How to Register a Business in Ontario | 2024

March 28, 2024
13 Minutes
Modified on:
March 28, 2024
Written by:
Swati Bucha
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Are you looking for a strategic guide explaining the comprehensive process of registering a business in Ontario? With its vibrant innovation and opportunities, Ontario is an attractive destination for entrepreneurs to stand out in the province's multi-faceted landscape and thriving business environment. As of June 2021, Ontario boasted an impressive array of enterprises, with 473,821 employer businesses and 1,164,827 non-employer businesses shaping its economic landscape. It demonstrates that Ontario provides immense opportunities for all entrepreneurs, from the busy streets of Toronto to the quiet shores of Lake Ontario.

Finding the way through the maze of business registration in Ontario is the most important piece of the puzzle that you need to do to realize your dream of being an entrepreneur. Whether you dream of opening an IT startup in the center of Ottawa's tech hub or building a boutique vineyard in picturesque Niagara on the Lake, you'll see the need to understand every detail of the business registration process in Ontario.

This guide will cover every aspect of registering a business in Ontario,  from understanding the legal frameworks to using online tools to build and establish a business. 

Benefits of Registering a Business in Ontario 

Here are some of the major benefits you can enjoy if you register a company in Ontario:

1. Legal Protection for Business Owners

The main reason for registering your business in Ontario is to protect you from legal liability and credibility in the business world. It means that your assets are not responsible for business debts or the legal issues involving the business. Hence, your assets are protected from legal or financial risks.

2. Name Recognition

A business gets its legal entity only after the legal registration of that business. Besides, legal registration will add to your professionalism and credibility and prevent others from misusing your trademark. This will help you create a popular and well-recognized brand in any field or industry.

3. Ability to Charge Taxes or Income Tax Advantages

With registration comes the power to levy and collect taxes, including HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). If you register a business in Ontario, it will be qualified for various tax incentives or deductions offered to businesses in Ontario. Such tax concessions can strengthen a company's financial position, ultimately leading to profits. 

4. Better Access to Capital

Loans are relatively easier, and capital can be raised for registered businesses. The financial market and investors usually prefer associating with registered companies due to their legal certainty and accountability. This, in turn, makes it possible to take loans, attract investors, or receive government grants or contracts.

Do You Have to Register Your Business in Ontario?

In most situations, you must register your business with the Ontario Business Registry. However, you may continue to work under your name as a sole proprietorship without any legal entity. Registration is necessary for:

  • Sole Proprietorships,
  • Limited or General partnerships,
  • Corporations,
  • Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). 

Types of Business Structures in Ontario

There are various types of business structures in Ontario, including:

1. Sole Proprietorships

These businesses are single-proprietor-based. The owner is the boss of the business and, therefore, will handle all the duties and liabilities. Registration can be conducted through a business number or a unique name registration.

2. Partnerships

These partnerships refer to a case when two or more person(s) or entities have an interest in the business. It means they share ownership and have joint responsibilities. Partnerships can be both general and limited. These two versions of partnerships have more or less legal and financial responsibilities and rights. The partnership is done through the registration process, which involves formalizing the partnership agreement and acquiring appropriate licenses and permits.

3. Corporations

Companies are legal entities that give shareholders power from personal risks of ownership besides the owners. The registration stage will include fulfilling provincial law requirements of corporation name, directors appointment, and share issue. Corporations must follow specific rules and regulations and make specific reports to complete registration. 

Other unique business structures include Limited Liability Partnerships. These are rarely used and require specific licenses to work. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations are the main options for most businesses. The choice between them depends on the nature of the business.

Steps to Register a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership in Ontario

A partnership or sole proprietorship in Ontario bears many parallels in the registration process. In a sole proprietorship, you run a small business with the advantage of being organized solely by one person, which is the simplest and the least costly incorporation method with limited legal protection. 

If you want to register a business in Ontario as a sole proprietorship or partnership, it will be registered under the Ontario Business Names Act. In both entities, you and your partners are the business owners. You are responsible for the business's finances and liabilities. 

Follow these three steps to register a business in Ontario under the sole proprietorship or partnership category:

1. Find a Suitable Name of Your Business

One essential step to registering your business in Ontario is finding a perfect name for it. Creating a business strategy or operation plan to start your business is as necessary as it is. A unique and distinctive business name helps you to stand out differently from your competitors. It helps build a brand identity that helps the customers recognize your business easily. So, take your time and develop a unique business name that resonates with your business activity and service offerings. 

Tips to Conduct a Business Name Search

  • You can do an internet search for the names of businesses along with keywords like online shopping, online stores, and eCommerce.
  • You can search through the official name registration tools the government provides to check registration records for names already taken.
  • A multitude of choices exist, including government portals for direct search. You can also use brand name generators

2. Register Your Business

Now, you are ready to register your sole proprietorship or partnership business. Since you have finalized a unique business name, you can now register a business in Ontario under the category of sole proprietorship through ServiceOntario: 

Essential preparations

  • Provide your name, business name, and the official mailing address for legal documentation delivery.
  • Ensure you enter a valid email address to have Business Name Registration for a Sole Proprietorship delivered within two business days. This will prove that you have registered your business as required under the Business Name Act in Ontario.
  • Break down your business activities briefly and express them in a few words, like "selling baked goods" for a bakery.

Name All Partners Who Constitute the Partnership (Applicable For Partnership Business Only)

Although it's not compulsory, a partnership agreement is hugely beneficial. A partnership agreement is a legal document prepared by a lawyer that establishes decision-making mechanisms, partner roles, profit distribution, and operational processes to guard against possible conflicts or shifts in partners' dynamics.

After registration, you will be assigned a nine-digit BIN number (Business Identification Number), your business's unique number in Ontario.

You Can Utilize the BIN to:

  • Open a business account,
  • Access wholesale pricing from suppliers,
  • Advertise your business,
  • Conduct business operations within Ontario for up to five years or until the registration is not renewed.

Although the BIN is very important, it does not include individual liability indemnity. For instance, if your business doesn't repay a loan, your assets can still be exposed to litigation. As for this, it doesn’t afford corporate tax benefits nor guard your business name against unfair use.

3. Register Additional Licenses and Certificates

The operation of your business may come under the control of provincial laws, giving rise to the collection of HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Here's how you can register for it: 

  • Firstly, file the GST/HST account.
  • Also, if you are involved in different business activities, you must register for Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
  • The sole proprietor is a situation in which the owner has to take responsibility for legal operations that require licenses or certificates.
  • Conduct extensive research to determine the permits you need to start your business. It will safeguard your business' legal provisions and save the company from the possible legal issues of functioning without proper licensing or certification.

What are the Registration Fees For a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership In Ontario?

By making them state-run, several expenses are involved with registering or renewing your sole proprietorship or partnership. Accordingly, the registration or renewal of your business name is $60 as opposed to you sending it through mail or email for a sole proprietorship or a general partnership. A limited partnership will cost $210 for the applicable premium. Furthermore, there are additional costs, such as obtaining a name search, generally around $25 for a NUANS name report, that are additional expenses.

How to Incorporate a Business in Ontario?

Entering your business as an incorporated business under the laws of Ontario grants it a separate legal entity and personal rights akin to an individual's. Although these rights are realized on a provincial level, their incorporation must be included legally at the federal level. An Ontario corporation's registration procedures and fees are more complex and expensive than sole proprietorships and partnerships. Here are the steps you need to follow.

1. Search for Possible Business Names

If you want to register a business in Ontario under the incorporation category, the first step is searching for business names. When the name choice is confirmed, conduct a thorough search against the government database (NUANS name search). This step is especially crucial before incorporating your organization in compliance with all the regulations.

2. File Your Application

After you finish the Articles of Incorporation, you can file your application to receive the Certificate of Registration. The list of supplementary documents will vary depending on the type of business you run. When filling out the application form, ensure you do not skim over confusing fields like 'other provisions.' Consider hiring a business solution provider; you will benefit from clarifications, information, and tips throughout the legal terminology.

3. Keep a Minute Book

If you want to register a business in Ontario, the Minute Book is one of the mandatory corporate recordkeeping that every business must uphold. This book documents all business activities, including:

  • Details of registered directors, including resignations or position changes,
  • Minutes from mandatory shareholder meetings,
  • Copies of all notices,
  • Updates on company addresses, alongside various other formal recordkeeping obligations.

Regardless of the size of your corporation or the service it provides, it does not change the fact that the record of corporate events and meetings, i.e., the Minute Book, is a legal requirement for all incorporated businesses, whether provincially or federally registered.

How much does it cost to incorporate a business in Ontario?

As a requisite fee for the province, the government of Ontario will levy a $300 fee and an additional NUANS search fee of $25. For some people, corporate assistance is just a step ahead, but it is not always cheap; it can cost more than 1,500 dollars if you hire a lawyer to help you.

What Documents are Required to Register a Business in Ontario?

Here is the list of essential documents that are essential to start your business in Ontario: 

  1. Registered Office Address
  2. NUANS Report 
  3. Business Name 
  4. Ontario Business Number 
  5. Information About Shareholders and Directors (Applicable for Corporations)
  6. Official Passport (For Non-Residents) 
  7. Business Identification Number


To register a business in Ontario, you must follow several stages, like naming the company uniquely, filling out all the requisite forms, and properly veiling with suitable authorities. It is equally vital that founders do their due diligence to determine which structure is right for their business, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, or incorporation, and to ensure that they comply with all applicable laws. Using the resources at hand and seeking professional consultancy could make it easier to go through the requirements and start a thriving business in Ontario.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What's the difference between a sole proprietorship and a partnership?

A single individual manages a sole proprietorship business, whereas a partnership has two or more owners who share a degree of ownership and managing responsibilities.

2. How much does it cost to register a business in Ontario?

The registration charges differ but encompass the court fees for name allocation and company incorporation, which range from $60 to $300.

3. Do you need a lawyer to register your business?

Legal advice might not be compulsory, but it could be necessary. Most cases involve self-service of individuals, but more serious ones may call for professional support.

4. How long does it take to register a business in Ontario?

Processing times vary. The basic registration will be completed in a few days; however, cases with complex issues will take one or two weeks to be registered.

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