How to set up company in Ontario?

Congratulations! You’ve decided to embark on the exciting journey of starting your own company in Ontario. This guide will be your roadmap, navigating you through the essential steps involved, from understanding registration requirements to setting up your tax accounts. Whether you envision a solo operation or a full-fledged corporation, this resource will equip you with the knowledge needed for a smooth and successful launch.

Step 1: Registration Requirements

Before diving into the registration process, it’s crucial to determine if it’s even necessary. Company in Ontario mandates the registration if your venture has:

  • Employees: If you plan on hiring individuals to work for your business, registration becomes mandatory.
  • Physical Presence: Operating from a physical location in Ontario, such as an office, store, or workshop, triggers the need to register.
  • Facilities: Even if you don’t have a dedicated storefront, utilizing facilities within the province (e.g., storage unit, manufacturing space) necessitates registration.

Step 2: Choosing Your Business Structure 

The next step involves selecting the most suitable business structure for your venture. Here’s a breakdown of the three common options:

Sole Proprietorship:

This is the simplest and most straightforward structure, ideal for solopreneurs. You and your business are considered one legal entity. Benefits include ease of setup and minimal paperwork. However, there’s no separation between your personal and business assets, meaning your personal belongings could be at risk if the business faces legal or financial challenges.

Corporation:

This structure offers a clear distinction between you and your business. It’s a more complex setup but provides several advantages:

  • Limited Liability: A corporation acts as a separate legal entity, shielding your personal assets from business liabilities. This means your personal property is generally protected in case of lawsuits or debts incurred by the corporation.
  • Tax Benefits: Corporations may qualify for certain tax advantages compared to sole proprietorships.
  • Credibility: A corporate structure can enhance your business’s image and attract investors more readily.

Limited Partnership (LP):

This structure combines elements of a general partnership and a corporation. It involves two types of partners:

  • General Partner: This partner has unlimited liability for the business’s debts and obligations. They manage the day-to-day operations and hold significant control. There must be at least one general partner, and it can be an individual or another business entity (like a corporation).
  • Limited Partner: Limited partners contribute financially to the business but have limited liability. This means their personal assets are generally protected from business debts beyond their investment amount. However, limited partners have minimal involvement in management decisions.

Step 3: Registering Your Company in Ontario 

Now that you’ve chosen your business structure, it’s time to make it official! The registration process differs slightly depending on your chosen structure:

Sole Proprietorship:

  • Name Check: Conduct a thorough search to ensure your desired business name isn’t already in use by another Ontario business. Utilize government resources like the Ontario Business Registry Search and the Canadian Trademarks Database to avoid potential conflicts.
  • Online Accounts: Create accounts with ONe-key and Service Ontario. These online platforms streamline the registration process.
  • Registration and Fee: Register your sole proprietorship through the government portal and pay a nominal fee (around $60). Upon successful registration, you’ll receive a Master Business Licence containing your registration details, expiry date, and Business Identification Number (BIN).

Corporation:

  • NUANS Name Search: Conduct a NUANS name search through the Corporations Canada website. This quick and inexpensive step (around $13.80) verifies the availability of your chosen corporate name.
  • Incorporation: Head over to the Corporations Canada online portal to incorporate your business. The process involves paying a fee (approximately $200) and following the guided steps, which include creating Articles of Incorporation and designating the initial registered office address and board of directors. Remember to retain signed copies of these documents for your records.
  • Ontario Extra-Provincial Registration: The good news is that registering your federally incorporated business in Ontario is free! During the Corporations Canada incorporation process, you’ll be prompted to register extra-provincially in Ontario. This step is straightforward and requires basic information like your business address and contact details.
  • Minute Book and Resolutions: As a corporation, you’re required to maintain a minute book. This official document houses important records such as registers, ledgers, bylaws, resolutions, and articles of incorporation. Furthermore, your board of directors and shareholders will need to pass specific resolutions regarding bylaws, appointing officers and directors, and potentially waiving the need for an auditor. While this step can appear complex, consider seeking guidance from legal or accounting professionals, or utilizing services offered by companies specializing in business formation.

We’ve covered the registration processes for sole proprietorships and corporations. Now, let’s explore registering a Limited Partnership (LP):

Limited Partnership Agreement:

This is the cornerstone document for your LP, outlining the rights and responsibilities of both general and limited partners. Key elements it should address include:

  • Profit and Loss Sharing: How profits and losses will be shared amongst partners.
  • Management Roles: Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of general partners in managing the business.
  • Capital Contributions: Specifying the amount of capital each partner contributes to the LP.
  • Decision-Making: Establishing procedures for decision-making within the partnership.
  • Dissolution: Outlining the process for dissolving the LP, if necessary.

Step 4: Setting Up Tax Accounts 

Step 5: Obtaining Licences and Permits for Company in Ontario

Obtaining the necessary licences and permits is paramount for operating your business legally and fostering trust with your customers and partners. These permits act as a safeguard, preventing disruptions to your operations, potential legal troubles, and hefty fines. Beyond compliance, licences and permits enhance your business’s credibility and trustworthiness, ultimately contributing to long-term success.

While the specific permits and licences required can vary depending on your industry and location, Ontario prides itself on being business-friendly. If you’re unsure about the permits your business needs, don’t hesitate to contact your local government representative (city, town, etc.) for clarification. Here’s a valuable resource to simplify your search:

Step 6: Ongoing Obligations for a Thriving Company in Ontario

Sole Proprietorship Obligations:

Corporation Obligations:

Maintaining compliance for corporations involves more complex steps compared to sole proprietorships. Here are some key ongoing obligations:

Limited Partnership Obligations:

While Limited Partnerships offer advantages, they come with ongoing compliance requirements:

Remember:

By following these comprehensive steps and adhering to ongoing compliance requirements, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a thriving business in Ontario! Remember, a successful launch is just the beginning. This guide serves as a valuable resource as you navigate the exciting journey of entrepreneurship in Ontario.

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