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How to Start a Business in Canada

Written by on March 20, 2024

As one of the prominent G7 nations, Canada seems like a great place to start a business if you target global clients for your new venture. 

Whether you’re a Canadian entrepreneur or a non-resident looking for an option to register your business off-shore, starting a business in Canada is pretty straightforward and accessible for all nationalities. 

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On top of that, Canada also has double taxation avoidance treaties with over 90 countries, which makes registering your business in Canada more lucrative than other countries. 

From the business structures to the essential steps to register your business in the country, let’s dive into everything you need to know about starting a business in Canada!

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business in Canada

With its strong economy and low tax rates compared to most developed countries, Canada offers various benefits for entrepreneurs looking to start their business venture there. 

This section will elaborate on the specific guide to starting a business in the land of Maple syrup. From the business structure to step-by-step how to register your business in the country, here’s everything you need to know about business registration in Canada!

Business Structures in Canada

starting a business in canada

Before registering your business in Canada, it’s essential to familiarise yourself with business structures in Canada to choose the most suitable one for your company. 

Essentially, there are five types of business structures that you can choose when registering a company in Canada. These include: 

  • Sole Proprietorship is the simplest form of business organization where an individual operates the business independently. As a business owner, you will be liable for all the business’s obligations in a sole proprietorship, including tax and debts. 
  • Partnership typically involves two or more individuals or entities sharing the business ownership. Each province in Canada has its own distinct business partnership laws, so you may need to check with the regional regulations depending on where you want to register your business. 
  • Corporations are separate legal entities that offer limited liability protection to their shareholders. Incorporation will separate taxation and legal matters between the company and the shareholders. 
  • Cooperative businesses are owned and operated for the benefit of the members involved in the business operations. In this type of business, each member has equal power in the business’s decision-making process. 
  • Non-profit organizations are established for social, educational, or charitable purposes. Any profits made in this type of business are typically reinvested in the organization to further its goals and causes. 

Once you know which business structure is most viable for your venture, it’s also essential to decide where your business will operate in Canada. 

Conducting in-depth research about the national and regional business requirements is also important to take the next step for incorporating your business in Canada. Depending on which Canadian province you will operate, you may need to follow different business regulations accordingly. 

For instance, you will be required to follow the Quebec Business Corporations Act if you choose Montreal or Quebec City as your business base. Other provinces may have different business laws and regulations, which you can find online to support your preparation before registering your business in Canada. 

business district in Vancouver, Canada.

How to Start a Business in Canada

Now that you’ve gathered all the information you need about starting a business in Canada, you can start preparing the necessary documents to have it registered when it’s ready. 

Compared to the United States, Canada has a higher standard corporate tax at 38%, but it also comes with several benefits that you can’t get in the neighboring country. For small businesses with revenue under CAD 500,000, you will only have to pay 9% – which can be a lucrative way to get your business up and running! 

In this section, we’ll dive deep into the essential steps to take when starting a business in Canada. Here’s everything you need to know!

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Create a Business Plan

A business plan serves as a compass for your business; it gives you a direction on how you will run it, which includes the goals and strategies you may want to implement through your business operations. 

Setting up a business plan will also help clarify the company’s purpose, which can guide your decision-making process for your business interest.

You can start by developing a clear and viable business idea to decide which business structure suits best for your business. Once you get clarity about the type of business you want to run, you can conduct thorough market research to understand your target market and industry competition to add to your business plan. 

While there is no limit to how much information you should include in your business plan, it should cover some necessary elements that include: 

  • An executive summary that briefly describes your business, including your business name and how you will operate it to reach your business objectives. You can also check the availability of your business name at Canada’s business registries to minimize any possible dispute when registering your business name. 
  • An in-depth description of your business, which covers the details about the industry and the prospect of your business opportunity with the target market based on your due diligence. You can add the products or services designed for your target market through the business you create. 
  • Marketing and sales strategy to implement in your business operations, including which platform you will utilize to reach your target audience, pricing strategy, and promotional plans. 
  • Organization and management, especially if you plan to start a business with partners or consider hiring to outsource some tasks for your operations. 
  • A detailed business operation to outline the roles and responsibilities of your business stakeholders, which you can use as a standard operating procedure for all team members. 
  • A comprehensive financial plan with projected income, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and funding requests if applicable. Outline your break-even analysis and key financial assumptions for risk assessment. 
  • Add other necessary documents, including resumes of key team members and all the paperwork needed once you register your business legally in Canada. 

Gathering all the necessary information before writing a business plan is essential, as you want your business plan to be a complete roadmap that you can update accordingly to ensure you reach your goals. 

business plan

Choose a corporate and trade name for your business

Apart from being your brand identity, the Canadian government also requires each business to operate under a unique name to avoid confusion among consumers and maintain legal clarity. 

While business name requirements in Canada may vary depending on the policy applied in the province and territory where you register your business, there are some common elements to consider your business name before starting a business in Canada, which include: 

  • Your business name must not be already in use or reserved by another business in your jurisdiction. 
  • The name should be descriptive of your business activities but also distinctive enough to avoid confusion with your competitors.
  • Depending on the nature of your business, there may be industry-specific regulations or guidelines that impact the choice of your business name. 

Before registering your business, it’s important to choose an adequate name for your business to minimize any potential disputes with other legal entities. You can check your business name ideas on Canada’s business registries to ensure that your company name idea isn’t already taken.

In most cases, there is a distinction between a corporate name (the legal name of your registered company) and a trade name (the branding name, similar to DBA in the United States). To avoid confusion, you may also want to check the trade name availability in the provincial and territorial directories to ensure the uniqueness of the name. 

Registering a trade name in Canada involves a process that may vary depending on the province or territory where your business registration will take place. Some can be done online, while a few may require you to come to the jurisdiction registry in person. 

With the importance of digital marketing these days, you may also want to reserve domain names accordingly for your business, along with usernames across social media platforms. You can use a platform like Namecheck to ensure the availability of your potential business domains and social media usernames. 

Register your business name

Depending on the nature of your business, registering the trade name for your business may suffice without incorporating your business federally. However, there are some perks you can get if you incorporate your business in Canada. 

As of 2023, the registration fee to incorporate your business in Canada online is $200 CAD, and you will have a right to use your business name across the country. In addition, you will also have better access to grants, which can be lucrative if you plan to expand your business further in the future. 

To incorporate your business online in Canada, you can sign up for a GCKey to register your business here.

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Comply with the necessary business licenses and permits 

Depending on your business industry, your company may also need some additional business licenses or permits, whether they are within your jurisdiction or at the federal level. 

The easiest way to ensure your company complies with the requirements is by checking the Bizpal website

Check your jurisdiction and industry name to gather more information about the type of business license you need to start your business operation in Canada. 

tax regulations in canada

Understand taxation requirements for your business

Businesses in Canada are subject to various types of taxes. Various factors may determine the taxation requirements for your business, which include the type of your business, its structure, and the province or territory where you operate your business in Canada. 

In essence, you need to familiarize yourself with some types of tax when operating a business in Canada which include: 

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a federal tax that applies to most goods and services. Depending on the jurisdiction where you operate your business, GST may have been merged with the provincial tax that’s commonly known as the harmonized sales tax (HST). 
  • Income tax in Canada is split into two types: Federal and Provincial/Territorial taxes. Businesses in Canada are subject to federal corporate income tax, which is 28% after federal tax reduction for corporations and 9% for small businesses. 
  • The Provincial/Territorial tax rate may differ depending on your business’s jurisdiction. For more information about this tax, you can check it here
  • Payroll tax may apply if you’re looking into hiring employees for your business. Employers in Canada will be required to deduct and remit payroll taxes, which include the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums. 

Understanding taxation requirements before incorporating a business in Canada is crucial, as it will also help you decide the pricing for your goods and services.

A solid grasp of the tax landscape helps you make informed decisions, ensures compliance with legal obligations, and allows you to optimize your business’s financial position. 

The good news is that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers free tax help for small business owners to ensure they’re aware of their tax obligations before starting their business operations in Canada. 

You can arrange an appointment with a CRA liaison for consultation online via this page.

Get additional business support if necessary

The steps to register a business in Canada can be pretty complex, especially if it’s your first time incorporating a business in the country. 

However, it shouldn’t stop you from starting a business in Canada, as the government also provides entrepreneurs with valuable resources that include national, territorial, and financial support for your business. 

For instance, if you’re a non-Canadian citizen looking into migrating to Canada and starting your business there, you can find a handful of resources related to starting a business with a start-up visa program. 

For Canadians looking for funding, you may be eligible to join the CFI funding competitions for your business. 

business support

Next Step

Now that you’ve registered your business, it’s time to manifest it into a reality and start its operations. Not sure where to start? We’ll get you covered, as we share some essential items to get your business up and running in Canada. 

Marketing and Branding

Marketing is the backbone of your business, even more importantly when you just started. Marketing and branding efforts increase the visibility of your business and build awareness among your target audience. 

Branding your business is an essential part of setting your business apart from your competitors. Implement a branding strategy relevant to your business objectives, and keep it consistent across your marketing campaign. 

To boost your business’s digital presence, you can also create a business website using platforms like Carrd or Wix. Optimize your website for SEO through blog content, as you can add blogging functionality using BlogHandy

You can also incorporate an email marketing strategy with tools like Mailchimp or Mailerlite to build your audience and convert them into paying customers. 

Consider setting up a Google My Business (GMB) profile to increase your digital visibility, especially if your target audience is the local market. GMB listings are integrated with Google Maps, making it easy for potential customers to find your business location. 

Social media is a powerful tool to market your business, whether you want to build your audience organically or through paid advertising like Facebook Ads. You can conduct market research based on your target audience’s preference to find the best platform to market your business. 

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Financial Management 

Financial management is crucial for businesses of all sizes and across various industries. Having your financial management set up will help you allocate your resources efficiently, from budgeting for your operational expenses, capital expenditures, and other financial needs. 

InvoiceBerry isn’t just an invoicing software, as you can also track your expenses and create reports based on your financial records. In addition, it allows you to integrate with various online payment methods like PayPal or Stripe. 

With the strict and complex tax regulations like in Canada, financial management is also essential to ensure you have strategic tax in place to optimize tax liabilities for your business. Using tools like InvoiceBerry can help you organize your finances to ensure accurate and timely reporting during the tax season. 

If you’re self-employed, you have a higher chance of being audited in Canada, so signing up to finance software like InvoiceBerry can help monitor your cash flow. 

how to start a business in canada

Customer Relationship Management

No business can survive without customers, and that’s why customer relationship management is essential to building a successful business in Canada. 

Setting up a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can help you streamline your business workflow, from acquiring potential customers to customer retention. 

Having a CRM will also encourage collaboration across departments, which can foster a unified approach to customer satisfaction in order to reach your business objectives.

Conclusion

Starting a business in Canada requires preparation since you will need to familiarize yourself with both provincial and federal regulations when incorporating your business. However, the Canadian government ensures that adequate information and resources are provided to encourage business owners to participate in their local economy. 

On top of the preparation for legal matters when incorporating a business in Canada, it is also essential for business owners to create a seamless workflow to optimize their business operations. 
From choosing invoicing tools like InvoiceBerry to setting up a business website to boost digital marketing for your business, registering a business in Canada can be a lucrative option for anyone!

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