Business Registration in Ontario (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, or Corporation)

Aug 30, 2023

Starting a business in Ontario is an excellent choice for several reasons. Firstly, Ontario stands as Canada’s most prosperous market, boasting a population of 14.5 million and the highest personal incomes in the nation. Moreover, the province offers a straightforward process to locate and obtain the necessary information for registering a business in Ontario.

In the initial portion of this article, you will be guided through the registration steps for establishing a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) in Ontario. It is important to note that only lawyers, chartered accountants, and general accountants are eligible to form LLPs within the province. Furthermore, there are slight variations in the regulations governing the registration of corporations in Ontario, which will be covered in the final section.


Registering a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership in Ontario

Choose a name for your business

If you decide to operate a sole proprietorship under your own name without any additions, there is no requirement for a business registration. However, if you opt for a different name, you must register your business name with the Central Production and Verification Services Branch of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

According to the Ontario Business Names Act, individuals could face fines of up to $2,000, while corporations could face fines of up to $25,000 if they fail to register or provide false or misleading information during registration. Although registering your business name does not grant exclusive use of the name, it is still beneficial.

In addition to selecting a business name for your sole proprietorship that is appealing, visually pleasing, and can attract a large number of customers or clients, it is crucial to choose a name that complies with legal requirements. Some words or expressions are not allowed.

For example, terms such as Limited or Inc. that suggest incorporation, or words that indicate a connection with any government branch, are prohibited. ServiceOntario provides comprehensive information on the specific words or expressions that cannot be included in the name of your sole proprietorship.


Conduct a search or searches for your chosen business name (and similar names)

Registering a name for your business doesn’t offer protection or ensure exclusivity. To achieve that, you’ll need to obtain a trademark. The Business Names Act doesn’t forbid the registration of identical names, allowing you to register a name already in use by another company. However, be aware that doing so, or registering a name that closely resembles another, might result in a legal dispute. It’s wise to investigate if anyone else is using your desired name. There are various ways to conduct a name search:

1. ServiceOntario Integrated Business Services Application: This search is limited to Ontario and costs between $8 and $26 for a report.

2. The Government of Canada NUANS corporate name search website: NUANS (New Upgraded Automated Name Search) is a nationwide registry for corporate and business names. It provides a list of corporations, business names, and trademarks similar to your searched name. The current fee for a report is $13.80.

3. NUANS reports from private service providers: For other searches, you’ll need to utilize online platforms, and fees will vary.

Once you have chosen your business name and completed the name search, you can proceed with the actual business registration process to officially register your sole proprietorship or partnership. Now, let’s move forward with the remaining steps of the business registration.


Register your business name

When you want to register your business name, you’ll have to provide the following information:

– The name and location of your business
– A description of the business activities you’ll be undertaking
– Your name and residential address. It’s important to have an address where legal documents can be delivered. A post office box won’t be accepted. If you’re registering a partnership with 10 or fewer partners, you’ll also need to include the names and residential addresses of each partner.
– A valid email address if you choose to register online.

Once your business registration is done, you’ll be issued a Master Business Licence (MBL) which acts as proof of your business name registration for financial institutions.

In Ontario, there are several options for registering your business name:

1. You can do it online through ServiceOntario. The cost to register or renew is $60, and you’ll receive your MBL via email within two business days after registration. One advantage of using the ServiceOntario website is that you can also complete other necessary business forms electronically, such as the Retail Sales Tax Vendor Permit (if required), the Employer Health Tax, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

2. You can choose from service providers contracted with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. For more information about these service providers, you can visit the ServiceOntario website.

3. Another option is to use the Business Registration Online service provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. This way, you can also register for other CRA accounts you may need, such as GST/HST registration or Payroll Deductions.

4. Alternatively, you can visit or send your registration forms to the public office of the Central Production and Verification Services Branch. These forms are available from the branch itself or at local Land Registry Offices across the province. The registration fee for in-person or mail registration is $80. If you register in person, you’ll receive your MBL immediately. If you choose to register by mail, you can expect to receive it within 20 business days.

Do keep in mind that an MBL needs to be renewed every five years.


Register for any other licenses, registrations, or certifications needed to legally operate your business

Depending on the nature of your business, you may also be required to obtain a business license. It is essential to comply with both provincial and federal regulations when conducting your business. This may involve registering for workers’ compensation insurance or collecting GST/HST. Ensure that you are aware of all the necessary registrations your business needs.


Upgrade and renew your business name registration as required

You need to renew your business name registration every five years. The government won’t send you reminders, so it’s up to you to remember to re-register. Furthermore, if your business name or ownership changes, you have to re-register your business name and pay the registration fee again.


Registering a Corporation in Ontario

As you may have already surmised, the majority of new small enterprises are financed by the owners themselves. Following that, family and friends represent the next frequently utilized sources for startup business funding. If you wish to explore additional avenues for financing a new business, I encourage you to learn more by referring to “Sources of Business Start Up Money”.


Registering a Corporation in Ontario

Incorporating your business has advantages and disadvantages, and you need to consider whether to incorporate at the provincial or federal level. When you incorporate provincially in Ontario, you establish a legal entity limited to Ontario and safeguard your corporation’s name within the province. On the other hand, federal incorporation enables you to operate throughout the entire country and provides nationwide protection for your business name.

However, it’s worth noting that the process of registering a corporation in Ontario is quite straightforward. Here are the necessary steps to incorporate in Ontario:


Choose a name for your corporation

You need to renew your business name registration every five years. The government won’t send you reminders, so it’s up to you to remember to re-register. Furthermore, if your business name or ownership changes, you have to re-register your business name and pay the registration fee again.


Conduct a name search unless you’re going to be operating a numbered company

A Searcher of Records conducted this search and verified that no other individual or organization possesses a business or registered trademark with a name identical or close to the one you have selected. To complete your incorporation application, you will need to submit an up-to-date NUANS report.


Complete the Articles of Incorporation—Form 1 under the Business Corporations Act

You have several options for filling out the articles of incorporation online. Here are three service providers you can use: Cyberbahn (a division of Thomson Reuters Canada Limited), OnCorp Direct Inc., and ESC Corporate Services Ltd.

If you prefer the traditional approach and want to file using paper forms, you can buy business incorporation forms from lawyers, legal stationery stores, or name search houses.


Create a cover letter

The contact information for the corporation includes the name, return address, and telephone number. If you are registering online, remember to fill out the cover letter on the electronic platform.


File your application

To apply, make sure you submit the following: the fully completed articles of incorporation, a cover letter, a current NUANS name search, the reservation reference number and date from NUANS, and the required fee.

If you choose to file in person or by mail at the Central Production and Verification Services Branch, or at a Land Registry Office, the registration fee amounts to $360. If you opt for electronic filing, there’s a statutory fee of $300 plus an additional fee from the primary service provider.

Depending on your situation, you might also have to submit other supporting documents, like a legal opinion, which will be added to your file. To determine if you need any additional paperwork, get in touch with the ministry.


More Information on Ontario Business Registration

Need more information? CBES is here to assist you; feel free to contact us for expert guidance.


Before you commence operations, it’s crucial to complete the process of registering your business in Ontario. Make certain that you’ve accomplished all of the necessary steps.




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