Personal Property Security Branch of the Ministry of Government Services in Ontario, and the Corporate Registries in Alberta. The other provincial agencies to contact include:

Articles of Incorporation - United States

Corporations are registered with the Department of State for whatever state you are located in. A complete list of the various Secretary of State offices across the US is available here. Each state office has its own procedure and fee schedule, so you’ll have to check for your specific requirements.

New York state, for example, requires a written request for the Articles of Incorporation, with a plain copy costing $5 and a certified copy for $10.

Massachusetts, on the other hand, has an online and automated system.

No matter the precise steps involved, providing the corporation name, contact details, mailing address, and payment is usually all that is required.

Articles of Association - United Kingdom

Most companies in the United Kingdom use a standard or model articles of association that are freely available from Companies House, the government agency in charge of incorporation. As such, getting a copy is as simple as downloading the form from the link above. The model articles can be modified to some degree, so if the filed articles differ from the standard set, you must contact Companies House directly to request a copy.

  • In Edinburgh: Companies House, 4th Floor, Edinburgh Quay 2, 139 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh EH3 9FF
  • In London: Companies House, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 2HT
  • In Belfast: Companies House, Second Floor, The Linenhall, 32-38 Linenhall Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT2 8BG

The Articles of Incorporation (or Association) lay out the governing rules. The guide a new company in all things, just as a constitution guides a new country. And just as a constitution is considered a historical and important document, so too are the articles. You may want to frame them, file them, pass them out to shareholders and directors...whatever strikes your incorporated fancy. Getting a copy - especially an uncertified one - is cheap and easy, making it an ideal document to have for whatever reason. More formal situations may require a certified (and therefore more expensive copy) copy, so be sure and ask which type is needed.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

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