1. Choose a Name
2. Register Your Business
3. Submit Articles of Incorporation
4. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Ontario business registration allows you to legally operate your company in this Canadian province. Here's what you need to know about registering your business in Ontario.

Choose a Name

If you will be operating as a sole proprietor, you can run the business under your own name and do not need to register one. Otherwise, you will need to register your business name through the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services or face a fine of up to $2,000.

Before choosing a name, make sure it does not include prohibited words, such as those that may cause your business to be confused with a government agency. You should also conduct a search to make sure that the name or a similar name isn't already registered to another Ontario business.

Keep in mind that simply registering a business name does not protect it from use by others. The name must be trademarked to be protected. Although the registration of a similar business name is allowed in Ontario, the other company could sue you for trademark infringement.

You can conduct a name search through:

Register Your Business

Once you've chosen a business name, you can register it by submitting it along with your legal name and home address, the official address of the business, and a description of the purpose and activities of your company. If you have partners, their names and addresses must also be included.

You can register online with ServiceOntario for a $60 fee or visit a Service Provider of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services in person. You can also use the online Business Registration Service from the Canada Revenue Agency or visit the public office of the Companies branch.

Visit the Business section of the website and choose the prompt that reads "Register or Renew Your Business." To choose the online option, select the link that reads "Do it Online Now." You will be presented with a consent form and must read and agree to the terms before continuing. Next, select "Enhanced Business Name Search" and choose English as the search language. After reading and agreeing to the fee information, select "Detailed Business Name Report."

You'll need to enter your credit card number to pay the name search fee, which is currently $8. You'll immediately receive a report listing existing businesses with the name you've searched for. If you receive a screen that notes "Statement of No Match," it means that no company has currently registered the name you have searched.

When your registration is accepted, you will receive a Master Business License that provides proof of your standing as a legal business entity. It must be renewed every five years.

Registration is usually processed by the next business day provided you submit your form before 3 p.m.

A Master Business License is appropriate for:

  • Sole proprietors who are not concerned about business name protection
  • Businesses for which personal liability protection is not necessary
  • Companies with annual income of less than $80,000
  • Corporations that want to operate under a different name than their existing business name

Submit Articles of Incorporation

This form, which establishes your business as a legal entity, can be completed online through OnCorp Direct, Cyberbahn, or ESC Corporate Services. You can also mail a paper version of the articles of incorporation. Include a cover letter with the name of the business, your name, and contact information.

With the articles of incorporation, you must submit the results of a NUANS name search indicating the date of the search, the name searched, and the registration number for the desired business name.

Filing electronically carries a fee of $300 plus a service fee that varies by provider. Registering by mail or in person carries a $360 fee.

Obtain Licenses and Permits

Depending on your location and the type of business you run, you may need other registrations, certifications, or licenses. You will also want to open a bank account for your business, purchase the necessary insurance policies, and develop a marketing plan to let others know about your new business.

If you need help with Ontario business registration, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.