Starting a Business in Canada

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Aug 8, 2011 - 4 minute read - legal

How To Incorporate A Business In Ontario

If you decide to start a business in Ontario and you choose a corporation as your legal form of ownership, you can either incorporate your company federally or provincially. If you choose to incorporate your company provincially, there are three methods of incorporation for the do-it-yourselfer.

  1. Articles of incorporation can be filed electronically through one of the contracted service providers.
  2. Articles of Incorporation can be filed directly at the Toronto office of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services or at one of the offices that endorse Articles submitted under the Business Corporations Act.
  3. Articles of Incorporation can be submitted by mail to the Companies and Personal Property Security Branch, 393 University Ave., Suite 200, Toronto ON M5G 2M2.

It will cost you $300 to register Articles of Incorporation online plus any fees that the contracted services providers charge for their service. If you choose this route you will provide everything they need in digital form. The service providers' websites will walk you through the process.

Submitting Articles of Incorporation in person or by mail will cost you $360. Those of you choosing the paper route, can download forms here. You will need to either provide or mail your:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Ontario-biased NUANS
  • Fee of $360
  • A covering letter which includes your contact information
  • Any other support documents

Unless you choose to have your company given a numbered name (known as a “numbered company”, ie. 123456789 Ontario Ltd.) you will need to conduct an Ontario-biased NUANS name search through a third party provider as only federal name searches can be conducted directly on Industry Canada’s website. A list of online NUANS name search service providers can be found here. The cost for this name search will be about $25 but the price may vary as service providers add their own fees on top of the government’s fees for providing this service. This search is only good for 90 days so don’t do it too far in advance of submitting your Articles of Incorporation.

Your corporation cannot have the same name as another company so if someone has already used the name you’ve planned to use, you’ll have to pick another. If the name you have chosen is not being used in Ontario, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily in the clear. From the provincial government’s website:

Please note that although a Federal corporation with an identical name to a proposed Ontario corporate name may not be currently operating or active in Ontario it is entitled to commence activities in Ontario at any time in the future. Incorporators who incorporate with the same or similar name are therefore assuming the risk of an objection to their corporate name, which may result in a name hearing under section 12 of the Business Corporations Act.

For this reason, you may want to consider incorporating federally. A federal corporation provides name protection Canada wide, except in the Province of Québec, which does not provide data to the NUANS system.

Consider Using A Lawyer

Which it is possible to incorporate your business by yourself, unless you have a lot of experience in this, I wouldn’t recommend it. Filing the Articles of Incorporation is easy enough but creating good documents that include all of the information you need can be very difficult for a layperson. I recommend hiring a lawyer to do this for you (You can search for a lawyer here.) Lawyer’s fees are normally worth the expense because doing things right at the beginning can save you a lot of money later on. If you are on a tight budget and don’t feel you can afford the fees, I recommend using a service like Legal They won’t give you service and advice tailored to your personal situation like a lawyer would but they’ll give you a good set of basic documents. A lawyer or an online incorporation service can also do the name search for you.

Incorporating a company can seem like a big, complicated process if you’ve never done it before but it really isn’t that difficult, particularly if you use a lawyer or a service to do it for you.