Toronto is a fantastic place to conduct business in Canada. It’s the country’s largest city (roughly six million people - almost 50% of the province’s population - live in the Greater Toronto Area) and capital of the province of Ontario. It’s a metropolitan city with all the amenities that come with that: world-class infrastructure, international airport, large potential market, major tourist draw, and so forth. There’s virtually nothing you can’t get there.
Setting up and registering your company is simple and straightforward. Most - if not all - of it can be done online.
Step 1: Determine Your Business Structure
In Canada, you’re looking primarily at either a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation. Each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, tax, and liability, so it’s well worth the time and effort to do some investigating.
Sole proprietorships and most partnerships are the easiest and cheapest options, requiring nothing more than business name registration as outlined below. Skip to Step 2 if you’re business is a sole proprietorship or partnership.
A corporation is more complex, and as such requires additional steps and costs. You can incorporate federally (allowing you to conduct business under the same name in all provinces and territories; $200 online or $250 offline) or provincially (Ontario if you’re looking to set up in Toronto; $300 plus service provider’s fees online, or $360 by mail).
Step 2: Do You Need a Business Number (BN)?
A business number is a 15-digit number issued by the Canada Revenue Agency to be used with your tax accounts and correspondence. In order to operate in Canada, a company needs the following four tax accounts:
Corporate Income Tax
Your BN will be issued when you first apply for these accounts. If you do not need them (if, for example, your annual rollover is under the floor amount for collecting GST), you do not need a business number. You can register by phone, mail, fax, or online.
Step 3: Determine Your Business Name
Your new company, much like a new baby, needs a name. It should be memorable and ideally indicate something about your business industry or service. A name can only be applied to one company, so you’ll need to conduct a business name search.
An Enhanced Business Name Search costs between $8 and $26, depending on the service you select, and is a requirement for any registrant. There is no skipping this step. If the report indicates that your selected name is available in Ontario, then you’re ready to register with the government. If you’d like to conduct a Canada-wide name search, you can utilize the NUANS online search service. A NUANS search is required for incorporation.
Step 4: Register Your Business Name
The Business Registration Online (BRO) is your go-to site for registration with the Canada Revenue Agency. You’ll need to provide the basic information listed below:
Your Business Name
Your Business Number (BN), if applicable
Type of Business (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation)
Name and Social Insurance Number (SIN) of all owners, directors, partners, and officers
Brief Description of Business Activity
You will also be asked for your tax account details. Once you have all the necessary details collected, you’re ready to click on “Register Now”.
A Business Name Registration costs $60 CAD and is good for five years. If anything changes during that time (business name, address, list of owners/partners...basically any of the information you provided at the time of registration), you are required to make a new registration that reflects all changes. Successful completion of the online registration gets you a Master Business License (MBL).
Four steps and you’re done. With the exception of corporations, the entire process is rather simple, and can be done over just a few days (if not sooner). The Canadian economy has survived the recent financial crises and scares relatively unscathed, and it’s proving a remarkably strong place to conduct business. A robust economy and hockey for nine months out of the year?! Win-win.